Earlier this week, the New York Times arts section had a hissy fit over a Carnegie Hall comedy concert by Iggudesman and Joo with the pianist Yuja Wang. The Times accused them of sexism, racism, stereotyping and general unpleasantness. Its reporter sought reactions from the three performers but only printed a skewed faction of what they said.
We happen to have seen the message sent to the Times by Iggudesman and Joo. It reads:
We were aware and conscious of all our jokes and included them purposely to make a point about stereotypes, racial bias and the treatment of women within the music industry.
In fact, it was Yuja Wang herself who encouraged us and pushed for this approach. Being sexualized is common in many areas of the music business.
In our view, the best way to tackle tricky subjects is to undermine them by pointing them out with humor.
Our shows use satire and irreverence as a way to criticize shortcomings within ourselves and within the classical music world. Yuja is perceived of as a masterful virtuoso musician; she also has admirers simply because of her looks.
To “poke fun” of this was important for all three of us. When one makes a joke about something, it doesn’t necessarily mean that one endorses it. Just the opposite.
Our humor ranges from subtle jabs to blatant punches. We make fun of people’s perceptions of Yuja Wang. We make fun of technology and how it replaces live experiences.
We make fun of people’s perceptions of Asians, putting them all into the same box. About casual racism.
We make fun of the over-sexualization of the music business. We make fun of the music business as a whole.
Our goal is not to offend but to show the offenses for what they are. In this case, perhaps the debate our performance has engendered can contribute in a small way to changing thinking within the music world.
The New York Timesnever had a sense of humour. It has lately also lost its sense of proportion.