Ralphie May offered an apology and 100 free tickets to the people of Bemidji. But the message May uploaded to YouTube, and his tweeted pleas for understanding, were too little, too late.
The show's officially off now, according to the Bemidji Pioneer, which got confirmation from the Sanford Center, a city-owned venue, that May's Saturday night standup gig is canceled. The venue explained in a release that it was responding to "concerns about the appropriateness of what the comedy material could contain."
Those concerns stem from a short, explosive clip of May's standup act, in which he slams Native Americans for alcoholism, and jokes they didn't advance "to the Bronze Age." Bemidji is near to several Native reservations, and more than 11 percent of Bemidji, and 20 percent of its Beltrami County, identified as Native American on the 2010 census.
May says that the audio tape was taken out of context. In a video posted to YouTube last night, he explained that the standup bit ends with him saying his real problem with Native Americans is Dances with Wolves winning the Best Picture Oscar over Goodfellas.
The comedian, once a runner-up on the NBC show Last Comic Standing, said he too had been wronged, with someone "illegally" recording and editing his act to make him seem racist.
"We're all victims in this," May said. "My art was stolen for a political statement."
While still defending the joke, May said he was sorry that his words had hurt people, and offered to give away the last 100 unsold tickets to his show. This wasn't enough for Bemidji City Manager Nate Matthews, who said the city is trying to maintain good relationships with its Native populations.
"I just don't want to go backwards," Matthews told the Pioneer. "This topic touched a nerve in our community, and I think [May] realizes that."