By Jim Roope, CNN Radio Correspondent
(CNN) - There is one place in America where racism might well be accepted, or at very least tolerated - comedy clubs.
“Race is, like everything, fodder for comedy,” said Dave Reinitz, co-owner of Flappers Comedy Club in Burbank, California.
“I think there’s a fine line between racial humor and racism. And some comics cross it. But yes, it is accepted, and it’s funny."
Even he likes a joke based on race at times.
“I can be made to laugh," he said. "Particularly if I know the comic that’s doing it and I know their intent is not to hurt anybody.”
Still, most race-based humor rubs him the wrong way, he said, as it does his partner, Barbara Holliday.
“In comedy, in general, we say that you can cross the hurt line,” Holliday said. “Meaning that if your joke is about degrading the race or putting down the race, then it’s a problem."
Comedian and actor Michael Richards, best known as Kramer in the TV series "Seinfeld," crossed a line in 2006. He became frustrated by heckling patrons while he was performing at The Laugh Factory in Hollywood. He blew up with an N-word-laced tirade.
Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada said anger was at the root of the outburst, not humor.
“Hatred is different than a human being going on a stage bringing people together,” Masada said.
Comedians like Chris Rock, Dave Chapelle and Eddie Murphy use the N-word in their acts and Masada understands their use of it as social commentary or an attempt to laugh at ourselves. The comedian probably best known for the use of the N-word is Richard Pryor. He once said that by using the word, he took the poison out of it.
Vic Bullock, executive director of the NAACP in Southern California, says he remembers Pryor making that statement - and he remember when Pryor stopped using the word, too.
“After he had gone to Africa, he said he was not going to use the word anymore because he said he no longer saw any 'Ns' once he had been to a continent filled with black people,” Bullock said.
Comedian Erik Griffin, who is black, agrees.
He said he doesn’t use the N-word very often, but that comics should be free to say what they want on stage - and that patrons are free to leave if they don't want to hear it.
"It’d be like going to 31 Flavors and saying like, the strawberry’s gotta go,” Griffin said. “Hey, how ‘bout you just not eat the strawberry and eat the other 30 flavors, you know? I mean, you don’t have to go to comedy clubs."