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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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What really ignited Tyler Perry's tirade against Spike Lee?

April 25, 2011 | 12:43 pm

Tyler_perry The other day we had almost a ton of fun writing about how much Spike Lee's trash talk has gotten under Tyler Perry's skin. If you recall, Perry was in the middle of a news conference promoting his new movie, the one with the incredibly possessive-laden title, "Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family," when Perry went off on a rant about Lee, who has criticized Perry for making insulting, minstrel-like comedies. It didn't stop the film from cleaning up at the box office, making $25.8 million in its opening weekend.

But none of the stories I read about the news conference ever noted exactly what set Perry off. Now the mystery has been solved. Carl Kozlowski, a writer for Andrew Breitbart's conservative Big Hollywood website, says he was the one who provoked Perry into his Lee rant.

The fascinating thing is that Kozlowski never even mentioned Lee. The writer wanted to know if Perry's core audience, the black churchgoing community, might be upset over the amount of pot smoking and enthusiastic remarks about the drug that were in the movie. According to Kozlowski, a new character in the film, Aunt Bam, "smokes more pot than is consumed in a Cheech and Chong movie." Here's how Kozlowski's query elicited an eruption:

Q: Do you ever get any flak ...?

Perry: I knew this was coming -- flak about what?

Q: Not about Madea. No, a lot of your audience is church folks, I was wondering if they give you a hard time about pot jokes?

Perry: I was really ready to get you. I thought you was going to ask about Spike Lee. I'm so sick of hearing about damn Spike Lee .... 

And with that, Perry was off to the races, complaining about Lee and all sorts of supposed hypocrisies, like why Perry gets in trouble for stereotyping outrageous black folk but Jewish people never complain about the comic stereotypes of "Seinfeld." When Perry started comparing himself to W.E.B. DuBois I knew he was in deep trouble, but because Perry was at a Hollywood news conference, no one got around to asking him just how he could imagine himself being used in the same sentence with a great social philosopher like DuBois. And for that matter, nobody else asked Perry about the pot references, which he never got around to discussing again.

Actually, the best part of Kozlowski's account is getting to see the embarrassing softball questions Perry was asked in the press conference. I'm not sure if my favorite was "Is it harder to work with adults or kids?" or "Why does everybody love Madea so much?...And have you ever discussed teaming up with Martin Lawrence as Big Momma?"

After a steady diet of those kind of questions, is it any wonder why Perry figures that if he's going to win over his audience, he should probably aim as low as possible?

-- Patrick Goldstein


Tyler Perry to Spike lee: You can go straight to hell!

Photo: Tyler Perry as Madea in a scene from "Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family." Credit: Lionsgate Entertainment