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Serbia: Demanding Apology From Comedian Chelsea Handler

Categories: Eastern & Central Europe, North America, Serbia, U.S.A., Digital Activism, Ethnicity & Race, Freedom of Speech, Humor, International Relations

Nearly 44,000 Serbs have joined the Facebook group ‘Boycott of Chelsea Handler until she apologizes to the Serbian people [1]‘, demanding an apology from the popular American female comedian [2] for the offensive remarks she made about the Serbian nation during her show Chelsea Lately [3], aired on June 20, 2011.

The Facebook page explains that Handler “ruthlessly attacked Serbia and its people” for some three minutes with guests Chris Franjola, Natasha Leggero and Greg Proops. The comedian began by talking about Amy Winehouse [4]‘s intoxicated performance [5] in Belgrade on June 18 [6], and, irritated by the fact that no one had even tried to stop the singer from appearing on the stage, she attacked the whole Serbian nation.

Facebook group ‘Boycott of Chelsea Handler until she apologizes to the Serbian people‘ [1]

Facebook group ‘Boycott of Chelsea Handler until she apologizes to the Serbian people‘

Commenting on the fact that as many as 20,000 Serbian fans paid 40 euros for their tickets to enjoy Amy Winehouse's performance, Handler said:

I can’t believe they even allow Serbians to go to concerts. I didn’t even know that was going on over there…

One of the show's guests, Greg Proops [7], chimed in, while another one laughed uncontrollably:

They’re calling it a disaster in Serbia. This is a place they’ve had ethnic cleansing and genocide. Her concert was a bigger bummer than that… […] After Serbia, where was she going, like Kazakistan [sic] or something?

One of the crucial reason for such a furious Serbian reaction was Handler's insult to Serbia's Minister of Defence Dragan Šutanovac [8], after a comment he had posted on his Facebook page, noting that “Amy Winehouse's concert was a shame and a huge disappointment” – to which Handler's response was:

Well, so is your country.

Šutanovac, who has some 5,000 friends on Facebook, replied [9]:

Dear friends, the show of “comedian” Chelsea made me react the same way as you did! Not funny, arrogant, shallow, mean… Only those who do not know anything about us, or want to insult us and draw our attention and anger, can make such comments about a country and its people! Having in mind that it is a show with fake applause of paid audience and comments from people who, to their disadvantage, are not even aware how little they know about Serbia, I did not want to react in a way that is expected from “uncivilized” Serbs! The whole idea was to irritate us and make us react exactly the way we were described, but I am not going to help them with it, on the contrary! Heads up, let’s go on, since they do not know who were Tesla, Pupin, Milankovic… Novak Djoković will teach them!

Marija Rajic [10] [sr] comments sadly:

It is so miserable to compare us to criminals. I watched the series “Criminal Minds” and in one episode they saying that we have committed ethnic cleansing, and from that chaos were created mass murderers that kill in America…

James Sullivan [11] wrote:

Chelsea Handler isn't going to apologize. Look at her past behavior. She's often stated that she dislikes minorities (people who aren't white). Many of her comments attack entire groups of people based on their ethnic and racial heritage and not because they said or did anything wrong. She also appears to dislike Eastern Europeans (Russians and Serbs). She's basically an unrepetant racist.

Richard Alan Koons Jr [12] concluded:

I think its going a little far, first off she's protected by the first amendment which entitles her to freedom of speech, even if it's involving racism. I love Serbian people, and when I was in Europe they treated me like a king, it was offensive to even me when she said those things. Serbs are not bad people, but its a waste of time to be honest.

Sergej Nesic [13] wrote:

I don't understand why those people paid all that money to see that junky loser [Amy Winehouse]. For that money they could've had a great night out in Belgrade. […]

In addition to the Facebook page, Jelena Ajdarević launched an online petition [14] also in an effort to draw attention to Handler’s remarks; so far, there are over 20,000 signatures there.

Handler's show has triggered a diplomatic reaction of the Serbian Embassy in the United States, which sent a protest letter to NBC Universal [15]. In his letter, the Serbian Ambassador Vladmir Petrovic wrote:

[…] We urge Handler and her producers to revisit her list of “topics that cross the line” and add her slurs against Serbia and its people to it. We also urge her to think of causes dear to her heart, such as equality. Her superior tone and statements run afoul of her honorable efforts towards achieving true equality – be it between individuals, communities, or nations. […]

Handler has so far ignored the Serbian Facebook demand for apology, but Proops did apologize through Twitter [16]:

Dear Serbs, they were jokes. Please accept my apology. I am well and truly sorry. Hvala.

While Serbians are demanding an apology from Handler, none of them mentions the fact that the Serbian comedy group ‘Kursadžije [17]‘ has for years been insulting other Balkan nations with whom Serbia was at war during the 1990s. The group's enormous popularity shows that many Serbs do enjoy this kind of tasteless humor, as long as it is not directed at themselves.