Join 3,514 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


How to get the best of Late Night Comedy (without actually watching)
June 28, 2011 9:47 AM   Subscribe

Late Night Political Zingers. The best of Leno, Letterman, Fallon, Maher et al for those of us who don't have the time to watch. e.g. "New Rule: Stop asking Miss USA contestants if they believe in evolution. It's not their field. It's like asking Stephen Hawking if he believes in hair scrunchies. Here's what they know about: spray tans, fake boobs and baton twirling. Here's what they don't know about: everything else. If I cared about the uninformed opinions of some ditsy beauty queen, I'd join the Tea Party." –Bill Maher

"Newt Gingrich has a new campaign slogan: 'Now hiring!' Sixteen of Gingrich's top staff quit last week, and today, two of his top fundraisers quit. He's not even president and he's already raising the unemployment rate." –Jay Leno

"The Egyptian military is asking people who they want to be the next president by using a Facebook poll. So congratulations to Egypt's new leader, President Betty White." –Conan O'Brien

"The women who Anthony Weiner communicated with were a college student, a single mom, a blackjack dealer, and a porn star. Or, as we call that here in Los Angeles, the circle of life." –Conan O'Brien

Sadly I couldn't find a daily update for Colbert. Only these old ones. Same for Jon Stewart.
posted by storybored (43 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I do not like Bill Maher.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:59 AM on June 28, 2011 [12 favorites]


I saw Maher live a few months ago. He was okay but not that good. His problem is that he's too mean spirited - only Bill Hicks could use the vitriol right and Maher's no Hicks.
posted by clockworkjoe at 10:04 AM on June 28, 2011


Bill Maher is a douchebag.
posted by koeselitz at 10:10 AM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm not a huge Leno fan, but this is pretty funny: "Al Gore publicly attacks President Obama for taking no bold action on global warming and not fighting hard enough to pass new legislation in Congress. Then the girl behind the counter said, 'Sir, can you please just pay for your ice cream and go?' "
posted by MegoSteve at 10:16 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I like Bill Maher because he is so mean spirited and because he is so arrogant. Jon Stewart is a good entertainer and a good comic and that his show is as funny as it is as often as it is for as long as it has been is nothing short of astonishing, but ultimately he seems almost cowardly in how important it seems to him to be viewed as reasonable. Maybe that's a genuine reflection of his political beliefs but that doesn’t make it … not boring. Bill Maher on the other hand seems to use his own mind to come up with what he thinks is true and defends it regardless of how popular it will be with his audience. He doesn’t compromise on what he thinks is right and he doesn’t rely on conventional wisdom to determine what to find right in the first place. I think some of his conclusions are shitty and sort of dumb. I think some are legitimately courageous and interesting. But I am not interesting in hearing something that is calculated to remind me of what I believe already. I don’t want a liberal firebland.
posted by I Foody at 10:16 AM on June 28, 2011 [20 favorites]


....wow, these are so phoned-in, it's depressing.
posted by nasreddin at 10:19 AM on June 28, 2011


It's about.com. EVERYTHING there is phoned in.
posted by Curious Artificer at 10:22 AM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


"They say the Navy Seals had attack dogs with titanium fangs; that they replaced their real teeth with titanium. You know you have a badass black president when even his dogs have a grill." –Bill Maher

Er.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:24 AM on June 28, 2011


I Foody: that's exactly why I like Bill Maher as well. I can't stand his support of some political and social stances, but at least he bothers to think about things and form a somewhat cogent reason for his beliefs.
posted by daq at 10:25 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


'Firebland,' that's good.
posted by box at 10:26 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jon Stewart has what might be called the classic comedian's dilemma: he's making fun of you, but he really just wants you to like him. See also: Marc Maron, Conan O'Brien, etc. What you're identifying as his "cowardly" attempts to be reasonable is really just that inner neurotic on display, and the reason you're able to see it so clearly is because, like all good comedians, he's very good at telling the truth, especially about himself.

