After postponing performances amid an outcry from American Indian activists, comic Ralphie May is trying to make amends by offering to be part of the solution as he reschedules tour dates in Fargo, Sioux Falls and possibly Minnesota.
“I don’t like being run out of any town,” May said this week.
After a long conversation with Indian activist Clyde Bellecourt, May apologized and promised to work with the American Indian Movement to raise awareness and money for its causes. May has rescheduled his performances for Dec. 8 in Sioux Falls and Dec. 10 in Fargo, saying he will donate his earnings from those shows to benefit Indians.
“He seems to be pretty sincere and I accepted his apology,” Bellecourt said.
May, who was scheduled to perform in Bemidji last month, became the focus of social media outrage when a 44-second video clip of him spewing insults at Indians surfaced on YouTube. Bemidji, a community surrounded by three Indian reservations, canceled his performance. May later postponed his performances in Sioux Falls, Fargo and Burnsville after he received death threats and he feared for the safety of his audiences.
“I wouldn’t want my comedy show to hurt anybody,” he said. “I’m not Donald Trump. I’m not trying to [rile] people and let the worst of people come out. I want them to laugh and enjoy.”
In the controversial clip, May delivered a series of profanity-laced insults and racial slurs against Indians. But May said the clip from a 2005 show was taken out of context from a longer routine that he said targeted racists and not Indians.
To quell the controversy, May took to YouTube to apologize and then phoned Bellecourt.
May said he told Bellecourt that he was wrong to have made the joke.
“I told him I will get educated and I will address this,” May said. “I want people to know how much [Indians] have been screwed over and are still screwed over. I want to raise awareness about evils perpetuated on American citizens by other American citizens.”
May said his response to the outrage over that joke is different now than it would have been 10 years ago. “Back then, I would have told people that if you can’t take a joke, take a cab. Beat it. There are many exits. It’s called comedy and it’s called freedom of speech and as long as the American flag flies I should be able to tell that joke.”
But he said he’s not the same person he was 10 years ago.
Bellecourt said he considers the matter resolved and is looking forward to working with May on an event with other comics to benefit the American Indian Movement.
“He wanted to do more than just apologize, which he did,” Bellecourt said. “He wanted to put something together to work with us on racism in sports and media … and to support our young people.”
“By the time I was done talking to him, he was calling me Uncle Clyde,” Bellecourt said.