Designed to build inter-racial bridges and shatter cultural stereotypes, The Black-Jew Dialogues is a comedy show that has successfully toured college campuses in the U. S. and U.K. for six years.
To help promote it, American comedians Ron Jones and Larry Jay Tish appear in advertising materials in politically incorrect poses: Mr. Tish, who is white, sports a luxuriant black afro, while Mr. Jones, who is black, wears a white yarmulke, adorned with a menorah.
Until they arrived in Toronto this week – for performances Tuesday at Ryerson University and Wednesday at the University of Toronto – the logo had only once before offended anyone's cultural sensitivities.
But after complaints raised by the U of T's Anti-Racism and Cultural Diversity Office, the committee hosting the duo at the U of T campus told the performers to replace the poster with something less objectionable.
"The Anti-Racism Office was a co-sponsor of the event and felt that if its name were on the poster, they could not use the image," explained Tamar Berger, special projects co-ordinator for the U of T's Hillel organization, one of the show's sponsors. "On a single poster, we could not place the image of Larry Jay Tish in a context."
Ms. Berger said it was clear that the comedians were using the stereotype precisely in order the break it down, but ultimately decided to yield to the Office's request.
A spokesperson for the Anti-Racism and Cultural Diversity Office was not immediately available.
Mr. Tish said it was funny "on its face that people might be offended by the idea that you could talk about these things," but understood the decision.
When he heard the decision, Mr. Jones joked that he "went to their offices and set them on fire. Give them a little bit of the old USA."
But then he added, 'the show is designed to be provocative. I think the Office was concerned that the logo could be misinterpreted. They didn't want the message to be warped or put out there without a chance for discussion. Ultimately, we are in the service business. And if the client isn't happy with the service, we are not doing our job."
At Ryerson, where no protest of the controversial logo was registered, the show drew a multi-racial audience of about 100.