A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Of politics and comedians

What is it with comedians that used to be funny who have now become political activists? Al Franken used to be funny. Now he's just kind of a nerdy little twit who has trouble talking anything but politics. George Carlin used to be VERY funny. Now he's just kind of a nerdy old guy ranting and raving about nothing much of anything. Dennis Miller used to be VERY funny, and while I still think he is funny, he's not as funny as he used to be. Margaret Cho never really was funny to begin with, but since she dove head first into the deep-end of the liberal pool, she has become actively annoying and stupid.

Bill Maher used to be funny, and his show Politically Incorrect was quite funny, and, from what I remember, fairly balanced in that it poked fun at politicians, idiots, and other "pundits" on both sides of the political spectrum. I watched Bill Maher's Real Time for the first time the other night, and it was spectacularly unfunny. He had Madeleine Albright on, and most of the segment consisted of him serving up softball questions so she could make unfunny commentary about how great Clinton (and by association herself) had been and how crappy Bush and his adminstration are. She tried to be funny, but she really just isn't. Neither was he. Then he had a panel consisting of Andrew Sullivan (who I was quite disappointed in), Michael McKean (you know, Lenny from Laverne and Shirley, and David St. Hubbins of This is Spinal Tap), and Kim Campbell, a former Prime Minister of Canada. Seemed like a good mix of folks, should be an interesting group of perspectives, and maybe even amusing.

Not so much. Maher starts with this lovely statement (or words very close thereto), "Okay, first off, grant me that, for some reason, conservatives are allowed to make really bizarre and stupid comments without taking as much heat from the media as liberals." Which, not surprisingly to anyone who has been reading here for any length of time, nearly made my head explode. To me, statements like that are just stunningly ridiculous, as liberal commentators (i.e., Michael Moore, Sean Penn, etc.) make all sorts of perposterous statements that get little or no heat, and sometimes props, from the media. Maher's example proving that conservatives get off easy? Pat Robertson, the nutjob preacher who is not taken seriously by anyone outside of his TV congregation. Robertson recently said that federal judges are, "...probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings." I found dozens of editorials and websites denouncing Mr. Robertson, and outside of a white supremist site, nobody who seems to agree with him.

But I digress. So, Maher makes this huge blanket statement that, at best, seems based on sketchy evidence and, at worst, appears to have just been made up, and none of the panelists (Sullivan included, and he claims to be a libertarian/independent) offer even the most basic counter argument. You know, like saying, "Well, Fahrenheit 9/11 certainly had its share of politically questionable and explosive rhethoric and it not only didn't receive any media condemnation, it won a variety of awards." It was dreary and boring and I have difficulty believing it would appeal to anybody who wasn't already a dyed-in-the-wool liberal or a conspiracy theorist.

So, my two questions are, is Real Time supposed to be funny-- and if so, is it ever?-- and why do comedians who take political stances on one side or the other seem to get much less funny than when they either didn't care about politics or lampooned both sides?


Nick, the great thing about TV, and for that matter, newspapers, radio, and the internet:

you can change the channel. or even turn it off.

As someone far funnier than I once said, if you don't like doing the little dance, stop sticking the fork in the toaster.
you can change the channel. or even turn it off.

That's not good enough. Saying that just anything could be on TV, all I have to do it turn it off is like saying broadcasters can put on live executions, explicit sex shows, animals being tortured, and if I don't like it, I can turn it off.

If the 'what's permissible' line can be drawn somewhere, then let's err on the side of caution.
What does this have to do with comedians? Well, nothing, I guess. Dennis Miller was hysterical on Jay Leno when he was destroying democrats and "Sheets" Robert Byrd. And Jay Leno has skewered Bill Clinton and George Bush with equal barbed wit, which was also hysterical.

So, the problem probably is not that the comedians became political and then stopped being funny; the problem is that these people were never that funny to begin with.
There is a line to be walked for these comedians and for political talk as well IMHO. poking fun at ridicule... pointing out follishness with sarcasm and irony...I find funny... Too many however cross the line into hatred and arrogant activism and instead of making fun of something/someone they spew disdain for those who don't agree with them and come off as overly preachy and arrogant... not funny.... Bill Mahr was always funny for me until the election heated up and his bush hatred consumed him to the point where he lost sight of funny ridicule and adopted the idea of all Bush supporters are morons and it is his job to rid the earth of them. now you want funny...
Monty Python is funny
Owen Wilson is funny
Bottle Rocket is funny
The Spanish Speaking Action News Team with Ben Stiller is funny
The Princess Bride is Funny
Russ.."good night ladies" is funny
Troy..not so much..ooops I take that back..watching Troy eat a plate of Prime Rib fat...very funny
Funny is in the eye of the beholder.

George Carlin (and I think his recent, more acerbic stuff is much funnier than the drug influenced humor of the Little David years. Don't get me wrong, I love the drug humor. But the satire of a piece like 'The Planet Is Fine' is yards above it in terms of timing, humor, and gut punch impact. But apparently you disagree. That's fine. It's a personal taste.)

All the peoply you listed: Maher, Stewart, Carlin, Margaret Cho... I find funny. will Durst. Lewis Black. Colin Quinn, on the other hand, isn't funny even on nitrous oxide, while being tickled by Victoria's Secret models and watching "Robot Monster" with Mike Nelson.... but maybe that's more information than you need.

I guess it depends on whose ox is being gored. Stephen King said satire is only good when it hurts.

But it seems to me that these folks also take the time to gore the Clintons, PETA, the Puppet Protest Pwople, and other typically 'leftist' concerns. Maybe it's my point of view, but it sure does seem that the Right hasn't learned to laugh at itself.

Come on, folks, we are all ridiculous. we all poop, sweat and look goofy naked. I've got hair in my nose. HAIR IN MY NOSE! if we can't find the human condition, in all of its permutations and foibles, funny, we've lost the war for civilization.

I suspect The aliens haven't landed because we don't have a friggin sense of humor. Any society that will cancel MST3K obviously is suspect.
I hate to agree with Nick twice in a week, but I'm going to. I think that the 'biased' comedians are becoming incredibly unfunny. Dennis Miller, worthless. George Carlin, oh how the mighty have fallen.
But people like Lewis Black and Dave Chappelle are funny as hell because they rip on both sides (when they aren't in rehab or a mental institution or wherever Chappelle is hiding). However, I will caution Nick just a little bit in that he has to remember that comedy is a name-dropping game. The president will always get more jokes said about him because everyone knows his name and everything else they do. The non-controlling party doesn't get as many jokes because no one knows who Harry Reid is, and trying to explain it really takes the funny away.
I will leave you with the very funny words of Lewis Black (which also represent my philosophy on politics at the moment): "What is the difference between Republicans and Democrats? Republican suck; Democrats blow!"

P.S. Rod brings up a good point with his new handle: we need to bring up the Onterrio case on this site. Us Packer fans got a lot of shit the last couple of weeks, but we didn't have any problem as funny as the Puff-Puff-Give whizzinator incident.
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