Bill Maher wants you to dislike him; he enjoys playing the iconoclast. Oh, sure, he doesn't mind if you do agree with him, but he believes that you probably won't, and he likes that you won't, because he's right and you're wrong and he likes being the one to tell you. This is also Bill Maher telling the truth about himself, because Bill Maher is also a good comedian.

They're both characters for show, but they're also both authentic, which is why they garner such strong reactions. That's why people think that Jon Stewart is a genuinely nice and warm guy and why Bill Maher is an arrogant mean-spirited blowhard. That's why people think Jon Stewart is a wishy-washy mealworm and Bill Maher is a vital voice for uncomfortable truth in a dangerous and uncertain time. Those are all really the same feeling, because they're really good at getting you to feel a certain thing, because that's their job. How one reacts to that feeling is more about the reactor at that point than whoever they are.
posted by Errant at 10:30 AM on June 28, 2011 [10 favorites]


Bill Maher is 80% as intelligent as he thinks he is. Smugness per se doesn't bother me, but unwarranted, self-negating smugness is a crime, sin, and mistake.

He can be funny sometimes though. "I'd join the Tea Party." Ha ha!

That's a good critique of Stewart, though, IFoody, his constant desire to seem reasonable. I've seen that phrase before applied to David Brooks.
I have been critical of President Bush, not because I have actual convictions, but because I have a pathological need to seem reasonable. But I have looked into President Bush’s pantry, and I see a man who would go on the offense against Count Chocula, the Boo Berry ghost, or the Cookie Crisp wizard.

My hunch is that John Kerry eats pastry.
On preview, I see your point, Errant, but a comedian can play the good or bad guy well or poorly. Stewart does a better job than Maher, because Maher is unaware of his limitations.
posted by ibmcginty at 10:33 AM on June 28, 2011


My problem with Maher is that his jokes are often just insults delivered as punchlines. It's not because I think he's an arrogant mean-spirited blowhard, although I do, but because I don't find much humor in repeating that Sarah Palin is dumb ad infinitum.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:40 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't think it's fair to present a collection of jokes in print and then attribute them to the individuals who read them to a camera, rather than to the people who actually wrote them.
posted by The World Famous at 10:43 AM on June 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'm guessing someone on Maher's writing staff reads Metafilter. When he did a bit about the Japanese poop-burgers in his monologue, he used at least a couple of lines from the Mefi thread about it. Some they might readily have come up with independently, but I think he also had a variant on this one, which is (relatively) subtle enough to make me wonder.

On preview: TWF, we attribute politicians' speeches to the politicians themselves, but in reality they vary widely in how much of their own thought goes into them. Bushie, for example, appeared at the podium to be seeing his for the first time, judging by his unnatural delivery and his failure to immediately recognize some of the words on the page.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:52 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's a good critique of Stewart, though, IFoody, his constant desire to seem reasonable. I've seen that phrase before applied to David Brooks.

Stewart definitely has a problem with that; but it seems genuine, and it makes him more effective when the desire to be liked breaks down and he actually sinks his claws in. Brooks, on the other hand, manages to combine neediness and condescension in proportions that make me want to kick him in the nuts at the end of every column.

Disclaimer: I would never actually kick David Brooks in the nuts. I hereby abjure nut-kicking, and renounce the devil and all his works.
posted by steambadger at 10:58 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm guessing someone on Maher's writing staff reads Metafilter. When he did a bit about the Japanese poop-burgers in his monologue, he used at least a couple of lines from the Mefi thread about it

And Jimmy Fallon had his own version of the Ballad of Steven Slater, but no credit to me or Cortex.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:59 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


"I like Bill Maher because he is so mean spirited and because he is so arrogant. . . . Bill Maher on the other hand seems to use his own mind to come up with what he thinks is true and defends it regardless of how popular it will be with his audience."

Those are not mutually required. You can be honest, tough-minded and independent without being a dick.
posted by oddman at 11:03 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Stewart does a better job than Maher, because Maher is unaware of his limitations.

