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‘Dark Justice’: A Looney Tunes Take on Racism

“Dark Justice” star Che Holloway, right, gets cuffed in the first installment of “Dark Justice.” (Funny or Die)

A seemingly endless stream of videos documenting police brutality show exactly why we need movements like Black Lives Matter to push for reform in our justice system.

But while the issues at stake are deadly serious, when it comes to framing and articulating them comedy can be a useful tool. “Dark Justice,” a new show on the website Funny or Die, wades deeply into the treacherous waters of racism and manages to bring humor to the surface.

The storyline revolves around the travails of Amir Johnson, the first black officer in a small-town police department.

“Content-wise, the show was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and the conversation being had in America about police and racism,” “Dark Justice” creator Mike Gerbino told Truthdig. He said he not only wanted to contribute to the conversation, he wanted to help relieve racial tensions by getting people to laugh a little while they ruminate on what’s happening.

Gerbino, who comes from a police family and a hip-hop background, said he believes he’s found a balanced way to tell the “Dark Justice’ story.

The show begins with a satirical take on the difficulties of being the only black officer in a police department. In the first episode, Johnson, played by Che Holloway, is shot by his partner while investigating a home invasion because the white officer forgets he has a black co-worker and assumes he’s shooting the criminal.

As season one continues, other aspects of recent racial tensions are analyzed. In a later episode, when Johnson goes to court over the shooting, he arrives—in his uniform—with a lawyer wearing a bright dashiki. When the judge spots the lawyer coming in with the cop, he shouts, “Guilty! Guilty!”

Gerbino said season two will immerse viewers more deeply in the conversation about race, adding that he doesn’t see any limits on how far the show can take racial humor.

“With that said, there is such thing as good story telling, and I want to keep the comedy consistent with the tone of the show and the world it exists in,” he said.

“I’m also white, so I don’t want to overstep my personal boundaries and the limitations that come from having a white guy’s perspective,” Gerbino said. “There might just be things I wouldn’t feel confident satirizing because it’s not my place to do it.”

Gerbino said he was influenced by shows such as the police comedy “Reno 911!” and the edgy cartoon “The Boondocks,” but “Dark Justice” has a lighthearted, innocent flavor that goes beyond those influences.

Though Gerbino tries to avoid making statements that aren’t his to make, he doesn’t want to hold back when it comes to exposing the absurdities of racism. “Story-wise, the show is going to go to some surprising places,” he said. “It might get a little uncomfortable.”

Holloway, who plays the lead character, said, “The good thing about ‘Dark Justice’ is that it does a fine job of bringing up the issue of race relations without beating it over your head. It’s also very unique and edgy, because we are tackling such a heavy, important topic in an almost absurdist, Looney Tunes-like approach,”

Gerbino said audience response has been mostly positive, but he realizes that not everyone will find humor in the struggles of black citizens or police officers.

“Hard-core activists, as well as police officers, aren’t known for their impeccable senses of humor, so I expect the response to be a little more varied as time goes on,” he said.

Take a look at “Dark Justice” below (via Funny or Die):

Thor Benson
Thor Benson is a traveling writer, currently located in Los Angeles. Aside from Truthdig, he has been a contributor to Slate, Vice, Fast Company and many others. You can follow him at…
Thor Benson

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