The Breakfast Club’s Quiet Death Should Be More Alarming, but the Signs Were All There
Is it possible that a show can lose good faith it never had in the first place?
When I think of the great interview shows specifically catered to Black entertainers, few generated as much mass hatred as The Breakfast Club. The beloved stops, like Don Cornelius’s Soul Train, Donnie Simpson’s Donnie Simpson Show, and BET’s 106th and Park, made a tacit agreement with artists and fans: we won’t embarrass you.
Blackness in America is meant to embarrass you. Embarrass your clothes. Shame your skin texture. Demean your hairstyle. Punish your sneakers. So Black entertainment is an oppositional force. Black music and movies act as a release valve, a vindication, a love story. Black comedy is a celebration of internal, familial embarrassment. It takes the sting off being the ashy, slow, ugly, or desperate one. Since Black artists must tiptoe the tightrope of community approval and mainstream safety, their visits to Black-run outlets are more than a commercial play. They go to let loose. They like the coziness of interviewers who are, at once, supporters and guardians. They don’t need “objective” viewpoints in these spaces. They need their friends, cousins, high school homeys, and Day Ones. They need a shoulder to cry on. They need their acerbic, cutting-up besties. They want to be adored without agenda, and chin-checked when they go too far.
The Breakfast Club earned its spot as the premiere outlet for Black artists and entertainers in the worst possible way. They committed to embarrassing, calling out, or otherwise cornering their guests into endless hours of public humiliation. As news of co-host Angela Yee’s departure spread, a collective heave-ho farewell also rose up in response. Yee’s role, a bystander counted on to be the adult in the room, never prevented the show from frolicking in sty slop. Her “Rumor Report,” Troi “Star” Torain noted, became outdated in an era where we can read and verify rumors within seconds via any number of social media apps. Like Robin Quivers to Howard Stern, Yee served to amplify Charlamagne tha God’s outrageousness as a malicious, careerist trickster singularly focused on carving a fame mountain out of provocation and embarrassment.