My contention is that the latter is not true, rather that Maher does not believe that what you perceive as a limitation is a limitation. He is very, very good at provocation -- most decent comedians are -- and he likes the archetype of the gadfly and the irritant. What you perceive as unwarranted smugness is, I think, to him the right amount of smugness to make someone mad and break down their rational defenses. Once he achieves the goal of getting people to react from the gut and from emotion, what he's saying sinks in deeper, regardless of whether you agree with him or not.

Huh. I'm rereading that, and I'm making it sound like Bill Maher is comedy's George W. Bush. I'll have to think about that for a bit.
posted by Errant at 11:09 AM on June 28, 2011


Maher's problem is not that he's arrogant, but that his arrogance results in him frequently ignoring what people have actually said or done and getting important facts wrong and then basing his commentary on his incorrect understanding of facts. It's very frustrating to watch unless you somehow suspend disbelief enough to enjoy Maher's commentary on something other than reality.
posted by The World Famous at 11:11 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Bill Maher's being a flagrant misogynist. I don't think joining a beauty pageant qualifies you for that kind of bile. He's attacking them for trying to model an impossible beauty/personality standard that American culture tries to enforce. (Of course, if these women were refusing to model that standard, they would be attacked for ignoring it. Damned if they do, damned if they don't.)

Maher is on the level of tiresome Seth MacFarlane-style insult humor in that particular quotation.
posted by radicalawyer at 11:11 AM on June 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


So, now we've established that about.com is the new source standard for an fpp...

OK then, I've got work to do!

/deletes youtube link, starts searching about.com for next post!
posted by tomswift at 11:18 AM on June 28, 2011


I like this. I want more of this so I don't have to watch late-nite. Also...can you put all of conan in a transcript. That guy deserves better.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:00 PM on June 28, 2011


Yeah, Bill Maher's being a flagrant misogynist. I don't think joining a beauty pageant qualifies you for that kind of bile.

It sounds like he's just against beauty pageants. I don't know how that makes him misogynistic. Opposite that, even. Beauty pageants are pretty silly actually. Public porn that hides behind a fig leaf of tradition. Not that there's anything wrong with porn... it's just the pretending that's distateful, and that's what Maher's pointing out.
posted by scelerat at 12:02 PM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


"It sounds like he's just against beauty pageants. "

"If I cared about the uninformed opinions of some ditsy beauty queen"

That's a statement about the women in the pageant (and Sarah Palin), not about the pageant. The grammar is pretty clear. Maybe, he meant to insult the pageant and unwittingly insulted the women. Maybe he insulted the women out of some misguided idea that doing so is really just an attack on pageant culture.

But, really, bottom line, he attacked the women.
posted by oddman at 12:11 PM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm guessing someone on Maher's writing staff reads Metafilter

I've seen this quite a bit on the late night shows, with Real Time being a pretty common example. It's either a "great minds think alike... with remarkable frequency" or they do, in fact, read Mefi for ideas.

Doesn't really bother me, it's just weird laughing at something that I thought was phrased better the the first time I read it here.
posted by quin at 12:17 PM on June 28, 2011


But, really, bottom line, he attacked the women.

Not the same as "being a flagrant misogynist" though, wouldn't you agree?
posted by scelerat at 12:20 PM on June 28, 2011


Yes, it is the same.
posted by koeselitz at 12:32 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


OK Maher might be a misogynist, I don't think he is but I will admit he's said some questionable stuff, but I think this is a poor example. Attacking a finite group of women who were nearly unanimous in holding one specific stupid opinion for being stupid is not anti-woman. I hope and assume that beauty pageant contestents are not representive of women in general.
posted by I Foody at 1:06 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bill Maher has a remarkable gift for saying something I essentially agree with and making me embarassed to be associated with the opinion. He is quite illuminating that way.
posted by maryr at 1:33 PM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


I Foody: “Attacking a finite group of women who were nearly unanimous in holding one specific stupid opinion for being stupid is not anti-woman. I hope and assume that beauty pageant contestents are not representive of women in general.”

