JUST MUSING: “You’re so vain…”

Vanity is defined as excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance or achievements.  The American songstress Carly Simon introduced the song You’re So Vain in 1972, telling the story of an aberrant, conceited lover or mate.  This muse is about vanity in one sense; it has little to do with an aberrant lover or mate.    

The television show Saturday Night Live is arguably the most dominant force in comedy for the last three to four decades.  The franchise has introduced and nurtured writers, producers, actors, and comics who have held sway over the comedic world.  For years, the show was a reflection of the dominant society, a homogeneous group of white comics who originated from familiar venues (Second City in Chicago by way of example), providing a consistent and familiar brand of humor, even as comics came and went. 

The creators/producers remained tone-deaf for years, never understanding why the others may never get the joke.  The same old, same old – over and over again – never able to find any women of color, until magically they did; the show even moved past the rule of one (we have one, why are you complaining rule).   Writers forever crafting scenes where black male comics were asked to wear a dress, poke fun of black females, as if there were not black female comics in the world who could poke harder, in a less racist, sexist manner.  Change has been slow, remember it wasn’t until someone said no, to the dress and mocking black females, did the show magically find one – some black females comics.  No Asians, no Hispanics – never part of the formula – always the brunt of the joke.  One of the comics hired this new season was a white male whose routine incorporated the debasement of Asians and women; humorous to some – the same dilemma – not to others. 

The news account explained that when the newly hire comic’s habit was discovered, the comic was terminated.  When asked about his fortune, then misfortune, the comic explained sometimes you succeed, sometimes to you.  A half-hearted apology followed – we have all probably extended the same apology – “if I have offended anyone.”  He then moved on, bragging he was good enough to be hired by Saturday Night Live.  After the initial storm, comic after comic blamed the public, that we – the public – have become less tolerant of comedy.  I muse to disagree.

Comedy is the art of observation, the examination of the surrounding world – a sad, tragic, horrifying, terrific, happy world it is – and then translating his/her/our/their observations of this sad, tragic, horrifying, terrific, happy world through words, images, or physical display in order to permit others to look inward, outward; the affect sometimes displayed by tears, laughter, moans and disbelief. 

I’m sure the human soul has laughed and cried since day one; crossing continents, moving across plains, foraging for food, making babies; while some smart mouth among the collective commented on the crooked tooth wholly mammoth moving closer, closer, closer while the rest were able to only see their impending death, he/she/they slowed their flight away and told a joke.  Telling jokes during conquest – “I killed ten Mate!” – while others in a different position (those conquered or dead) never got the joke.  Slaves did more than sing songs.  They told jokes too- bet you they did. Our distorted history would have us believe the minstrel characters were those comic, not those who were strong and brave enough and tell the joke from the perspective of the enslaved, not the master.  Funny to some, never, never, never funny to others; this is why the heirs of the enslaved will never get the joke of wearing blackface, no matter how well done, no matter how many teeth one shows, no manner how many more pictures spill out into the public forum showing the heirs and beneficiaries of the enslavers/conquistadors/colonists sharing a good hearty laugh, while dressed in character, with darkened skin – ha, ha, ha – indeed, ha, ha, ha. 

Telling the joke in honor of ones peoples’ plight; done well, into the night we laughed, reliving history, making history, surviving.  This why we complain, not because people and humor have changed.  We haven’t changed and comics haven’t either. 

The white male comic whose racist and sexist taunts were discovered after his hire is no different than others in the past.  His jokes were not told from the perspective of a people surviving gas chambers but told through his eyes only.  When caught he should have said as much.  Absolutely, the white male comic is no different than the black male comic who sought fit to bash gays.  I am sure he has spent a lifetime polishing his routine, compensating for his height after being teased by others, while those of his ilk laughed, laughed, laughed.  Telling the joke from a presumed privileged position, making someone else the brunt of the joke, casting aspersions on what he sees as his wholly mammoth.  Sputum followed by a cough, tears, laughter at the expense of another, followed by coughs, and tears of the others, forever incessantly made the brunt of the jokes.  The black male comic issued the same apology the white male comic uttered – must be taught in comic school – and went back to slashing and burning the gay wholly mammoth.    

