Here’s one of the strangest and more interesting restaurant promotions we’ve come across: For the next few days, a group of 39 Chinese restaurants across the Netherlands are offering 39 percent off menu item No. 39 (whatever it turns out to be) in response to the unabashedly racist commentary made by a judge on Holland’s Got Talent. It all started last month when the so-called “Simon Cowell of Holland” mocked contestant Xiao Wang as he took the stage in a tux to sing an Italian aria. After noting that he looked like a waiter, judge Gordon Heuckeroth cut in. “Which number are you singing?” He asked. “Number 39 with rice?”
So, yeah, that was Heuckeroth “correcting” another judge to say “surplise” there. And you weren’t mistaken in hearing that abysmal attempt at a compliment: “Honestly, this is the best Chinese I’ve had in weeks. And it’s not a take-away.” Badum-ching.
Immigration continues to be an extremely charged political issue in the Netherlands, and not surprisingly, Heuckeroth has since put xenophobia front-and-center in the many interviews he’s given following the incident. “The Netherlands are being run over by everybody and their kid brother,” he said, adding, “Ethnic minorities should not criticize my jokes.”
So after a few weeks of petitions and punditry, here comes the “39 With Rice” promotion, meant to poke fun at the racist comments directed at Wang — who happens to be a PhD student — in a way that somehow defuses the hatefulness espoused by the TV show judge. The idea is that the discount will draw in customers to try something new, and maybe have a chuckle or two over the whole thing.
“We want to demonstrate that the Chinese people are not afraid of a joke, as long as both sides can laugh at it,” says Yan Ting Yuen of the VCHO, an association of Chinese businesses.