Skip to main content

Ralphie May show likely canceled after 'racist' joke surfaces


It looks like Ralphie May's Bemidji show is being canceled.

The comedian was scheduled to perform at Bemidji's Sanford Center Saturday night, but management has been instructed by city officials to cancel the show, City Council Member Reed Olson told Lakeland Public Television.

That's because an audio clip of May insulting American Indians recently surfaced on YouTube earlier this week, where the comedian called American Indians "a bunch of alcoholics" who "never made it to the Bronze Age."

The Bemidji area has a large American Indian population, and the community quickly responded to the clip, calling his jokes mean and racist.

People's swift reactions to May's joke prompted the Sanford Center to respond, apologizing for booking the event, the Bemidji Pioneer says. But the arena said it wouldn't cancel the show because of a legal contract it had with May.

Bemidji City Manager Nate Mathews told the Bemidji Pioneer Wednesday that it's the city's intention to cancel the show, "I just can't confirm it," citing legal issues.

"It's fundamentally going to be the city's call, and we've let [the Sanford Center] know we don't think it should be happening in the community," Mathews continued.

As of Thursday morning, the May show was still listed as an event on the Sanford Center's website.

May says joke was taken out of context

May addressed the backlash on Twitter and Facebook Wednesday, saying the 44-second clip doesn't capture the entire joke and his words were taken out of context, and recorded and edited without his permission.

He says the joke was meant to "hurt hateful, spiteful people. Not loving people such as the Natives."

He also spoke about it in a YouTube video, saying it was racially charged, but not racist:

The clip that's being called racist was posted online by Adrianne Chalepah, an American Indian comedian, Indian Country Today Media Network says. The publication spoke with Chalepah, who said she posted the clip because she say May was performing in Bemidji and "that is Indian Country."

”I wanted him to understand that incorporating hate and stereotypes into his jokes about us can have real harm, especially in border towns where racism is felt every day," Chalepah explained to Indian Country Today, noting she took offense to the joke because "Natives don't have a huge voice in mainstream media ... "

Next Up

u.s. attorney

Guilty plea from man who stockpiled guns, equipment to make bombs, drugs

Prosecutors say he had multiple guns, items to make weapons and pipe bombs, and lab equipment to make drugs.

polaris Ranger XP Kinetic

Here is Polaris' new electric Ranger off-road vehicle

The Minnesota-based company unveiled the electric UTV on Wednesday.


MN women's soccer team narrows name, logo options to final 3

The winning nickname and logo will be announced in January.

Kirill Kaprizov

2nd period surge leads Wild to fourth straight win

With three goals in the second, the Wild blasted the last-place Coyotes.

Gopher Basketball / R.J. Stephens

Late-tip in helps Gophers pass first big test, improve to 6-0

Luke Loewe's bucket with 2.4 seconds remaining helped the Gophers stay undefeated.


Man, 40, found dead stuck in air duct at his Otter Tail Co. home

The discovery was made by family members Monday morning.

Biden Minnesota visit stream screengrab - 11.30.31

What Biden said during his visit to Minnesota Tuesday

The president spoke at Dakota County Technical College.

Grand Marais

Cook County registers its first COVID-19 death of the pandemic

The sparsely populated, highly-vaccinated county has continuously had one of the lowest rates of COVID in the state.

Waits family screengrab CNN

Support for MN family after anti-maskers target child of school board chair

An online group opposing Kelsey Waits outed the child as transgender.

Pixabay - school - classroom

St. Paul schools add 2 days to winter break due to pandemic stress

The added days off are meant to acknowledge the stress the pandemic has caused.