Everyone knows that it’s impolite to make fun of the way other ethnicities look and speak, but some comedians have found a loophole. If you have a racist bit that really kills, you can still do it as long as you do it ironically.
For instance, Stephen Colbert periodically breaks into his Chinese character, Ching Chong Ding Dong. It would be totally racist if say, Rush Limbaugh did it, but it’s okay for Colbert because his character is actually pretending to be a right wing buffoon. So Colbert is only pretending to be what Rush actually is. Get it?
But here’s the thing. When Colbert speaks as Ching Chong Ding Dong, the audience seems to be enjoying his racist antics. I don’t think they are making the sophisticated leap from 1) Colbert is mocking Chinese people to 2) Colbert is pretending to be a right wing idiot to 3) aren’t those politically conservative nut jobs really crazy? to 4) “Hey, that’s funny!”
Instead, they appear to be laughing at the racism straight up. So here’s the lesson: you can still say and do pretty much whatever you want, as long as you pretend to be your opponent before saying and doing such things. You can get away with anything—even racism—as long as you do it ironically.
Update: It also occurs to me that Colbert and his audience are able to be both racist and self-righteous at the same time. They are clearly making fun of Chinese people, all the while feeling morally superior to anyone who would actually do such a thing.