By Casandra Thompson-Forbes
A comedy bit on Tobago, performed by upcoming comedian Kyle Hernandez has been described as insulting, divisive, distasteful and disrespectful by many Tobagonians. The two minute, forty-one second piece was part of a larger set, aired on local television station WESN- Content Capital. The video which bore the station’s logo surfaced on Thursday night.
Hernandez’s set alluded to Tobagonians as being unimportant, unattractive, primitive, illiterate, having low self-esteem and hating Trinidadians.
Hernandez started off the set by saying, “I want to bad talk Tobago for a little bit, what’s the deal with Tobago, like when we gonna stop like pretending they are important…Tobago not important and I know you are probably thinking, hey Kyle that real harsh what you’re saying that for, but if somebody come up to you and say you have a Tobago face, won’t you be offended?”
During a scenario, Hernandez mimicked and poked fun at the Tobago accent insinuating that they sounded illiterate.
“They hate us, Tobagonians, I don’t know why… I don’t know how Tobagonians does talk, I learned to read at a young age, so it’s hard to get the accent if you’re literate.”
He also described one of T&T’s national birds, the Cocrico, as a down syndrome pigeon.
“As a matter of fact think about their national bird, a Cocrico, how low your self-esteem have to be to walk up to a down syndrome pigeon and be like that’s it, that’s the one, write it down.”
Attempting to end the set on a positive note, Hernandez said, he loved Tobago since he met his fiance on the sister island, but made it clear she was not Tobagonian because she was “attractive”.
The entire performance was accompanied by a studio audience laugh track.
However, this did not sit well with many Tobagonians who turned to social media to vent their displeasure over the incident, stating that Hernandez’s pitch was an insult to many Tobagonians and a failed attempt at comedy. Many also noted that he had a myopic view of the island.
Commenting on the situation, THA Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis in a Facebook post condemned the statements, highlighting that the Tobago Bill was a trending topic in the national space.
“This asinine and highly offensive charade is before us at a time when this country is on the cusp of redefining the relationship between the islands. It is not only insensitive and foolish but reflective of the similar or worst views held by many across the waters.”
Dennis called on Tobagonians to join him in strongly condemning Hernandez’s action.
“If anything, during this period, the relationship and mutual respect between the people of the two islands must improve; and this requires the young especially to be responsible and deliberate about facilitating such.”
Utilizing several idioms or Tobago slangs, he turned to dialect to send a warning to Hernandez and others with like thinking.
“Nuh all skin teeth ah laugh; Joke for you is death for crapaud; Nuh sit pon river stone and bad talk river; Laugh and cry does live in the same house; Ratta tongue does sell ih head; Crapaud smoke yuh pipe; Carry yuh tory (apology) gih dawg!” Dennis wrote.
Minister of Education Dr. Nyan Gadsby-Dolly also joined the condemnation via a Facebook post she posted, “I saw a video yesterday… puported to be a joke about Tobago. I honestly didn’t get it. What I got was annoyed and ashamed. Maybe I don’t have the right sense of humour; but with all that’s going on in my country, all the challenges we face… it was honestly the last thing I needed to see”
Tobago West MP Shamfa Cudjoe also added her voice on the issue.
“That act was downright offensive, profane, and asinine. There was nothing, absolutely nothing, funny about those insults and attacks.”
She described the piece as a desperate attempt to desecrate and divide the nation, but urged Tobagonians to stay strong.
“I am most heartened by the fact that these attacks have never broken us, and they never will. We remain bold, we remain beautiful, and we also remain hellbent on identifying haters, attention whores and imbeciles and dealing with them accordingly and appropriately in real time.”
Meanwhile, Area Representative for Goodwood/Belle Garden Dr Faith B Yisrael said, while the island was angry about the comedian’s “disrespectful” comments, there were more important issues regarding the island at stake, outlining that the main issue should be the Tobago Bill currently before the JSC.
“We have to ask ourselves whether Kyle’s view of Tobago is unique? Or whether many others on the sister isle secretly (or openly) have the same view about us…”
“The last couple weeks has really forced me to think critically about why the JSC on Tobago Autonomy would to take so long, the original Bills were sent to Trinidad by Mr. Orville London in 2016, present Bills that obviously do not represent the wishes of Tobagonians and they try to tell us that our wishes are illegal, etc when those interpretations are completely false and they ignore the submissions of Tobago’s best and brightest…” she said.
WESN has since removed the video from their social media page.