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Ha Ha Ha Ha *gulp*
November 29, 2007 6:06 AM   Subscribe

Humor so dry, at times you might not be entirely sure. The Long Johns mull over the sub-prime mortgage mess.

Here's an embedded link of the same, if it helps.
posted by From Bklyn (34 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Now I understand.
posted by damo at 6:44 AM on November 29, 2007


that was good!
posted by kolophon at 6:47 AM on November 29, 2007


That was good, but was the "unemployed black man" supposed to be him in character as a slimy investor? Or is that short for "somebody too ignorant to know what's going on" (or "unable to pay back a loan") or what?
posted by DU at 6:52 AM on November 29, 2007


Very funny. The minute the anecdote about the black man was uttered, I thought "uh oh" and looks like the youtube comments don't let me down.

(Which has me curious: In the UK, when "the man in the street" pictures in his mind abject poverty, what generic person does he imagine? Here in the states, nine times out of ten if you asked people to think of this imaginary person, they would picture a poor black, probably urban rather than rural, possibly female rather than male, but still somene similar to the sketch's portrayal.)
posted by maxwelton at 7:03 AM on November 29, 2007


"That was good, but was the "unemployed black man" supposed to be him in character as a slimy investor?"

DU,
I think so, yes.

I base this on the cartoonishly foreign details the slimy interviewee provides (the string vest, the crumbling porch in Alabama), as if there is a further mockery of how snotty slimey limeys like to hint that, in the end, it's all part of USA cultural creep, very much to be deplored, and not the fault of the Brits at all.

Possibly I'm over stretching here, but this was too clever and funny - I think - not to have a bit of thought behind the cringe factor here.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 7:27 AM on November 29, 2007


In the UK, when "the man in the street" pictures in his mind abject poverty, what generic person does he imagine?

For me, probably a puny, toothless old charver – a white person, in other words.
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 7:52 AM on November 29, 2007


Here in the states, nine times out of ten if you asked people to think of this imaginary person,

I think the stereotypical poor person in the States would be the barefoot Appalachian hillbilly in overalls and a straw hat. Cletus on the Simpsons, for example.

And another vote for him being in character.
posted by stavrogin at 7:53 AM on November 29, 2007


Some background. They do these interviews in much the same way every week, taking on exactly the same characters. However, the person the interviewee claims to be changes every week: sometimes a government minister, sometimes a businessman, sometimes a civil servant. It's often a real person who's in the news.

The interviewer always keeps the same attitude of apparent credulity, seeming to believe anything he's told, however unlikely. I believe they're largely improvised, too.

So yes, he is in character when talking about "an unemployed black man in a string vest", and the other guy is in character when echoing what he says without challenging it.

However, UK comedy tends to be less politically correct than in the US. So, they probably wouldn't have thought too deeply about using the phrase. You wouldn't have had a team of twenty writers agonizing about it for days as you might in US comedy.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 7:59 AM on November 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


good stuff - a national treasure over here (that'll be the UK then).
posted by the_very_hungry_caterpillar at 8:06 AM on November 29, 2007


Blockheadedly ignorant of financial/economic things in general, this is the first time I've heard anything about the sub-prime/hedge-fund issue in terms I can understand. Excellent SLYP.
posted by not_on_display at 8:28 AM on November 29, 2007


I mentioned that video in a previous thread about the mortgage/credit crisis, and want to reiterate the point that as sharp and funny as the comedy may be, the Brits really have no call whatsoever to be blaming this mess on poor African-American males living in Alabama, even in jest.

The real schmucks to go after (on the consumer side at least, let's leave aside the blatant failings of both the mortgage origination industry and Wall Street for the moment) are those who used NINJA loans to speculate in housing bubble areas like the Inland Empire in CA, Sacramento, Las Vegas, condos in Florida, Phoenix, Scottsdale, etc. Alabama is decidedly not what you'd consider a bubble area.

And frankly, the Brits can find more appropriate scapegoats far closer to home, if they bothered to look. Their own housing bubbles and "rent to own" nonsense are going to bite them in a big way, too (see also the run on Northern Rock bank in mid-September of this year).
posted by Asparagirl at 8:30 AM on November 29, 2007


I enjoyed that very much.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 8:33 AM on November 29, 2007


Asparagirl, I think you're kind of missing the point.

