"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Monday, April 30, 2018

The First Thing We Do, Is Kill All The Dinners

My time capsule confirms what my memory told me:  Journalists didn't like Stephen Colbert's "roast" at the WHCD, either; even though the journlists got exactly what they paid for.

I would also note that most of the journalists cited in this Slate article are, well, let's say, not "spring chickens."  I don't bring that up lightly, I'm not a youngster any more myself.  But comedy is ultimately transgressive; it's about mockery and irony and jape, and it doesn't always wear well.  I grew up howling at the humor of Groucho Marx, but recently I've read that his banter with Margaret Dumont was insulting to Ms. Dumont.  Which is funny because they were actors reading lines; she wasn't a guest on Groucho's TV show decades later, where he could be quite cruel and cutting without a script.  And I'm old enough to remember when SNL was considered cruel and bitter, rather than funny, a judgment made mostly by older comedians who didn't understand this "young" humor (and I mean back in the says of origin, with the "Not Ready For Prime Time Players," even before "Mr. Mike" had his appearance on the show.  By 1988, Mr. Mike's humor was mainstream enough for Bill Murray's re-make of "A Christmas Carol."  So it goes.)

So, was Ms. Wolff funny?  Depends on who you ask, but I think the answer depends on age as much as sensibility.  Lots of huffing and puffing by people who want to be taken seriously, this morning; people who should simply know better and stay out of the story.  But journalists long ago stopped not being the story (the days of Murrow and Cronkite are indeed dead), so it's no surprise who is weighing in the morning after the morning after.  I have to agree with Joe Scarborough, though:

“I must say, there were quite a few people that I’ve known and I’ve considered friends for some time saying they were shocked and stunned and deeply saddened and they were so shocked by the personal insults that they left early,” he said. “Then they went to afterparties and had a great time there, but these friends of mine for 20 years certainly didn’t call me up and say, ‘Hey, Joe, we’re thinking about you, so sorry he attacked your fiancée’s appearance. Hey, Joe, we’re sorry that Donald Trump said you’re a murderer and you had to explain to your 9- or 14-year-old boy.'”

“I understand it, I’m a big boy, I didn’t bitch about it at the time,” he added. “But these people so shocked and stunned and deeply saddened that a comedian did what comedians do, and yet they just apologized for Donald Trump over and over again and kept their mouths shut, what a joke.”
I even agree we can do without the WHCD, although I'm also convinced they hire people like Ms. Wolf to make sure they get some press coverage the next day.  I mean, this isn't the first time the comic act has insulted people:

This is also part of the tiresome ritual, which seems to work itself into a full blown hissy-fit every few years. Mitchell [in her tweet used elsewhere on this blog today, ed.] is referring to the Radio and Television Correspondents’ Dinner in 1996 where the comedian for the night was radio personality Don Imus, who rudely referenced the president’s infidelities in front of Hillary Clinton and said that the Clinton administration’s diverse cabinet looked like “the scene out of Star Wars.” Hillary glared and Bill covered his face and everyone was very upset. The correspondents’ association even sent the president and first lady an apology.

But here’s the thing. Clinton regularly appeared with Imus during his campaigns, and the longtime shock jock was even credited with putting Clinton on the map back in 1992. Imus’ show featured a regular parody song about Hillary Clinton with lyrics about how she “fornicates,” “menstruates” and “urinates,” with the refrain: “That’s why the First Lady is a tramp.” He called the president a “fat pantload” and a “lying weasel.” It didn’t stop Bill from calling in and kibitzing with the guy.

Don Imus was a reprehensible racist and misogynist. Yet politicians of both parties lined up to be on his show. And it wasn’t just them. For years after his allegedly despicable performance at that dinner, members of the political press corps kept on appearing with him. It wasn’t until 2007, when Imus described the Rutgers women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hoes,” that he was finally forced off the air, if only temporarily. (Which made many of his media pals very sad.)

The last time the D.C. establishment had a full WHCD meltdown, it was over the appearance of Stephen Colbert in 2006, who performed as his Bill O’Reilly-esque character from Comedy Central and skewered the attendees to the bone over the sycophantic relationship between the media and the George W. Bush administration. That performance is legendary today, but at the time, everyone in Washington was appalled. Again.

As Wikipedia reminds me, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen called Colbert “rude” and a “bully.” Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., House Democratic whip at the time, told the Hill that Bush was “the President of the United States, and he deserves some respect.” Right-wing operative Mary Matalin called Colbert’s performance a “predictable, Bush-bashing kind of humor” and columnist Ana Marie Cox said that Colbert was no hero and sagely observed that “comedy can have a political point but it is not political action.”

Colbert’s routine was savage toward the press, but in subsequent years they all couldn’t wait to get booked for interviews on his show.

Can we mention at least Clinton showed up for the Imus roast?  And if Sarah Huckabee Sanders is brave for not walking out, Donald Trump is still a coward for not showing up, and for encouraging this kind of behavior where he was:

I guess the tree fell in a forest but no journalist was there to hear it, as they were all at dinner in D.C., so it didn't make a sound.

I'd forgotten about the Ana Marie Cox comment; I remember now I lost some respect for her over that.  Apparently jokes about sex on the internet were one thing, but jokes at a dinner, live, were beyond the pale.  If history is any guide, Michelle Wolf is destined to be memorialized for an historical performance.  The press corps, merely an hysterical one.  So it goes.

And the interesting thing is how much the Press is talking about its Dinner, and how upset they are by the talent they hired; and almost nobody is talking about Trump's rally in Michigan the same night, the rally where these things happened:

Republican commentator Ana Navarro ... explained that the major things that concerned her were that when Trump asked if there were any Hispanics in the room “the entire crowd booed at the mention of Hispanics.” The second piece that concerned her was the Trump supporter rushing to the media pen and telling them that they are horrible and need to get out of his country.

“Maybe the part at the end of this rally where one of his supporters went over to the media pen and started telling them you degenerate filth, get out of my country,” she continued. “If you want to have a real conversation about the White House Correspondents’ dinner, about the tenor of what happened there about the tone, about civility, we also have got to condemn and look at what he’s doing, because you see, I can’t bring myself to hold comedian for one night to a higher standard than we hold the president of the United States for his entire term.”

Joy Behar explained that as a person in power today, Trump can get away with anything.

“So, you know, I was saying that I was fired for saying something one time that he has said 20 million different ways,” she continued. “So, he can get away it. The rest of us cannot. He was saying the Democrats are against the military. This is a man who dodged the draft five times. Who denigrates the Gold Star family. Who denigrated Meghan’s father, John McCain. He just gets up there and says, oh, Democrats hate the military and veterans, I mean, and he gets away it.”

I'm guessing Joy Behar won't be invited to the dinner next year, huh?  Michelle Wolf was much worse than that rally because the press was insulted!  Yeah, we can do without that stupid dinner.


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