Sure a comic has to take risks, that’s their calling isn’t it – causing the King and Queen to laugh, surviving, feeding themselves, their families, in order to retain their court jester role.  Forever standing tall – among classmates, using humor to make a point, causing teachers around the globe to understand, while she/he remained bent over, laughing.  Protesting wars, injustices, the abuse of power; using humor as both shield and sworn; good comedy is and can be both, at the same time.  A mediocre comic always reaches for the low hanging cheap joke and wonders why some can’t laugh.

 Walking through the forest, telling pee jokes; progressing, developing, maturing to breaking wind, body parts, bodily functions, stinky jokes and then to the ultimate tattoo – sex – a good percentage get stuck on sex (profane references to females and what they did, want to do to all of them), never to mature thereafter.  Comic all have and will continue to trudge the same developmental path, some grow and most do not.  Their blaming the public is why I muse. 

Child and Adolescent pediatricians have documented over time the development stages of children.  Comic are no different, they too go through the developmental stages of growth; developing a shtick, learning how to use timing and mannerisms to distinguish them from the other class clown, becoming a better observant of societal taboos, mores, does and don’ts, spreading their wings into politics, race, and world (sic) peas (sic).  The development is not all that complex.  We have all seen these developmental stages in our favorite comics. 

What I don’t understand are these comics/clown/jesters who ignore who or what they are and turn the finger the wrong way, blaming us for bad jokes (jokes that miss, insults, savage a group of people, and their own inadequacies – an inability to tell a joke which is inclusive.  No, no, no, please don’t hear me to say comic care should be touchy-feely people, caring about everyone feelings – that’s not who these people are – a good joke can be cutting, vicious, insulting, much like life. 

Historically, a dead court jester is a dead court jester.  He/she would love to take the bad joke back – she/he can’t.  “Off with his head” is not a pun.  We haven’t changed and they haven’t either.   Tell the joke, give it your best – isn’t that what you were told by your parents?  When you stray too far, examine why and who was insulted and be a big girl, big boy and either admit you went astray or stand by your joke, it’s just money and a job.  We’re civilized now, aren’t we! We are going to permit you to keep your head – won’t we!  Stop being vain, the song is not about you.         

JUST MUSING: “Shame on you…”

The White House Correspondents’ Dinner is abandoning the presence of the comedian/comic/comedienne during next year’s annual dinner, April 27, 2019. For those you who are slow on the uptake – the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) is an organization of journalists who cover the White House and the President of the United States. The organization was founded in 1914 and has an annual dinner. The dinner began in 1921 and traditionally is attended by the President and Vice-President. Since 1983 the feature speaker at the dinner has been a comedian. The proceeds from the dinner funds scholarships for gifted students in college journalism programs.

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Crumbled – an imperfect ball – tattered along the edges, perfect for tossing into the nearest receptacle, with no intent at recycling; done with little explanation, substituted with a clean sheet, replaced by a historian. Are you kidding me?

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There is no intent on my part to speak animus/hate against historians, or against next year’s speaker. He may be the kindness, smartest, most articulate speaker in the world. That is not my point. I simply possess a disdain for willful, historical ignorance which equates comics to court jesters, whose role is to willingly pay homage to the King.

Who is the press paying homage to by discarding the comic? The President, members who have been insulted, a marauding, insulted public?  The comic part of my personality tells me most of them didn’t grow up in large families, possess little melanin in their skin hues, exist in a new world in which the comic are pulled out of the classroom and placed on Ritalin protocol.

They are the protectors of the socially awkward; capable of reaching upward, disturbing the normal course of business, asking the most asinine, brilliant, observant questions. They – comics – seemingly gilded with a gold coated fearlessness, capable of saying what others thought, needed to be said; smiling, smirking outwardly, while the rest of us struggle to contain and envelope the same smirk. Seeing our insecurity, channeling their and our anger, stress, undefined plight – saying, saying – saying – what needed said.

What part of Michelle Wolf’s – last year’s featured comic – routine wasn’t true? Absolutely, she didn’t say what she said in a light most favorable to a sensitive press. She raised her hand, introduced herself and poked; doing what comics do and should do.

She called you – the press – cowards and complicit with the White House.  Isn’t this the same as telling the rest of us the king has no clothes?  She didn’t tell knock-knock jokes and she shouldn’t.  She didn’t tell us why, what or where the chicken was going or doing when it went from one side of the road to the other – who gives a hoot!  She didn’t pay homage to Bob Hope, comic to the Presidents. Maybe too many of them are still alive, missing the days of yore, Bob Hope – Bing Cosby – Jerry Lewis – Dean Martin – Joey Bishop. Men who admitted their role was to support the war, any war, and the presidents, growing incredibly wealthy along the way; forever refusing to make those in power the brunt of the joke. In their world humor never had a double edge.

