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June 27, 2003  

Postmodern Genie Joke

We were hosting a lecture by KRS One. Since the school held so few events targeted to our AfroAmerican pouplation, pent-up demand filled the house. A full house, 450 seats or so. Maybe 75 white kids were there; half of them were just filling a requirement from some course or another; they tended to sit in the back. It was a lively house, and we had a feeling this was going to be a good event.

As usual, we had three mics ready: a Shure M57, a Beta58, and a wireless lavalier. We had brought in an outboard EQ, set up a good monitor, and the mix was playing well...folks seemed to like the contrast of Macolm Mclaren and NWA ;-)

Showtime approached...20 minutes to curtain. No KRS One. At 10 minutes to curtain, we gt call to come down to the Green Room.

Mr. Manager was impressive -- the food wasn't right, the light wasn't right, room security didn't seem tight enough, he wanted more water at the lectern. The subject of start time never had a chance to even draw a breath...he was good.

I talked to kris; he liked the Beta. He needed to change and warm up, and that was gonna take 20 minutes. Could I keep the house happy until then?

"Well, I only brought one mix tape, and they're on their second hearing right now. You got any tunes we could play?"

Naw; they'd come from the airport in a limo, and all they were carrying were clothes and contracts. "When the tape runs out," kris said, "just tell 'em a story or something. But make 'em happy!"

When i took the stage, I had to kill about 12 minutes. So whatever I did, it was gonna have to play long. What I needed was a good "shaggy dog" story, but....

But I'm in front of a house full of people who want to hear this lecture. They are mostly turned on by this rapper who hold a fair command of the history of the slave trade in the Americas. They are hungry to learn. No mere shaggy dog is going to "make 'em happy." I got nothing.

"Good evening! There were some delays at the airport, but everything's on track -- the person you all came hear to listen to -- KRS One -- will be out in 15 minutes. We hope you're as excited to see him here as we are to invite him." Well, that's 15 seconds...yeesh."

I looked out at the crowd; bored, chatting, or staring -- at me. I've got about two seconds before the dozens start up....

"In the meantime, we've got to kill some time..."

before I could draw a breath, a guy near the front laughed and said, "Hell, why don't you just tell us a joke, Mr. Microphone? You know some good jokes?" His posse was grinnin', getting just the right slouch in the seats to enjoy this little "mini-show".

Since I had never really stopped talking, my response sounded much more confident than it was. Like I was some sort of snappy comeback guy; like I was never at a loss for words; like I was up for this. "So, stop me if you've heard this one," I said. The first two rows groaned.

I'll spare you the 10-minute version; what follows is the joke as it would appear in a text. And I'll challenge your imagination to provide the scene... the crowd's initial puzzlement, followed by a growing anger, and ending with a good laugh.

A young corporate lawyer was taking his first vacation since passing the bar. Raised in Philly, he thought back to all his dad had told him -- good and bad -- about the South. He decided to vacation along the southern Carolina coast and see for himself....

Pulling up to a pleasant-looking beach, the young man parked and climbed over a low dune , heading for the shore. At one point he stumbled on a chain; pulling it out of the sand, he freed an old faded sign: WHITES ONLY BEACH. "Wow," he thought, "Dad was right; this place used to be crazy."

Wanting to read, he set up his stuff far from others. But when he laid down on his towel, something hard stuck in his back. Digging down, he unearthed a strange looking bottle. Curious, he rubbed off some dirt, trying to make out where the bottle was from.

As he rubbed, a cloud emerged from the bottle, resolving into a genie. The genie started into his "Welcome, O Master of the Lamp..." routine, but stopped short.

"Wait a minute -- you're black!" the genie said. "This beach -- and this bottle -- are for Whites only."

The young attorney did some fast talking and convinced the genie that times had changed. Uncomfortable with the deal, though, the genie imposed one condition: "Whatever I give to you, I'm giving to all these white people, doubled." It was only then that the young man realized that everyone else on the beach was white... maybe things down here were still crazy...

His first wish was for one million dollars, cash. "As you wish, er, 'Master'." In an eyeblink, a satchel appeared at his feet, brimming with bills. "And now," the genie intoned, "double to the white people." At that, two satchels appeared in front of every white person on the beach. What had first been disdainful, then puzzled stares now turned into intense interest as folks thumbed through the money.

For a second wish, the young man asked for the world's slickest, most tricked-out Porsche. "As you wish." Instantly, a totally gorgeous car appeared on the sand. "And now, double to the white people." At that, two glorious Porsches popped up in front of each of the white people.

The young lawyer, at first somewhat giddy to have three wishes from a genie, was now more composed. And in his clarity, he seethed. The days of separate-but-unequal were supposed to be over, done with, finished. He'd never known quite what to think of his dad's tales of trickery and shams pulled on his people "in the old days"...but now he believed.

The genie became impatient. "My time is not limitless; you must make a third wish." The young lawyer hemmed and hawed; finally an idea occurred to him. "I am ready for my third wish," he told the genie at last.

"And your wish is...?" asked the genie.

"I want you to beat me half to death."