As someone who has taught celebrities accents and dialects for various film roles I am very much attuned to when and where an accent can be imitated. A film role where an actor is depicting the accent of a character for a role or a comedian imitating an accent for an act is appropriate. But what inappropriate in my view is a political talk show host mocking a political leader’s language and accent.
Rush Limbaugh not only imitated Chinese leader Hu Jintau’s Chinese accent but made fun of the Chinese language by saying the leader was just saying” ching chong, ching chong cha.” I believe this crosses to line and is totally unacceptable. To add insult to injury Limbaugh had the audacity to say on the radio that he “did a remarkable job” of imitating China’s president for someone who doesn’t know a language spoken by more than 1 billion people.”
He may be the only one that thinks he did a remarkable job as this is clearly a distorted way of thinking. In fact Asian American lawmakers nationally have denounced his actions. While Limbaugh may have been entitled to disagree with the content of Hu’s speech and share his views on what the Chinese President said, he was not entitled to mock and make fun of the Chinese language or speech pattern or how the Chinese leader spoke. This was offensive.
People have been so upset about tit that they have called for a boycott of advertisers on Limbaugh radio show and rightfully so.
To justify his insensitive behavior Limbaugh said “Back in the old days, Sid Caesar, for those of you old enough to remember, was called a comic genius for impersonating foreign languages that he couldn’t speak. “But today the left says that was racism; it was bigotry; it was insulting. And it wasn’t. It was a service.”
Limbaugh’s crude and rude behavior is not a matter of left or right. It is a matter of what is wrong and what is right and this behavior was wrong. Back in the day this type of humor may have been tolerated but today comments about other people’s races would never fly.
Old time comedians like the acrid and biting Don Rickles who made a career making derogatory comments about other’s races and religions under the guise of humor is not amusing in today’s world and would never fly.
On the other hand it seems to be a different story if you want to poke humor at your own race or culture like Chris Rock does or Margaret Cho does when she imitates a Korean accent. But someone else who is not of that ethnic origin does it, suddenly they are on you are on touchy territory. In that case it is no longer funny, it becomes hurtful.