March 26, 2021

Amber Ruffin on what’s so funny about racism

Need a laugh after the week we just had? (Or, perhaps, the year?) So did we, so for the latest episode of UNDISTRACTED, Brittany Packnett Cunningham sat down with Amber Ruffin to talk about the TV host’s brilliant blend of social justice commentary and comedy.

Ruffin is the star of “The Amber Ruffin Show” and a writer and performer on “Late Night With Seth Meyers.” She also just wrote a bestselling book with her sister Lacey Lamar: You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories about Racism, which Ruffin describes as “a very good time about very bad stuff.”

As you might expect, it’s a fairly hilarious episode. Highlights include:

Ruffin on what’s so funny about racism: “On the surface, nothing. In practice—everything. I mean, the very definition of it is ridiculous. You know, it’s like these people who walk among us are walking around with these insane beliefs and when they come into play, it is funny. I think when it happens to you, it’s almost always either funny or infuriating and lots of times, it’s really funny. When someone mentions a rap song and then they look at me like, You know what I mean? I am 42. I don’t know what rap song you’re talking about!”

Ruffin on why “all Black women should be writing on a late night show:” “It’s exactly what we are good at. You take this ball and you take it all the way to the finish line. Like you write your idea and then you have to find a funny wig and you have to dress up like a dinosaur and you have to make sure that it’s edited in the right way. And you have to turn it in on time. You know what I mean? You know how all Black women are just natural event planners and we’ll check and see like, ‘I know you said you’d do it, but did you get it done?’—like that. Those people are the best at late night.”

Ruffin on what it’s been like to mine humor in the wake of 2020: “My goal has always been to de-gaslight us…I just wanted everyone to have an adult in their lives that will call garbage garbage.”

Ruffin on telling it like it is when it comes to racism: “The only way to talk about it is to go right through it. And also, talking in circles around it is how we got here in the first place. I don’t think there can be any more shorthand. There can’t be any more tip-toeing—we have to call it what it is and let it sting.”

Action item for all of us: In the first three months of 2021, there have been 104 mass shootings—a number that doesn’t include continued gun violence in Black, brown and marginalized communities. “I don’t know what it’s going to take for enough to be enough, but I do know one thing: Thoughts and prayers are nice, but action is better,” Packnett Cunningham said on this week’s episode. “So to Congress—we’re going to make sure you do your jobs.” Visit March for Our Lives, which supports communities that are most impacted by gun violence, to learn more.

Listen on Apple Podcasts,  SpotifyStitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.


The Meteor is guided by our collective; here’s what founding member and publishing executive Madhulika Sikka is up to this week.

Hello, I’m Madhulika Sikka and this is what’s up with me right now. Time has been doing that thing it does of moving incredibly fast, but also painfully slowly. How are we in year two of this pandemic?

I’M LISTENING TO myself. I’ll do the things I want to do when I want to. One of the biggest pressures on me had been, well, me. I realized I had control over that.

I’M GETTING MY JOY FROM cooking. I like to cook and working from home means I can cook with a little more thought and intention and time management. I’m expanding my repertoire which means more good food! And yes, I became that sourdough person too.

I’M WATCHING Giving myself a break. When Covid-19 hit, I was determined to be as productive as possible, even if I was home—nearly a year in, I’ve thrown that bullshit out the window. We’re all doing our best, there’s no reason to make life even harder by telling myself that I need to work even more.

I’M READING Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar. This author and Pulitzer prize-winning playwright is one of the most dazzling American artists of the last decade. This mind blowing piece of auto-fiction is a rollicking narrative that addresses the unthreading of America in the post 9/11 world.

I’M DOING LESS OF doomscrolling on social media. I highly recommend it.

Madhulika Sikka is is a media executive with experience across video, audio and digital. The VP and executive editor of Crown Publishing and former executive producer of audio at The Washington Post, she is also the author of A Breast Cancer Alphabet.