Filed Under Late Night
It’s a bit after the fact, but I wanted to point out this post about an “Ill-Timed Baseball Joke” by David Letterman on Huffington Post’s “Eat the Press” blog. Essentially, it says that the writers for Letterman should have considered triming a segment once they knew that Yankee’s pitcher Cory Lidle had been on the single engine plane that crashed in Manhattan last week. There’s really no reference what about the joke was offensive, just that it was about baseball.
I’d missed the segment myself but after doing some digging on Letterman own site, I found their “Wahoo Gazette” which describes the bit as:
ALAN KALTER’S MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL MINUTE: Alan grabs the microphone and starts singing Fergie’s “London Bridge.”
“All my girls get down on the floor
Back to back, drop it down real low.
I’m such a lady, but I’m dancing like a ho,
Cause you know,
I don’t give a ‘givl’, so here we go!
How come every time you come around,
My London London Bridge wanna go down like
London London London wanna go down like,
London London London, we goin down!”
So first off, it’s pretty specious to claim that a bit should be censored because it’s about a sport a victim played - particularly since at least one playoff game (Detroit vs. Oakland) was played that night. It’s a fair target. The bit leads one to think it’d be about the day’s game highlights. But on top of it, the bit isn’t even really about baseball! It’s not in “poor taste” or “tacky and tone-deaf”, it’s just a bit of nonsense that wonderfully silly.
The post even evokes the silliness surrounding the Conan’s Emmy bit - which not one family member of a plane crash victim complained about, but rather an overanxious local broadcaster. For now on, if there’s a chance someone might get upset a joke, let’s let one of the actual victim or victim’s families complain about it first before we jump in, OK? Maybe they’ll see the humor when you can’t. I understand the need for comics to be sensitive about recent tragedies, but this is horseshit.
Filed Under Late Night
In Rob Corddry’s Wednesday report on the Daily Show entitled “Racist Like Me”, he ends his report stating that people might say “he’s a pretty decent guy, unless of course, you’re one of these things. In which case I hate your guts.”
After the jump the nearly 200 groups Rob Corddry hates…
The Boston Globe ran a rather ridiculous op-ed today entitled “Why Jon Stewart isn’t funny”. The argument isn’t so much about Jon’s mirth-creating abilities, but rather the effect of “The Daily Show” on younger people who could become public servants.
Using a composite (a la Nick Sylvester), the writer describes a recent graduate, progressive and “Daily Show” viewer who goes into financial services rather than beginning their careers working for, I suppose, local or state government. The idea is that watching “The Daily Show” makes talented minds less likely to engage in our political process because they see it so full of idiots that they feel better than it.
Completely ludicrous. There’s all kinds of paths to political change, and, considering the amount of money required to win offices these days, working in financial services might make you in a better position to run for office than a career politico (see Bloomberg). There’s going to be no loss of brilliant minds to politics because of “The Daily Show.” The show is not responsible for making politics entertainment; it’s the 24-hour news channels which show flacks aiming their talking points at each other and then chuckling when the other gets a good one in. They’ve made it a game and “The Daily Show” points that out regularily and not from some ironic “aloofness”. The show sublimates the anger under it’s fake news persona, but it’s outraged at the level of spin and the lack of the truth from political leaders. Both it and “The Colbert Report” make viewers more engaged in politics simply by making it clear you’re not the only one who feels so frustrated by our current political system. Pointing out what’s broken doesn’t mean that nobody will want to fix it; it makes them want to fix it more.
Yesterday the media wrote many stories about the field day Late Night talks show hosts had with Vice President Dick Cheney shooting Harry Whittington. My favorite joke was Letterman’s: “But here is the sad part—before the trip Donald Rumsfeld had denied the guy’s request for body armor.” (More of 2/13’s jokes here.) The White House tried to (perhaps wrongly) find humor of the situation themselves, in hopes of downplaying the event. But then, once it was announced Whittington had a heart attack, the question of how appropriate it was for the jokes to continue was raised (and answered, at least for politcians, as “not at all”).
