Jonathan Swift’s Intellectual Descendents for Truth

Filed Under Satire

On Sunday, The New York Times described why jokes about George Bush have become far more aggressive and political. For the most part, all the reasons they point out (the unpopularity of his policies and the harshness of all comedy these days) are fairly accurate. The most interesting points occur at the end of the article:

1) The initial joke that George Bush is a bumbler has helped him. Absolutely true. It’s been ingrained in western civilization since Aristophanes: the smart aren’t so smart and the fools among us are the wisest of us all. Think about the end of Animal House... the characterization of an idiotic George W. Bush could have easily been one of the frat brothers who end up heading on to ambitious destinies. We don’t get angry at the clowns who make mistakes, we have sympathy for them. If the left wants to change minds, it should supplant the dumb jokes with ones that emphasize craftiness. (BTW, who was our last President who was portrayed as a little out of it? Reagan.)

2) Satirical humor plays only the converted. My head says this is true. My heart wishes it wasn’t. Naturally the most vitriolic of comedic rants really doesn’t change minds, but one of the things that always attracted me to comedy was the idea that my getting a laugh, you could sneak an idea in there. I don’t know if anybody ever walked out of a comedy show and said, “that totally changed my stance on abortion.” (In fact, I can’t think of any piece of art that has ever really done that.) On the opposite side, everyone loves to criticize media for driving people, particularly kids, to commit some antisocial act. But we can’t have any positive effects? I don’t think you can have it both ways. I imagine some would prefer to say art, and by extension comedy, has no effect one way or the other because they don’t want the responsibility. But I think exactly the opposite is true. Jokes can both help and harm society, but I think you and I will always be ill-equipped to judge which do which until a couple of decades have past. I mean, who’d ever thought Lenny Bruce would lead to Andrew “Dice” Clay?

Posted by Todd Jackson at 12:55 AM | Comments (0)

LCS Slam Just For Laughs Insists Houston

Filed Under Stand-Up Comedy

Comic Sharon Houston popped up on The Special Thing Comedy Boards to explain her intentions behind the Fahrenheit: LCS2 video she made. She seems genuinely shocked that it’s gotten the attention it has. From her description, the screed wasn’t so much a rant against reality TV editing as much as an opportunity to tell a few jokes at LCS’s expense. Though this is comedian defense #1 when a joke of yours ends up having more backlash than you expected, she doesn’t seem to have any axes to grind. (The host of the video, cringehumor.net does. It revels in exposing flaws in LCS and particularly Dat Phan.) In fact, she’s quite willing again to admit her own faults.

She openly embraces producing another video where two version of her act appear, one the NBC-edited version and the other a full version (as I suggested here). She’s also refreshingly honest about why her bit did fail, citing “rookie” mistakes like: doing a long difficult-to-edit bit, using material even she was tired of and the perennial nerves. I agree with another point in her posts, if she hadn’t said anything negative herself, NBC probably wouldn’t have edited her bit to reflect that. It would have just glossed past without being a highlight (or lowlight) at all.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 12:11 AM | Comments (0)

If You’re Comparing 9/11 and LCS2 Haven’t You Lost Perspective?

Filed Under Stand-Up Comedy

Last Comic Standing 2 is all over. But some comics still have axes to grind about it. Over at cringehumor.net you can watch Fahrenheit LCS2 (third item down), where comic Sharon Houston overlays comments that slam reality TV editing onto show footage. Also included are some unnecessary barbs at two other female comics. What does someone else’s age or accent have to do with your act. Particularly when, by your own admission during the show, your set bombed. All of the protesting functions on the conceit that people actually believe LCS is the absolute authority on who’s funny or not, when everyone really knows it just a gussied-up game show.

With all the griping about featuring midgets and strippers instead of her, Sharon Houston still does have one good point. She claims the producers’ editing took out all the punchlines from her act, which if true, might make her look less funny than she was and, I suppose, affect her career. A far better video would have been to show her act as shown on LCS2 and then show the same set intact from another performance so audiences can judge for themselves about reality TV editing. All the rest of the sniping makes this legitimate complaint sound like sour grapes.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 05:56 PM | Comments (0)

Armed with a +4 Vorpal Smirk

Filed Under Late Night

Daily Show correspondent Stephen Colbert reinforces the stereotype of comedians as popular, bullying jocks in high school… in an alternate universe! Gamespy reminisces about 30 years of Dungeons and Dragons and guess who’s a fan! (Confession: so were we.)

Posted by Todd Jackson at 05:50 PM | Comments (0)

An Interview with a 2,000 Year Old Man (Minus 1920 years or so)

Filed Under Sitcom

NPR has an interview with Carl Reiner where he talks about his long career. Check it out, if you got the time.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 06:55 PM | Comments (0)

Last Comic Standing Breaks Glass’ Ceiling

Filed Under Stand-Up Comedy

Todd Glass has begun to sell out comedy clubs as a result of the appearances on Last Comic Standing. The Los Angeles Times article refers to how Todd tweaks the stand-up profession too. His act was my favorite in the LCS Wild Card shows with his magician-secret-revealing set-ups. “You know what guys do that’s a little cartoonish? Or maybe guys don’t do this. I think I might have made it up for my act…” It’s a strange kind of meta-comedy that works for me.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 06:45 PM | Comments (0)

Don’t Blame the Messenger. Blame the Guy Who Makes Fun of the Messenger

Filed Under Late Night

A University of Michigan study has linked voter apathy to late night TV. The report links lack of voting with viewership of Letterman, Leno, etc. There’s also the corollary that watching programs like Oprah makes young adults more politically optimistic as well as more likely to vote.

I have to say I can see why this would be true. Seeing things like a crowd of country music fans willingly join in a chorus of the anti-Semitic “Throw the Jew Down the Well” on Da Ali G Show doesn’t make me excited for America’s future. But I don’t think watching Oprah would make me any more excited about the political process. I had a pessimistic viewpoint on politics beforehand and don’t really believe in easy, weepy solutions. With satire at least I know what’s wrong with the country. And I can choose my candidates accordingly.

One of the things I wonder is what results you would get if you fragmented the survey out further, dividing it between shows like Letterman and Leno and shows like The Daily Show and Real Time with Bill Maher. I imagine that the former set, where comedy that addresses politics rarely dives into specifics of policies, gives the impression “they’re all crooks!” Whereas comedic shows like The Daily Show and others, which focus a bit more on politics, actually motivate voting.

Syracuse professor of being quoted in magazines and newspapers about TV Robert Thompson described comedy in a recent article as the “fifth estate.” I definitely see these shows in that light, where they keep our journalists and politicians honest. If some voters get disillusioned… well, maybe if we could have kept our estates to four in the first place, maybe we wouldn’t need satire as much as we do.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 02:40 PM | Comments (0)
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