Addressing the Horrors of Police Brutality With Comedy

Videos depicting police brutality recorded on a bystander’s cell phone continue to make their way to the media. Just this week, CNN is featuring amateur video of Freddie Gray, who suffered a severe spinal injury while in custody and later died,  being led away by Baltimore cops. The death and the video has sparked days of protests.

As a comic I feel topics like this are not off-limits and should be talked about on stage. It’s important to inform people about what’s going on and even more important to open a dialogue about difficult events like these.

For this article I spoke to Charles McBee, a smart and funny actor and comedian working in NYC. He jokes about  police brutality and compares it to black-on-black crime and how the two topics should not be related.

Here’s a video of Charles’ joke which he recorded in New York City.

Recently I spent some time with Charles and asked him a few questions about the routine and how he truly feels about the topic of these police brutality amateur videos being released.

What did you feel when you saw the video of Walter L. Scott of North Carolina being shot?

My first feeling, which is kind of sad, was a numb feeling. I was numb to it because I see this happens so often that it didn’t even shock me anymore. My second thought was I’m glad we have this on video. Then my last thought was I hope he gets arrested for this because this police officer shot a man, who in my mind didn’t do anything to provoke the officer. I feel like 15 years ago just hearing about this was unbelievable—it was unheard of— but now with technology it just became an afterthought like, “Oh, another one”.

Walter Scott was said to have fled because he was afraid of being arrested for missing child support payment. Do you think maybe we should look into lessening the penalties for non-violent crimes?

I think we do need to think about the time someone can spend in jail for non-violent crimes because it’s not just a black thing. I know that black and Hispanic people make up the majority of people incarcerated, but its still not a race thing to me. People, who spend a lot of time for drug possessions, like people who are arrested for smoking marijuana that kind of crime, shouldn’t have such a heavy punishment. Unlike bankers who crashed our economy and have not seen a single day behind bars. We have these punishments that make black people fearful, like Walter ran from the police, which he shouldn’t have, because we are told as black men to not talk back to the police. We are warned that if we speak up for ourselves we will be hurt even worse. At the end of the day this comes down to a cop shooting an unarmed man in the back and then trying to plant a tazer on Walter to make his actions seem justifiable. They did so many things wrong with Walter not calling for help after he was shot, not trying to resuscitate him, and using excessive force. How many things can these cops do wrong before we say enough, there’s a man dead and this is happening to often.

Do you think finding humor in these things helps us move on? If you wanted to have your comedy speak toward this issue, what is it that you really want it to say?

I think comedy can help us heal; I have done comedy at funeral homes and have made people laugh. To me you cant hurt and laugh at the same time, sure the pain will be there, but for a few moments that pain was taken away by the laughter. I also want my comedy to start a conversation, these are serious topics and I hope by bringing some humor to it people will leave the comedy show thinking about what I just said. Hopefully after the show people will be having their own conversations about police brutality on their way home.

Miguel Dalmau
Miguel Dalmau

Actor and comic Miguel Dalmau might look familiar to you. He first broke into television appearing on TruTV doing what any self respecting Latino man would do—reenact crime footage.

A staple in the New York City comedy circuit and comedy clubs throughout the area. Miguel was asked to performed in the Hoboken Comedy Festival three years in a row alongside some of the most prolific comedy talent working in the industry.

Miguel was born and raised in Queens, New York and his many talents have allowed him to travel far and wide performing at comedy clubs, and colleges. He is currently touring with Carlos Mencia and plans to enlighten and entertain a whole new group of fans with his comedy.