Along with giving voices to many survivors, Surviving R. Kelly also pointed the mirror toward society and how it (and we) upheld a culture that allowed the enabling of a toxic man.
Chappelle’s Show co-creator and co-writer Neal Brennan recently appeared on The Breakfast Club to discuss the doc, as well as one of the show’s famous skits. That skit was the highly popular 2003 Comedy Central sketch “Piss On You,” which used the melody from R. Kelly’s “Feelin’ On Yo Booty” to play on the R&B singer’s infamous sex tape.
The Lifetime documentary referenced the skit, along with commentary regarding most people’s feelings about it at the time. In short, it was a joke to many.
But R. Kelly apparently didn’t find it funny, according to Uproxx.
“R. Kelly wanted to fight Dave,” said Brennan. “He literally…his goons stepped to Dave in Chicago and Dave’s goons intervened. The goons negotiated.”
The. Goons. Negotiated. Picture a scene straight out of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” music video coupled with a corporate board meeting and you have what basically happened there. Let’s go with it.
Additionally, Brennan addressed the backlash stemming from the skit.
“I don’t think people understand what comedy is supposed to do,” Brennan noted, referencing a Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, which poked fun at Adolf Hitler. “We will observe things, we will make fun of things. Did people want us to round up a posse and go arrest R. Kelly? Like, what were we supposed to do?”
Brennan continued, noting their intent was mainly to “poke fun” at R. Kelly and highlight the disturbing situation.
“So the idea that we somehow normalize this…like, we also did a white supremacist sketch,” Brennan pointed out, in connection with the Clayton Bigsby KKK sketch. “I don’t think we normalized white supremacy. Our job is to poke fun at things, and even if it’s bleak we still poke fun at it. We’re trying to humiliate a guy who’s known for peeing on… it’s insane.”
I think the issue here, though, is not so much the inability to grasp the concept of comedy, but the fact “punching up” is generally more respected than “punching down.” The intent may have been to do the former, but it was essentially at the expense of teenaged girls at a time when no one was taking their alleged abuse seriously. So, yeah, it may be a little more difficult to take “just jokes” when we now know just how long it took (and is taking) for these alleged young victims and survivors to finally get the justice they need and deserve.
The aforementioned documentary was a reckoning for us all on how everyone was at least indirectly complicit in helping R. Kelly continue to thrive (or go unscathed)—this sketch included.
Brennan’s full interview with The Breakfast Club is below.