Amid an outcry from American Indian activists, stand-up comedian Ralphie May decided Tuesday to call off his appearance in Burnsville, as well as others this week in Sioux Falls, S.D., and Fargo.
Last week, May’s stop on his “Unruly” tour at the municipally owned Sanford Center in Bemidji was scrubbed by the city in the wake of widespread social media distribution of May’s 44-second rant on YouTube against Indians.
And despite his explanation and apology, Indian leaders in the metro area were asking the same of the city-owned Ames Center in Burnsville.
In response, May said in a statement, “I am postponing my shows in Fargo, Sioux Falls and Burnsville out of respect for the Native American community and safety for all parties.” A spokeswoman for May said the comedian has spoken with one of the Indian leaders and will meet with them sometime this week.
May was scheduled to appear Tuesday night in Fargo and Wednesday night in Sioux Falls. Minnesota and the Dakotas have significant Indian populations. All shows will be rescheduled, the comic’s spokeswoman said.
May has been under intense social media fire for more than a week, after a brief audio clip from a 2005 show surfaced on YouTube. May delivered a series of profanity-laced insults and racial slurs against Indians to a laughing audience. He described Indians as unemployed alcoholics whose culture never made it to the Bronze Age.
A subdued May took to YouTube last Thursday and apologized. “I’m sorry,” he said. “You didn’t deserve this.” He explained that the clip had been taken out of context from a much longer routine. He said the clip cuts off before the punchline — that the rant is coming from someone who’s upset because “Dances With Wolves” beat “Goodfellas” for Best Picture at the 1992 Oscars. The routine targets racists and not Indians he said.
Anyone who heard the routine in context, he said, would never “think it’s anything but a joke. That’s all it was, was a joke.”
Burnsville Mayor Elizabeth Kautz issued a statement to the American Indian Movement (AIM) Tuesday. Kautz said she would be happy to meet with AIM representatives and the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and Media for a broader conversation.
“I understand that Mr. May’s comments were hurtful,” she said in the statement. “ I hope you believe me when I say that they should in no way be a reflection of the thoughts and beliefs of our city, our venue or our city officials.
Indian leaders converged Tuesday at a news conference at the AIM Interpretive Center on E. Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis. Leaders said they had planned on demonstrating outside the center if May had not postponed his show.
“We are happy to say that we resolved the issue,” Clyde Bellecourt, AIM co-founder, said at the conference.