Last night’s Daily Show was brilliant, again showing the flexibility the show’s unique form allows for making humor about events that have taken darker turns. First the acknowledgement that the story itself has been downgraded from “Incredibly Hilarious” to “Still Funny, But, MMM, Now a Little Sad”, using the much-abused comedic fodder of the Terror Alert chart as an illustration. (The bottom of the scale was “Brechtian”) Then the Daily Show could continue writing jokes which, instead of focusing on the uncomfortable aspects of the actual shotting, slamed the evasive behavior of Scott McClellan in the White House briefing room - a far more worthy target for satire anyway. Pretty consistently, the Daily Show makes great comedy that goes beyond simple punchlines the audience could practically write themselves (and now regularly does, thanks to the Internet). They’re the only comedy show that’s made material about how horribly unforthcoming the White House was about the event or to find humor in the logistics of the hunt - driving up to shoot “flightless wingless quail tards.”
Staying away from the obvious - even on days when the jokes are so easy - is the reason The Daily Show resonates far more than anything else in Late Night today. And even better, when a topic gets hard to find humor in, that’s when their approach really delivers.
Filed Under Late Night
The New Yorker review of The Colbert Report takes note, of all things, of the amount of applause the two get when coming back from commercial, calling it “something masturbatory” to leave all the adulation in. Then they reference Portnoy’s Complaint
As Colbert might say, “They don’t get it.” First, the show is live to tape, which means that whatever happens goes right on air, save if they go long (as guest Matthew McConaughey once disturbingly did in telling a story of the sexual habits of his pet goat). Plus, the audience IS that enthusiastic, possibly because nothing else in media demonstrates their level of frustration with the current administration. (Also, because Jon, from all reports, is quite personable with them during the show.) The show in general even resists going for applause, preferring as all comics should, laughs.
It’s a weird thing to point out (and possibly an even sillier blog post), but it would have been far more interesting, comedically, to talk about Colbert inhabiting a character for a half hour and how that affects the show, than about how people seem to enjoy it too much.
Filed Under Late Night
The Daily Show was originally a well-mixed but Frankenstein hybrid of news parody, news magazine parody and talk show. As the show has focused it’s targets on news media and politics, the interview topics have been more serious. The casual couch and the celebrity guests it was meant to feature have become to stick out a bit. Maybe the couch worked at first to be a place where politicians could let their hair down, but as the interviews have turned to be more serious in topic (and sharper in satiric bite), The Daily Show has had less reason to repeat the late night talk show mold.
By having everything delivered from the desk, The Daily Show fully imitates the news shows it satirizes. Much of the show is a brazen critique of news media and by turning the set into something you would see on CNN, Fox News or MSNBC, you make it clear who your targets are. You don’t see guests on those channels lounging on couches talking about world affairs. When you’re attacking something by using its voice and mannerisms, it’s vital to get the imitation as close to perfect as possible. The new set does exactly that, making the jokes that much more pointed.
As for the three huge flat panel monitors… eh.
Updated: This LA Times article also makes a good point about how going sans couch may make Stewart a more focused and targeted interviewer. Example being the conversation with Bernard Goldberg (one of the most talked about TDS interviews in recent memory).
Filed Under Late Night
When I said that it was difficult imagining any show following The Daily Show could escape its shadow, I should have added “unless made by the Daily Show itself.” A Stephen Colbert pundit show is a fantastic followup and such a natural that, in retrospect, Greg Giraldo never had a chance.
One of my favorite traits about Colbert as a performer (besides his ability to make his signoff “Jon” get a laugh almost every time) is that he’s not afraid to look like an asshole. He’ll straight-facedly state any manner of exaggerated moralism even if it includes racial, homophobic or sexual taunts. He’s perfect for a send-up of windbags who perform similar “public services” seriously.
I was wondering what the format would be. With the Daily Show’s high profile, it’d be pretty hard to ambush guests with in-studio conversations with a crazed opinionated host ala Crossballs. Guests who appear will pretty much know what they’re getting into. This doesn’t seem to be a difficulty for the faux newsmagazine pieces of The Daily Show, but with Colbert already starting in character rhetoric (he dismissed an appearance by Stewart on the show calling it “liberal claptrap”), it’ll be interesting to see who will play along. No matter what, he’ll have himself to play with in a segment called “Worthy Opponent” where he will debate himself. (See, already high-larious)
The Daily Show made a promo for The Colbert Report a while back, perhaps when they were just working out the concept. For a taste of what Colbert’s brand of justice might be like, click here. (Real)