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The Shirley Q. Liquor Controversy

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Charles Knipp as Shirley Q. Liquor Charles Knipp
Shirley Q. Liquor, known off-stage as Charles Knipp, is no stranger to controversy. Knipp saw an opportunity to express his satirical nature as the drag persona Shirley Q. Liquor, developing a series of live one-man shows and CD's. Knipp and his Shirley Q. fan base see his work as comedic satire. Others take offense over the basis of Knipp's expression. The issue? Knipp is a Caucasian man that performs in full blackface as an impoverished African-American woman living in the southern part of the U.S. named Shirley Q. Liquor. Is Knipp's satire racist or within the bounds of comedic license?

Current Status

Knipp continues to performs his one-man show as Shirley Q. Liquor, Watusi Jenkins, and Betty Butterfield at various gay clubs throughout the U.S. amid an increasing number of protests and resulting cancellations. Knipp is also the narrater of the film Starbooty also starring RuPaul. Knipp, a Mississippi native, is a Quaker minister when not in drag.

Fuss

Drag performers are known for their comedic monologues and quick one-liners, but when does comedic license turn into racist monologue?

Charles Knipp's characters are a modern-day spin on the "blackface" minstrel shows of the 1830's, popularized by Thomas D. Rice and his minstrel character "Jim Crow." Minstrel performers originated as white men who used burnt cork, later greasepaint or shoe polish to darken their skin. Their acts, just as Charles Knipp's, centered around the caricature of African-American people as lazy, overly-cheerful, uneducated and musical.

Though credited with exposing African-American culture to the mainstream, most modern day Americans see blackface impersonations as offensive and in bad taste. Thus, the controversy surrounding Charles Knipp as Shirley Q. Liquor.
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