Jay Leno loves to antagonize us

Chances are you’ve probably heard about Tonight Show host Jay Leno’s joke last week that has angered a lot of Sikhs in the US and around the world. In the segment, the voiceover stated, “Here’s a look at Mitt Romney’s summer home on Lake Winnipesaukee,” as a photo of Darbar Sahib was shown.

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The New York group Sikhs for Justice has gone so far as to file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and a California based Sikh doctor has fileda lawsuit for libel against Leno and NBC in the superior court of California. A petition to NBC is also circulating, which has over 4,000 signatures so far. The petition, in part, states:

…the sentiments of Sikhs worldwide are off limits to his monologues and cannot be used further his TV ratings. The Right to Speech under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution excludes defamation and spreading hate, incitement and false advertising.

Part of reason for the outrage from our community is because this is not the first time Leno has used Sikhs as the butt of his jokes. Some may remember when he referred to a Sikh audience member as a “diaper head” in 2007. While this was much more blatantly offensive than the Mitt Romney joke, which ultimately targeted Romney and his exhorbitent wealth, it still begs the question of why Jay Leno keeps pissing our community off. Perhaps we need to enlist the Sikh Coalition or SALDEF to sit him down for a Sikh Awareness presentation? Or better yet, maybe we can mobilize our friends at Occupy LA to mic check some sense into him.

Comedians are always making decisions about where to draw the line and how much to push the envelope on things that could be interpreted as offensive, as racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. These are ultimately political and ethical decisions that they must make. I’m all for pushing the envelope but not if it perpetuates misinformation, stereotypes, and various forms of oppression.

Of course, no one who watched this segment actually thought Darbar Sahib was Mitt Romney’s house. Perhaps the Taj Mahal would have been a better choice? What do you think? Are you offended by the Mitt Romney joke? Are these lawsuits justified?

In the spirit of smart comedy related to our community, here’s one of my favorite bits from the classic show,Goodness Gracious Me.

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13 Responses to “Jay Leno loves to antagonize us”

  1. Mohr says:

    Not offended at all! We shouldn’t put energy towards this when there are much more important issues for us and our Sikh organizations to address!

  2. brooklynwala says:

    I didn't find the bit horribly offensive either but understand where the reaction is coming from. Leno has a history with Sikhs at this point, so that is troubling. But here's a stronger opinion on the matter: http://sikhchic.com/article-detail.php?id=3050&am
    I agree that our organizations should be using their resources on more important matters as well.

    • AmericanSikh says:

      I read the sikhchic.com article, and I have to say I was pretty disappointed. I usually enjoy Sardar Sher Singh's writing, but with respect to this article, his writing just seems bitter and immature. His rash and insulting generalization and antagonism of Indians just makes it seem like he has an axe to grind. As a well known Sikh media platform, sikhchic.com should be careful about the prejudicial and exaggerated view points of some of its writers. Otherwise, it would be hard to take some of the Sikh issues sikhchic.com presents very seriously. I would've submitted this in the comments section on sikhchic.com…but knowing them, they would have never published the comment. So props to langarhall!

  3. rmsingh says:

    I didn't find this offensive. I didn't see his alleged "diaperhead" slur in 2007, but I don't think the "summer home" comment is part of a conscious effort by Jay Leno to constantly attack Sikhs.

    Leno is a comedian, and part of comedy is exaggeration. That's what he was doing. It wasn't a slight on Darbar Sahib or an attempt to demean it. It was a comment on Mitt Romney's wealth.

    Sikhs have utterly dropped the ball on this with their hysterical over-reaction. It's very telling that, thus far, Sikh American organizations have remained silent. I'm assuming that they, like me, are hoping this debacle will just go away. Unfortunately, as one colleague said, we've already lost the media battle here. Our over-reaction is now why Leno's bit was funny. With the petition, international histrionics and now the court case, we Sikhs have taken a step backwards in this country. As I wrote a couple of days ago ( http://americanturban.com/2012/01/23/jay-leno-and… ), we have missed the opportunity to leverage Leno's depiction to our benefit.

    If Jay Leno needs to go to Darbar Sahib or other Gurdwara, we Sikhs also need to take a class in not making mountains out of molehills just to be offended. We're better than this.

    • brooklynwala says:

      I agree that this could have been an opportunity to educate the public on what Darbar Sahib is, rather than the (over)reactive response that we've seen from some. Actually, since quickly posting this blog earlier I've talked to several people, read some of the youtube comments, etc, and I'm not sure exactly who is offended by the bit. Seems like a couple of people have gotten a lot of media coverage but I'm doubtful they represent the views of most Sikhs. Would love to hear from folks who found it offensive and think the lawsuit is an appropriate response.

  4. Ridiculous says:

    My personal opinion is that this incident was not offensive at all. I understand people's reactions to this, however i feel that it is more of an overreaction than one that is truly warranted. The lawsuit by the California Sikh is ridiculous. I also believe that Sikh Americans are slowly becoming a more common part of American society, which comes with some caution; this being an example. We are being perceived more and more as regular Americans and sometimes that entails being the butt of a numbskull joke.

    I think people need to move on and not make a big deal out of this because the "reactions" and this lawsuit are what are detrimental to our community.

  5. Bostonvala says:

    Another angle of this could be GOI interference and "Tandav of the Centaur" dancing. For a strong viewpoint of the GOI angle check out – http://sikhchic.com/article-detail.php?cat=12&amp

  6. [...] Hall, blogger Brooklynwala comments that he didn’t find the joke to be horribly offensive and questions whether we are over-reacting: Of course, no one who watched this segment actually thought Darbar Sahib was Mitt Romneys [...]

  7. Thriller says:

    leno was using satire people need to disconnect jazzy b from there brains to realize it

  8. moorakh88 says:

    I think people are underestimating the damage this overreaction has done. Just the read the comments below to see the reaction and how people see Sikhs now: http://insidetv.ew.com/2012/01/25/jay-leno-mitt-r
    Usually the fanatics get the most coverage, but it’s time to drown them out. Someone sue Dr. Randeep Dhillon or create a facebook page of Sikhs against Overreaction. Ok with Leno joke.”
    Come on, Brooklynwala. You have a lot of fb friends and can get this going. I’ll be the first one to “like” it. =D

  9. Bobby Singh says:

    This is hilarious and pathetic – and I mean the reaction to it. It singlehandedly does more to bring a negative perception of Sikhs than anything some comedian says, making Sikhs look like knee jerk and bullying anti-free speech victimhood seeking people – which is actually far from the truth. Could anything be more comical? Seriously, get a life. Sikhs are bigger than this. And nonsense like this will just bring more jokes onto Sikhs. Sometimes I despair about some of the victimhood seekers of our community.

  10. Vikram says:

    Anju from SikhNN tells the truth, thank God for her. Our people are so goofy and sad:
    http://www.sikhnn.com/headlines/1690/previous-len

  11. yadig says:

    @Vikram Thank God someone put that up I was beginning to feel that people were just gonna take the word of Brooklywala on this one. Jay Leno actually never said anything to Sikhs prior to this, let us make that clear please.

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