I’m going to skip a lot of the normal pleasantries. We’re at a Hilton, it’s not nice. This is on C-SPAN, no one watches that. Trump is president, it’s not ideal. White House Correspondents’ Association, thank you for having me, the monkfish was fine. Just a reminder to everyone, I’m here to make jokes, I have no agenda, I’m not trying to get anything accomplished. So everyone that’s here from Congress, you should feel right at home.

She did what comics do – didn’t she?  Showing up with a shit-eating comic grin intact, the same grin we have seen for years; the class clown, much like our friends whose sense of humor tilted both left and right, forever smiling, struggling with his/her demons through humor. Making the rest of us think; taking risks, while exposing the King and his minions. She/he is/was/will remain an equal opportunity slayer. This is why the comic is loved/hated/despised, saying what the rest of us wished we could.

Now, before we get too far, a little bit about me. A lot of you might not know who I am. I am 32 years old, which is an odd age — 10 years too young to host this event, and 20 years too old for Roy Moore. I know, he almost got elected, yeah. It was fun. It was fun.

Honestly, I never really thought I’d be a comedian, but I did take an aptitude test in 7th grade, and this is 100% true. I took an aptitude test in 7th grade and it said my best profession was a clown or a mime. Well, at first it said clown, and then it heard my voice and was like, “Or maybe mime. Think about mime.

Poking the bear, the bully, then turning on the bully’s supporters before laughing at a beguiled audience who entered moments earlier, naively believing the role of the comic was to support them. The Press now mimics the executive branch, revoking the comics’ pass.  How sad is this?

No more comedians at the press dinner; smells a little too repressive to me.  Does the press association actually believe playing to totalitarian impulses doesn’t make them complicit in the behavior? “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”, seems to be the best way of explaining the Press’ reaction; standing for free speech until punched in the mouth, turning, running for cover; trying to make sense of this bold new-world, while the bully keeps punching; refusing to stand and fight, and punch the damn bully in the nose.  Turning on the court jester, blaming her/him; instead of supporting the jester for telling the truth about him – her – others.

Thanks to Trump, pink yarn sales are through the roof. After Trump got elected, women started knitting those pussy hats. When I first saw them I was like, “That’s a pussy?” I guess mine just has a lot more yarn on it. Yeah. You should have done more research before you got me to do this.

 

Good joke, bad joke, some hit, some don’t … comme ci comme ça… that’s my point. 

The press should understand the importance of the comic.  Comics invite the diversity of life into any room, telling tales in an apropos/in apropos manner, tone and tenor, particularly when the traditional outlets fail, causing the listener to believe they are forever one of us – even if they don’t know your Aunt Matilda from pooh.  So the Press Association slays the comic while a full-scale assault on the First Amendment and our rights takes place on the other side of the walls.  None of this makes sense to me.

Have they bothered to read Mark Twain, wasn’t he in part a comic? How about Benjamin Franklin, forever poking the bear – farting proudly – even though most of his life he was just as much part of the den as others.

Now, I worked in a lot of male-dominated fields. Before comedy, I worked at a tech company, and before that, I worked on Wall Street, and honestly, I’ve never been sexually harassed. That being said, I did work at Bear Stearns in 2008, so although I haven’t been sexually harassed, I’ve definitely been fucked. That whole company went down on me without my consent. And no men got in trouble for that one, either.

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Count me as confused. Stupefied by a stupid decision, made in board rooms divorced from the rest of the world, looking at their bottom-line, hurriedly moving toward black limousines waiting out front, not knowing the driver is still laughing at Michelle Wolf’s routine, not listening to no damn books on tape, instead listening to what pissed them off so much, to the extent of killing the comic, her/his classmate. Shame on you!

You guys are obsessed with Trump. Did you used to date him? Because you pretend like you hate him, but I think you love him. I think what no one in this room wants to admit is that Trump has helped all of you. He couldn’t sell steaks or vodka or water or college or ties or Eric, but he has helped you. He’s helped you sell your papers and your books and your TV. You helped create this monster, and now you’re profiting off of him. If you’re going to profit off of Trump, you should at least give him some money, because he doesn’t have any.