They're not blaming it on poor blacks. They're blaming it on greedy financial services types (of whatever nationality).
posted by rhymer at 8:41 AM on November 29, 2007


ALERT: This sketch did not at any point blame anything on any person of African heritage. Not even the satirical fall-guy character played by John Bird blamed it on them.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 8:45 AM on November 29, 2007


I enjoyed it too (despite the cringeworthy line). Thanks for the post!
posted by languagehat at 8:50 AM on November 29, 2007


Asparagirl, truly, honestly, there's no moment in that clip when 'Brits' blame the sub-prime crisis on poor African-American males living in Alabama, or suggest they are to be scapegoats. Not even in jest. That's quite simply not the joke here.
posted by hydatius at 8:57 AM on November 29, 2007


Made my day, thanks!
posted by scabrous at 9:14 AM on November 29, 2007


Well, I think they are blaming it on them, a bit, as their idea of representatives of the kind of people (and places) to whom these loans should not have been made in the first place -- especially towards the very end of the video where they say that if Bear Stearns' two funds had been named "Black Male in a String Vest ["on a Crumbling Porch in Alabama"] Fund" as opposed to "Highly Leveraged Structured Credit Blah Blah Blah Fund" then no one would have invested in them. Which is silly, since an African-American man buying an older home in Alabama is probably a far better and safer mortgage risk than a young white couple trying to flip their third cookie-cutter stucco-box house in Sacramento.

And to get even more nitpicky, one can also say that it's wrong to keep blaming the whole mortgage/credit crisis on dodgy subprime mortgage lending, period. In other words, it's not just the racial overtones of who they were fingering as an obviously bad credit risk, it's the class overtones too, and both are equally wrong assumptions to make. "Subprime" has been overused and misused as a term to make the rich and supposedly-middle-class feel snooty and superior to "those" kinds of people, whose loans have caused the trouble, when really many of those "rich" people may have high incomes, but are also highly in debt (credit cards, cars) and using equally shady mortgage products to "own" their McMansions and to keep their posh lifestyles going. It's just that their motgage products don't always get lumped in as subprime, but rather get broken out into Option ARM's or even just regular old ARM's, not to mention their HELOCS (home equity lines of credit) which use their (perceived) home values as a piggy bank.

I highly recommend reading these two posts from the terrific Calculated Risk blog for more details: We're All Subprime Now for the shorter version, and What Is Subprime? for the longer version.

And what the heck is a string vest anyway?
posted by Asparagirl at 9:21 AM on November 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


More information on Bremner, Bird and Fortune.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:21 AM on November 29, 2007


Well, I think they are blaming it on them...

Well, you're wrong. You need to watch it again.
posted by rhymer at 9:28 AM on November 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


This man is wearing a string vest.
posted by patricio at 9:36 AM on November 29, 2007


You know, they tackle the Northern Rock thing also.
posted by suckerpunch at 9:40 AM on November 29, 2007


He also looks like he might enjoy a subprime mortgage.
posted by rhymer at 9:40 AM on November 29, 2007


(patricio's man in a string vest, that is)
posted by rhymer at 9:42 AM on November 29, 2007


Thank you for those excellent links, Asparagirl. I'm a programmer that's been with a banking document company for a short time, and I recently started reading up on the downfall of Penn Square Bank in the early 80s. This was not the first time that I've heard of banks not doing diligence before lending money.
posted by suckerpunch at 9:49 AM on November 29, 2007


Bird and Fortune are always consistently hilarious. And usually cut right to the root of any matter under discussion.

Does anyone know why the government/official stooge character is always called George Parr? Something I've always wondered.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:18 AM on November 29, 2007


