Even Aaron McGruder has a limit.
"The Boondocks" creator was on a conference call interview with reporters yesterday and acknowledged that after Rosa Parks died Monday, he pulled several rough-hewn references to the civil rights icon from an upcoming episode of his new animated television series based on the comic strip.
That's not to say the man who gave us prepubescent black radicals Huey and Riley Freeman is pulling punches now that he's taking them to television. The satirist who saw his Condi-needs-a-man comics pulled from papers (including The Washington Post) isn't going soft -- Episode 2 is titled "Guess Hoe's Coming to Dinner."
"I was trying to sell a show at the same time I was selling [the strip] into syndication," said McGruder, 31, from a studio in Culver City, just outside Los Angeles. "I've been in talks about this one way or another for six years."
"The Boondocks" premieres on Adult Swim, the Cartoon Network's sister channel, on Nov. 6 at 11 p.m., and devotees of the strip will recognize the attitude. The first episode features the "n-word" maybe 15 or 20 times, Riley sighting a (fake) laser-guided rifle on a white woman's ample breasts and a white cop's neck, his grandfather doing naked aerobics, and lots of clueless, racist white people.
Future episodes feature a plot to kidnap Oprah; Martin Luther King Jr. arising from a three-decade-long coma (he survived the shooting!); and a black Jesus.
Did we mention the fictional trial of the rapper R. Kelly for "bed-wetting"?
"It's not done for the sake of controversy," he said. "It's about what would be the funniest show. . . . When we came up with the idea for the [King] show, we couldn't stop laughing."
Not everyone gets the "Boondocks" brand of broadsides, but the University of Maryland graduate is finally getting his 15 episodes of cable after being rejected by Fox and years of television projects that didn't go anywhere.
Although the strip now runs in more than 350 papers (and often draws angry letters from readers when it isn't pulled by newspaper editors), the L.A.-based McGruder said "I don't miss" drawing it now; he only does the writing. He's been focused on the television show for the better part of two years.
He's recruited Regina King to perform both young boys' voices, veteran John Witherspoon to play their cranky grandfather and caretaker, and Ed Asner to voice a millionaire who lives in their otherwise lily-white suburban neighborhood.
But can underage conspiracy theories, racial paranoia and offensive stereotypes come across as funny on television? Can you really say the n-word so many times and still get laughs, shock or outrage?
That's not the only point of the show, said McGruder, and he then repeated that word rapidly several times, mimicking how often critics suggest he uses it. "It's been in pop music and culture, particularly the past 16 or 17 years," he said. "It doesn't seem to be a topic that ever goes away. It's still a touchy subject."