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.
Filed Under Late Night
Late night underwent a sudden shift last week when Craig Kilborn announced he was leaving The Late Late Show. I’ve never been a big fan of the man… the smugness always wore on me. He did seem perfect for the first incarnation of the Daily Show which was more news parody than news satire. He was a modern Ron Burgundy, your local news anchor transported to basic cable.
But I never really saw the point of having him host The Late Late Show. Talk shows at their core are about the person behnd the desk. There never seemed to be much to Kilborn other than some good hair and a desire for a good time. He just never did much for me (or anybody else, if ratings are to be believed). I never really saw him moving on to 11:30 and I imagine CBS didn’t either.
Of course now there’s lots o’ handicapping about who’s taking the spot. The Post puts forth the inspired notion of Amy Sedaris. As a huge fan of Strangers With Candy, I can’t even fathom what an Amy Sedaris talk show would be. She’s an incredible interesting person, but her appearances on Letterman, though charming, play so wacky I have a hard time seeing CBS brass embracing the idea. I’d love to see it if they did.
The Daily News throws out five contenders... some more crazy than the next. Chris Rock? Please. The guy’s been there and done that with talk shows. And he’s bigger than 12:30 AM. If he wanted to do it, he would have gone to Fox a long time ago. Vince Vaughn is a very interesting idea. But I most like the suggestion of Sarah Silverman. She’s incredibly engaging and funny and deserves a bigger forum. I don’t know if her style of comedy would play anywhere but HBO. But again, I’d love to see CBS give it a shot.
With Conan’s contract up at the end of the year, there seems like there could be room for a lot of new late night chatfests. Whoever’s the number two choice for The Late Late Show will likely get Conan’s spot if he bolts for someplace like Fox (or rather bolts for an earlier time, like 11PM). The whole field is completely unpredictable, particularly when you remember that despite all these mechanations, Jay Leno will still probably have the highest late night ratings. Kinda sad, huh?
UPDATE: The headline above is a reference to this infamous Esquire article. (Sorry to overexplain, just want everyone in on the joke.)
There’s been talk about the July 28th Nightline, which featured an exchange between Ted Koppel and Jon Stewart that some say outlines the gulf between old and new TV journalism. The description of The Daily Show as journalism gives insight into how low journalism has fallen. Not because The Daily Show is bad journalism, but because journalism isn’t doing it’s job and satire is having to pick up the slack.
Stewart and Koppel debate on what a News Anchor’s role should be. There’s a sense that there needs to be objectivity in news, presenting all sides to a story fairly and honestly. Stewart argues that the political spin machines take advantage of this and that TV news needs to adapt, not only to keep viewers, but to be effective. The audience doesn’t want them to stand idly by when each side presents contradictory facts.
The comedy presentation of news does give interpretations. Stewart rightly states that no one in his audience is coming for news, but they are coming for what they see is the truth behind the news. The real behind the measured coldness of just coverage.
At one point Stewart tells Koppel:
“...you CAN say that’s BS. You don’t need humor to do that because you have what I wish I had which is credibility and gravitas.”
News worries about presenting the truth and thus presents all sides of a story, penetrating none. Satire, while not necessarily giving truth, takes the elements of a story and uses them to illuminate something at their core.Stewart is pushing for Koppel to give more perspective. To bring more of a frame to stories and to call lies when he sees them. The fact Koppel seems to dispute the idea that he could call BS is bizarre when you read a speech Koppel delivered at a dinner of TV News directors that Jon Stewart himself introduced him at. At Koppel’s request! Koppel talks about the need to give news context… well isn’t that just a fancy way of saying “calling BS”?
Big Ups to Sacha, Ite?
Great (and apparently rare) interview with Ali G alter-ego Sacha Cohen (or rather, vice versa… or not) in the New York Times today. Particularly interesting is the distinction Sacha makes about his interview subjects and other targets being good sports. He says:
I think the term “sports” is wrong because that implies that they are playing along and they realize they’re part of the game. As far as I’ve seen, they’re not.
So there’s a sense with him that just playing along with the character isn’t being a good sport, it’s realizing your being had and playing along anyway. To use the language of improv, the target of the joke would “Yes, And” with Ali G, Borat or Bruno. I’m looking forward to the new season of the Da Ali G Show... there’s too little comedy featuring pranking white fat cats.
Insert Never Forgets Joke Here
Caught the sketch group Elephant Larry this past weekend in their new show “The Crime Machine.” The troupe of five guys put on a really energetic show, with some sketches working simply because of the players’ complete commitment to a premise such as “Fightman and Puncher,” featuring two superheroes who only catch bad guys incidentally because they’re too busy hitting each other. A lot. The video was nicely mixed in, culminating in a tandem bit where all five dance along to a imagined ubiquitous Will Smith tie-in rap for the film “I, Robot.” There’s some clunkers in there, but the highs outweighed the lows. My favorite performer was Geoff Haggerty, who lent a bizarre innocence to a scream of “bloody murder!”
Comedy is Timing. And this is far too late.
Saw this in the bookstore today. The Sitcom Career Book. I see this easily edged out in sales by Reality Casting for Congenital Morons.
Dave Chappelle walks off stage after “fans” relentlessly yell “I’m Rick James, Bitch!” Not only are these people killing Chappelle’s stand-up, they’re destroying the narrow window of getting a third season of Chappelle’s Show from the man. Please people, if you go to a live comedy show, shut the fuck up!
More complaints of ambushing by a political themed comedy show - this time, The Daily Show. I saw the episode where Jill LaVine and State Senator John Vasconcellos appeared. I didn’t think either one of these officials came off bad on the show. Lowering the voting age to 14 sounds completely preposterous, so Vasconcellos looks pretty silly for making the proposal in the first place. But his logic about people taking up the responsibility given to them came through the piece. The man just looked a little out of touch but with his heart in the right place, that’s it. Which is more than I can say for the anti-Philadelphia-gay-tourism man on Wednesday’s Daily Show, who really hung himself with his own bizarre obsession with men’s buttocks.