By Rob Drinkwater, The Canadian Press
SASKATOON — An American comedy duo is apologizing for a joke they made at a tribute concert for the Humboldt Broncos hockey team that was described as racist and inappropriate by some concertgoers.
Bruce Williams and Terry Ree, who refer to themselves as “The Indian and the White Guy,” emceed the concert in Saskatoon on Friday.
At one point, Williams sang a song to Ree which included the line “shake it for the Indian with STDs.”
Some members of the audience took to social media to express their outrage, with several saying they left the venue.
Williams and Ree posted on Facebook late Saturday apologizing to anyone who was offended by their routine.
They said they failed to consider the emotional nature of the event, which was billed as a tribute to remember the 16 people who died in the April 6 bus crash.
“Williams and Ree sincerely apologize to all offended by their humour at the recent show in Saskatoon,” the duo wrote.
“The Great Province of Saskatchewan has been under a tremendous amount of strain and heartache, and we failed to take into account situational awareness and its toll on the citizens who live therein. Peace and love to all.”
Claire Aistine, who attended the concert with her daughters and son-in-law, said it was more than just one line in a single song that was offensive. She said the show began with beautiful tributes, but then got uncomfortable quickly when Williams and Ree came out.
Aistine, whose children are Dene through their father, said they were all taken aback when the duo introduced themselves as “The Indian and The White Guy.”
“This continues. Like the derogatory statements that I heard — using the word ‘squaw,’ and statements like ‘Indians don’t work,’ ‘dirty Indians’ was another term that was used — very stereotypical connections with the casino and things like that,” Aistine said.
“My girls and I looked at each other and said, ‘Whoa!’”
Premier Scott Moe addressed the crowd at one point during the concert, but it wasn’t clear if he was present when the emcees were performing.
An email to Moe’s spokesman about whether the premier heard any of the comments Ree and Williams made was not returned on Sunday.
A spokesman for Country Thunder Music Festival, which booked the evening’s musical acts, said in an email that it had not received any complaints but was aware of some Facebook posts and the apology by Williams and Ree.
“Williams and Ree are veteran comedians who are approaching their 50th year in show business. I guess it’s true that not everyone is going to appreciate every joke, and I’m sorry if anyone has been offended in any way during what was a spectacular evening,” Gerry Krochak said in the email.
Williams and Ree have been on the bill as hosts for Country Thunder, and Craven Country Jamboree as it was known prior to 2016, every July for over a decade.
Their website describes them as a comedy team out of the Dakotas, noting, “The message they bring is one of love and harmony, with an underlying note of deceit and debauchery.”
Aistine said she and her family didn’t walk out of the show because one of her daughters really wanted to see Dallas Smith. She said it appeared Williams and Ree toned down their performance towards the very end of the show, and she suspected they may have received a warning.
She said a few people around them laughed at the jokes, but not everyone.
“There was a lady and her husband sitting beside me. I had no idea if she was First Nations or not. But towards the end of it she was crying and she said to me, ‘I am so embarrassed that the rest of the world is going to think that this is Saskatchewan and this is how we speak in Saskatchewan,’” Aistine said.