On the contrary, as I said above, it is misogynistic to use that kind of language – by which I mean, it's damaging to women as a whole. "Ditzy" is a poisonous word because it ties femaleness to stupidity in the same way that "slutty" ties femaleness to promiscuity. The fact of making that connection – of speaking as though those concepts were implicative of each other, as though "female" implies "stupid" and vice versa – is in itself damaging to all women. It is misogyny.

This isn't something I always understood; but the particular is tied up in the general in a deep way, to the point where we can often say that the portrayal of violence against one woman can be misogynistic against all women. The point is in the implication drawn.

An illuminating illustration of this is the fact that most racists will often use the same excuse. I've heard friends say things like: "he's just a greedy Jew; and then, when challenged, they'll say "oh, I don't think they're all like that; I just meant that he's one of the bad ones." The problem is that, even if they're telling the truth, people who use phrases like "greedy Jew" are displaying racism, because they're drawing an association between Jewishness and greed.

"Ditz" is not as obviously hateful a word as "slut" or "bitch," which associate femaleness with lack of sexual control or with annoying aggressiveness respectively. But associating femaleness with stupidity is in some ways even more invidious, because it's frankly much more dismissive in certain contexts.
posted by koeselitz at 1:45 PM on June 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


Bill Maher has this shtick that men in the US are put upon, feminized (meant as a negative thing), marginalized, etc.

If he's not a misogynist (and as they say, where there's smoke there's fire) then he's got a warped (mis)understanding of male-privilege.
posted by oddman at 1:48 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow that's pretty fucking vile.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:53 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


On Jon Stewart, he is as genuinely nice as he seems. I know 4 or 5 people on his crew. He knows them all by name, is personable with them, just really great. That's a total rarity. When the writer's strike was going on, he paid everyone out of his own pocket for the entire time. He's known throughout the business as giving the best holiday crew gifts. There are lunches and dinners out, huge parties at holiday time...they all love him and rave about him.

I've worked with and met Bill Maher a few times. He's a dick. I like some of his show and some of his comedy, but I agree that he's no Hicks. What I do like is that he IS an asshole, i think the left is too mamby pamby. We need some progressive anger in this country posthaste.
posted by nevercalm at 2:03 PM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


koeselitz, I see what you’re saying but I disagree. First and foremost I think given the rhythms of language necessary in getting people to laugh a certain amount of license must necessarily be given. Using a genderless intelligence pejorative would not as firmly form the connection to the specific individual, Sarah Palin, and the joke would be less successful.

The difference between the greedy Jew thing and the ditsy woman thing is this: when people say greedy Jew the subjects Jewishness is not necessary to the conversation. The mere interjection of Jew where the religious beliefs of the subject are unimportant is problematic. In this case the sex of the subject was important for making the joke.

Finally, I don’t think woman as stupid is nearly as pervasive a stereotype greedy Jew. In fact if Maher had made the same Joke about a woman being stupid qua being a woman it would have been difficult to parse and really strange given contemporary sensibilities. In modern culture women are not generally treated as being any dumber than men. In fact ditsy woman is an incredibly weak bridge when compared to ditsy beauty queen. I don't agree with Maher on gender politics generally but ultimately I break with you on the question of whether ditsy is a poison term when compared to say lumox which is sort of the opposite.
posted by I Foody at 2:06 PM on June 28, 2011


Jon Stewart has what might be called the classic comedian's dilemma: he's making fun of you, but he really just wants you to like him.

Yes, this is why he destroyed Tucker Carlson on Crossfire, why he verbally stuck a dagger into Jim Cramer, and why he called Chris Wallace insane on his home turf. There have been a few others too. And he was apologetic about it, but it didn't stop him from being a fairly prominent critic of his friend Anthony Weiner's problem.

On the contrary, as I said above, it is misogynistic to use that kind of language – by which I mean, it's damaging to women as a whole. "Ditzy" is a poisonous word because it ties femaleness to stupidity in the same way that "slutty" ties femaleness to promiscuity.

