UPDATE: Ralphie May's video message didn't work. As of Thursday afternoon, the standup show is officially canceled.
Comedian Ralphie May is offering free tickets to the people of Bemidji this morning, so long as they don't cancel a comedy gig he'd booked for this coming Saturday night.
May, a popular and caustic comedian, was booked to play the Sanford Center in that town, which is surrounded by Native American reservations. But city officials and local businesses want the show stopped after audio of May making offensive jokes about Native Americans surfaced online.
"Fuck a buncha Indians," May says at the start of his joke rant. It doesn't get much nicer from there, as May cracks on Native people's alcoholism, long hair, and the fact white people were able to take their country with "three smallpox blankets and a bag of beads."
Here's the audio clip posted to Youtube earlier this week. In the description, the poster makes refernece to May's upcoming event in Bemidji.
Reactions were swift and strong, according to the Bemidji Pioneer. Yesterday, city manager Nate Matthews told the Sanford Center to cancel May's show, but it sounds like doing that might violate a contract between the two sides. He said he couldn't confirm this action, citing "legal issues... with the performer and with the agency."
For its part, the venue says it wouldn't have invited May in the first place had it been aware of the jokes he'd made.
May came to his own defense last night, posting a much more subdued, sober message, saying the editing of the audio divorced the setup of his racist ramblings from the true punchline.
"The whole reason, that I'm upset with Indians [in the joke] is the fact Dances With Wolves beat Goodfellas out for the Oscar in 1992," May says. "It's such a ludicrous thing that no one, if you heard it in full context, would think it's anything but a joke."
May says the edited clip has been used to "inflict pain on people, innocent people," and apologizes for that effect.
"You didn't deserve this," May says. "Not from me, not from this face, not from this point of view, not this accent. You didn't deserve it, and I'm sorry."
May goes on to offer the remaining tickets, roughly 100, as a free gift to anyone offended by his comments, saying they should see his act "as a whole" before judging him. He also promises to give his earnings from that night's gig to charity.
As his response video just appeared online last night, no one from the city or event center has commented on how his statement might affect the Saturday show.