William F. Buckley.....Robin Williams
Dr. Philip Holder.....Eddie Murphy
(FADE IN on a talk show set with the words “FIRING LINE” on the back wall as the theme music plays for several seconds. William F. Buckley [Robin Williams] is seated to the left, and Dr. Philip Holder [Eddie Murphy] is seated on the right.
William F. Buckley: Uh, uh, good evening. Uh, I’m William F. Buckley. Ah, uh, welcome to “Firing Line.” Uh, tonight’s show, uh, delves into the phenomena of black entertainers. With us is Dr. Philip Holder. Good evening, doctor.
Dr. Philip Holder: Hello, doctor.
William F. Buckley: Doctor, I’d like to begin by axing you a question, if I may. To what, uh, to what do you attribute the sudden flammability of Negroes in the ‘80s?
Dr. Philip Holder: Well, we all know that throughout the years, black has always been, because of pigment, more heat-conductive, but I believe that, because of evolution, that black man is becoming more flammable every day.
William F. Buckley: Now, now, surely you’re not implying the phenomenon is more prevalent among entertainers than among other blacks, uh, Afro-Americans, uh, whatever phrase is current among you coloreds.
Dr. Philip Holder: Yes. As you know, entertainment is a business where lots of bright lights are used, and because our skin absorbs heat, many times black entertainers just burst into flame. That’s why so many entertainers just disappear without a trace. Take your Rodney Allen Rippy, for instance. He was the hottest person in show business for a little while, and one day he was in the studio too long, and his pants just exploded, and he quit the business.
William F. Buckley: Oh. Uh, ah, ah, so you’re saying this sudden ignitability comes with the proliferation of all those soul, or funk groups that always seem to flourish under a liberal Democratic administration.
Dr. Philip Holder: Oh yes, yes, yes, definitely. Many groups like the Earth, Wind, and Fire, and the Silvers, and Tavares, and the Trammps, they’ve all stopped working together because there’s just too many lights required to light a big group like that, you see. The more lights, the hotter it is, which makes for a greater flame possibility.
William F. Buckley: Well, uh-
Dr. Philip Holder: In fact, the song “Disco Inferno” was written by the Trammps after they blew up after a 1978 concert.
William F. Buckley: Uh, uh, is that, is that why so many of your black entertainers are, if I may use the expression, uh, “going solo.” Uh, uh, your, your, your Ritchies, uh, for example.
Dr. Philip Holder: Oh, yes. That’s why Lionel Ritchie left the Commodores. He’s a very shrewd entertainer. See, Lionel figured, “Hey: all these dudes on stage, somebody’s gonna ignite,” all right. And he left the group. You see, one singer, one spotlight, less heat. [raises index finger and smiles]
William F. Buckley: Oh. And, uh, what about, the, uh, literally flamboyant, uh, Michael Jackson? Uh, Michael Jackson, he’s, uh, certainly hot, to coin a phrase.
Dr. Philip Holder: Well, Michael didn’t leave the Jacksons yet, but who knows? See, I mean, the gentleman recorded two smash albums by himself back-to-back, and went into the studio with his brothers for one day, and his head blows up.
William F. Buckley: Well, uh, I think to me, uh, it certainly gives new meaning to his song, “Beat It,” if you catch my drift. [pats top of head]
Dr. Philip Holder: Oh, yeah, “beat it,” like this? [pats his own head]
William F. Buckley: Yes. Put out the fire. Um-
Dr. Philip Holder: Many things happen that people don’t even know about. In the state of Florida, for instance, at least one brother catches fire a week. But it’s kept from the Afro-American public, you see.
William F. Buckley: Uh, uh, I see. Ah, ah, ah, so what you’re saying here, what you’re saying here, in the 1960’s, the catchphrase was, uh, “black is beautiful,” where the catchphrase for the 1980s is, uh, “Black is flammable.” Uh, uh, I, forgive me, but this whole thing smacks as a left-wing conspiracy of paranoia, if you catch my drift.
Dr. Philip Holder: The government doesn’t want to start a panic amongst blacks. I mean, the black population will be staying in the house, and then, you know, America’ll be boring, you know. There won’t be nothin’, no baseball, no basketball, no football, no nothin’, just... hockey.
William F. Buckley: Uh, I see. I see, um.
[Smoke starts drifting out from underneath Dr. Holder’s suit. Crowd roars with laughter. Buckley looks around in consternation.]
William F. Buckley: Well, ah, ah, I think we’d better, uh, wind this one up, if you catch my drift. Uh, in the words of Bob Marley, “there’s gonna be some burnies smokin’ tonight.” Thank you, uh, I think the place is gettin’ cherry-whacked out here. Thank you, uh, very much.
Dr. Philip Holder: Help! Tito!
William F. Buckley: Thank you, uh, ah, thank you very much. Come with us next week on, uh, “Firing Line.”
Dr. Philip Holder: Tito!
[Theme music plays again as Dr. Holder pats his suit to try to put out the fire.]
Thanks to Joe Cornfield for this transcript!