I am not sure I buy this. "Slutty" is damaging because there is a double standard of behavior that it reinforces, but the state represented by "ditzy" is a negative characteristic whether the person in question is male or female. It's a generally gender-specific term, but the quality it represents isn't limited to women. Also, it's not specifically female; men can potentially be ditzy too, although it is not common to use the term to describe them. One can probably find similar male-oriented terms if one thinks long enough about it. (Not me, right now, though, because oh look at the time.)
posted by JHarris at 2:07 PM on June 28, 2011


Jon Stewart has what might be called the classic comedian's dilemma: he's making fun of you, but he really just wants you to like him.

Yes, this is why he destroyed Tucker Carlson on Crossfire, why he verbally stuck a dagger into Jim Cramer, and why he called Chris Wallace insane on his home turf. There have been a few others too. And he was apologetic about it, but it didn't stop him from being a fairly prominent critic of his friend Anthony Weiner's problem.


As steambadger said above, part of what makes his going-on-the-offensive so powerful is that he doesn't, usually. Sometimes what he has to say is more important than his wanting to be liked. I'm in no way saying he's not capable of going after someone, and you ably reference a number of times when he has done. I was speaking specifically to the notion that he always seems like he just wants to be reasonable or middle-of-the-road or whatever, and I don't think it's a political thing per se. I think that, like a lot of comedians -- hell, like a lot of public performers, period -- there is a need to be out in front and get the whole room on your side. Many actors I know are like this, many comedians and musicians are like this; they just have to be hearing the applause and the laughter and the appreciation, and it's not enough when it's just one's friends or whatever. It's the thing that drives them to entertain. They're in a room with 99 laughing people and they're thinking about the one guy who doesn't seem to be enjoying himself. It's not a slam, unless you think wanting to be liked is a character flaw. I don't.

But so I think that basic desire causes people to see him as weak or ineffectual or fawning; how often do his critics come at him with the charge that he plays "softball" politically or during interviews or whatever? My point is that Jon Stewart is incredibly, incredibly good at his job, and because he is a comedian his job is to tell the truth about and through himself. How people react to him says more about how they perceive the qualities he expertly and artfully demonstrates, and not as much about who he actually is. I think that because it's so obvious that the Daily Show correspondents are playing characters, people forget that the Daily Show's Jon Stewart is a character too, and in my opinion a really good one. Your examples of takedowns are, broadly, when he breaks character to say something more important to him.
posted by Errant at 2:51 PM on June 28, 2011


"Ditzy" is a poisonous word.

Your objection seems to be solely with the use of that particular word, so let me understand: if he had said "foolish beauty queen" you'd have been okay with this?
posted by smithsmith at 3:15 PM on June 28, 2011


"...too mean spirited"
posted by clockworkjoe at 6:04 PM on June 28


I do not understand this combination of words.

I find Maher pretty damned funny. He generally kicks deserving cases in the nuts. And he did back-pedal quite a bit on the whole anti-vax debacle. That said, PZ Myers shared a table with him at the 2009 AAI convention, and he reckons he's an absolute douchenozzle in RL.
posted by Decani at 4:33 PM on June 28, 2011


That's not how Karrine Steffans tells it. Well, maybe it kind of is.
posted by box at 7:43 PM on June 28, 2011



Bill Maher is a douchebag.


When I was a teenager I had a man-crush on Bill Maher and was obsessed with Politically Incorrect.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:20 PM on June 28, 2011


men can potentially be ditzy

That's quite a stretch JHarris. Try doing a Google image search for "ditzy".

Maher's rant about breastfeeding reveals some (for me) unforgivably screwed up attitudes about women.
posted by straight at 12:04 PM on June 29, 2011


I just said the word CAN apply to men, as in I've heard it used as such before. It might be used a lot more often to refer to women, but that doesn't mean it's female-exclusive.
posted by JHarris at 7:34 PM on June 30, 2011


« Older One hundred years ago today, the Nakhla meteorite ...  |  How to Talk to Little Girls.... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments