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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Tyler Perry to Spike Lee: You can go straight to hell!

April 20, 2011 |  1:14 pm

Spike_lee Spike Lee has really been taking it on the chin this week. First off, his beloved New York Knicks have lost two straight games to the Boston Celtics, blowing big leads both times, seeing a lot of awful defense from Carmelo Anthony and getting torched at the end of each game by the Celtics backcourt marksmen. Now he's getting also getting scorched by Tyler Perry, who is so mad at Lee that he went careening off-message in the middle of Tuesday's news conference for his new film, "Madea's Big Happy Family," taking a flurry of jabs at Lee.

"I'm so sick of hearing about damn Spike Lee," Perry said. "Spike can go to hell! You can print that. I am sick of him talking about me, I am sick of him saying, 'This is a coon, this is a buffoon.' I am sick of him--he talked about Whoopi, he talked about Oprah, he talked about me, he talked about Clint Eastwood. Spike needs to shut the hell up!"

It's hard to say exactly what prompted Perry's latest outburst, but the feud between the two filmmakers has been simmering for years. Back in 2009, Perry did an interview with "60 Minutes" where he said he was "insulted" and "pissed off"  by Lee, who after name-checking one of Perry's movies, complained about all of the "coonery and bufoonery" in African American comedy, adding, "We got a black president and we're going back. The image is troubling and it harkens back to Amos 'n' Andy."

Perry is especially peeved that the criticism of his films is coming from a fellow African American. "I've never seen Jewish people attack 'Seinfeld' and say, 'This is a stereotype,' I've never seen Italian people attack 'The Sopranos,' I've never seen Jewish people complaining about 'Mrs. Doubtfire' or Dustin Hoffman in 'Tootsie.' It's always black people, and this is something that I cannot undo. Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois went through the exact same thing."

Putting aside all of the whoppers in that rant -- I mean, what's Jewish about "Mrs. Doubtfire" and on what planet would you possibly compare a slapstick comedian like Perry with a brilliant social philosopher like W.E.B. DuBois? -- I think it's safe to say that Lee has obviously gotten under Perry's skin. We can argue all day about whether Lee is a great filmmaker or not, but he's definitely a world-class trash talker, right up there with NBA greats like Kevin Garnett, Rasheed Wallace and Charles Barkley who, like Lee, always knew exactly how to rattle and unhinge their adversaries.

And in fairness to Lee, he's a totally colorblind trash talker, once calling Larry Bird "the most overrated player of all time" and former Sen. Trent Lott a "card-carrying member of the Ku Klux Klan." When Lee was criticized for a negative portrayal of Jewish club owners in "Mo' Better Blues," he blasted back, saying it wasn't such a big deal since the Jews run Hollywood "and that's a fact." Of course, sometimes Lee's taunting has backfired. He got into an epic trash-talking match with Reggie Miller during Game 5 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals between the Indiana Pacers and the Knicks, inspiring Miller to score 25 points in the fourth quarter of the game, blowing the Knicks out of the building and leading the New York Daily News to run a photo of Lee on the front page of the next day's paper, headlined: Thanks a Lot Spike."

But for now, in the showdown between Perry and Lee, it's Spike who has the upper hand. He's gotten Perry so off his game that he's made his feud with Lee the big news coming out of a press conference supposedly designed to promote Perry's new movie. And while we're at it, when it comes to "Seinfeld," I hate to break the news to Perry, but that's no exaggerated Jewish stereotype, babe. That's just good comedy -- the Jewish version of trash talking.

--Patrick Goldstein   

Here's the famous taunting incident between Lee and Reggie Miller during the 1994 playoffs:


 Photo: Spike Lee courtside, rooting for the New York Knicks against the New Jersey Nets at the Prudential Center. Credit: Jim O'Connor / US Presswire