Today, people know Chelsea Peretti from her stand-up and her role on Fox’s cop comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine, not to mention her Booking.com commercials with hubby Jordan Peele. And people know her older brother, Jonah, for having founded BuzzFeed, that eternal source of lists, quizzes, and adorable cat videos. But back in 2002, no one really knew the Perettis for much of anything. They were just a couple of struggling comedians, looking for a break. That changed in 2002, when the siblings collaborated on a deliberately offensive and still extant satirical website called Black People Love Us! Here, a pair of utterly clueless Caucasians named Sally and Johnny (not played by the Perettis themselves, incidentally) bragged incessantly about just how much they were loved by the African-American community. Displaying the worst of early 2000s web design, including tacky GIFs, garish layouts, and Courier New typeface, the site utterly baffled its readers. Which was exactly what it was intended to do. At The Daily Dot, writer David Britton shares the story of how this controversial site came into being, what impact it had on readers at the time, and how it changed the course of internet comedy.
As the article reveals, the elder Peretti had tasted a bit of viral fame in 2001, before most people really knew what “going viral” even meant. That year, he had tried and failed to get Nike to make him a custom pair of shoes emblazoned with the word “sweatshop,” and his exchange of e-mails with the company had attracted national attention. Peretti had even debated a Nike executive on NBC’s Today Show. This experience had taught Peretti the value of courting controversy on the internet, and the next year, he collaborated with his younger sister on Black People Love Us! Their goal was “to create a site that satirizes subtle forms of racism.”
Maybe it was too subtle for many readers’ tastes. The site features a section called “Your Letters” with feedback from visitors who can’t seem to decide whether or not to be offended by all of this. Could Sally and Johnny be real? And, if so, could they possibly be as tone deaf as they seem? The answer to both questions is no, but Black People Love Us! remains a potent satire of those who insult African-Americans while simultaneously pandering to them. That means quoting the lyrics of “One Love” by Bob Marley, as if that empty gesture made up for centuries of prejudice.