Twenty-two months after Food Network canceled her show and a slew of companies ended their dealings with her after she admitted using the word “nigger,” Paula Deen the Calorie Queen is back, just as comedian Bill Burr predicted at the time. And while a show on the little known network EVINE Live (formerly ShopHQ) may not seem like much for the previously ubiquitous Deen, it’s part of a process of coming back from disgrace that Burr so astutely broke down on Conan in June 2013:
She’s basically like a $100 million whale just sitting there. That’s not a fat joke. That’s a gambling thing. She’ll make you a hundred million dollars. And she’s just sitting there on the beach, right? They have to figure out, what is the acceptable amount of time after someone drops the N-word or admits to it that you can bring them back on TV to make cookies?…
First, what happens is you get caught and then you have the people who are like professionally outraged. They can’t even get it out. “What kind of a, a, a person — I mean this is just wrong, wrong!”
They do that for like three days, and then you have to cry — try to make some cockamamie story up that you’re not a psycho. And then you just sit there and wait for the phone to ring because you know you can make people money. That’s all it’s about.They should just have a channel for people who screw up…. Like the Disgrace Channel or something, right? You know? Then you’re in like the penalty box.
Burr hit on an unwritten rule of the entertainment industry which is this: Generally speaking, if a celebrity uses a slur to describe a race to which one does not belong, that person has to quickly apologize and go away for an indeterminate amount of time. (And no, this doesn’t include epithets like “cracker” and “honky,” and if you don’t know why this is different, then please suck a tailpipe). In short, repentance + time = return. As a possible corollary to this, the duration of the hiatus may depend on the egregiousness of the offense, as well as how much money can be made from said celebrity.
So in Deen’s case, 22 months has been deemed appropriate — not by everyone, obviously — but by one network, which is all it takes. While it’s tempting to say that Deen is getting her feet wet in television again, it’s actually the television industry (and the audience) that’s getting re-acclimated — ready or not — to waters that are once again inhabited by a $100 million whale. It’s a necessary first step, and one that will likely garner Deen additional offers now that one network has taken the dive.
Back in April 2007, Don Imus was dropped by CBS Radio after referring to members of the Rutgers women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hoes,” which is pretty bad. But given that he didn’t use the worst of the worst words, Imus was back on the air with Citadel (now Cumulus) Radio by December, where he remains. So that’s eight months.
Last year, videos surfaced of a 14-year-old Justin Bieber dropping N-bombs, after which he quickly apologized and didn’t even have to go away at all. Granted, in his defense he was just 14 at the time, but nonetheless it’s going to take something truly horrific to get Def Jam Records to drop Bieber, like him burning a cross on Al Sharpton’s front lawn.
Anyway, the moral of the story is that as usual, Bill Burr was right.