I feel pretty clear that no one is blaming poverty stricken people of any kind for anything. If anything, the particular image is used to imply the exploitation in the financial industry and the very innocence of those on the bottom of the system. If there is an element of racism here it is in the way in which a British audience is likely to imagine this evocative figure as the very picture of innocence. A line of signification that goes back to the propaganda of the abolition movement where Black men are represented as exploited and abused innocence itself and in need of political support from educated and wealthy white Britons. Images of racist white people doing bad things to innocent rural black people are readily consumed here (and note that Hollywood churns the stuff out pretty regularly). It's surprising that it could be read the other way around and I wonder if the confusion is part of an attempt to insistently translate English humor into American as if there weren't different cultural histories at work?
posted by anglophiliated at 10:31 AM on November 29, 2007


suckerpunch's link to the sketch on the Northern Rock crisis goes a bit screwy for me; here's another one to the same.
I don't want to generalise, but at the core of the George Parr sketches (of which there are very many) sits an idea. George Parr, the interviewee, will be a recognisable stereotype in (British) public life, and as the show is topical satirical comedy recorded only a few days before broadcast, he or she will have real-life approximate counterparts who will be the subject of real-life interviews on the news or other current affairs programmes. In the real world, the viewer will witness these individuals (be they politicians, bankers, generals, arms dealers, plutocrats, oligarchs, or whatever) habitually resorting to the usual kind of spin, misdirection, dissimulation, evasion, subterfuge, duplicity, obscuration, and mendacity that we take for granted when public figures (especially those who have fucked up in some way) appear on our tellyboxes. The conceit of the George Parr sketches is that, in fact, here are these shady characters telling the truth, telling it exactly as it is in their world and their mind (much to the endless amazement of the interviewer), and thus they manage frequently to come across as idiotic, jaw-droppingly greedy, devious, selfish, amoral, ghastly individuals. But shudderingly honest about how they perceive the world, in terms of the language they use and the carefree moral vacuum they inhabit, and relentlessly open about their cheerful corruption and naked greed. Therein sits the humour. Each George Parr is horrible in their own way, but the seed of the idea is that this is how these individuals would act on the the nationwide news if they felt as unencumbered by the need to lie.
posted by hydatius at 10:40 AM on November 29, 2007 [2 favorites]


Images of racist white people doing bad things to innocent rural black people are readily consumed here (and note that Hollywood churns the stuff out pretty regularly). It's surprising that it could be read the other way around and I wonder if the confusion is part of an attempt to insistently translate English humor into American as if there weren't different cultural histories at work?

That's an interesting point, anglophiliated. To me, the bit was using the "poor black man in Alabama" as a shorthand for "obviously bad credit risk who should never have been given the mortgage", and I was thus offended on his (hypothetical) behalf -- especially since neither the race, the geographical area, nor the economic group of that man is a particularly good example of a common mortgage debtor in the current crisis, and pretty soon even his American nationality won't be the only designator of someone who was given a dangerously bad loan.

That being said, I totally agree that the bit makes the London banker character, by far, out to be the greater villain and greedy fool. Loved the Northern Rock bit too.
posted by Asparagirl at 11:02 AM on November 29, 2007


Asparagirl, I am not sure that is exactly true. The subprime market is primarily for people who can’t access the normal loans that middle class people enjoy. The American underclass is disproportionately composed of racial minorities – ergo – the example might be apt. Part of the reason people go to these lenders is due to the history of 'redlining' in American banking where entire communities have been excluded (on geographical and racial grounds) as a credit risk. To say this is simply prejudicial is to read the financial industry in entirely subjective terms and to ignore the racism inherent in balance sheet rationality. It's one reason among many why I don't believe in capitalism.

I am only speculating that perhaps the American press is less likely to report that it is minority groups that have been more readily exploited by the economics of the sub-prime market whereas this has been reported in the UK? We American's tend to avoid representing the negative realities of racism and instead lean towards fantasies of multicultural egalitarianism in our media. We generally lack a realistic language of class. This is not true in the UK. The UK version represents economically ignorant underclass whites being turfed out of council housing they would still get to live in if they hadn’t been convinced by unscrupulous lenders that they should live the dream of buying their council properties.
posted by anglophiliated at 11:43 AM on November 29, 2007


Brilliant. Loved that.
posted by nickyskye at 12:08 PM on November 29, 2007


Asparagirl writes "Well, I think they are blaming it on them, a bit, as their idea of representatives of the kind of people (and places) to whom these loans should not have been made in the first place"

Did you ever see Borat? Did you think he was making fun of Kazakhstan?
posted by krinklyfig at 12:13 PM on November 29, 2007


Wow.

I had never expected to see someone fulfill every single British US stereotype while reading Metafilter.

Asparagirl, bravo. A copy of Alanis Morissette's "Ironic" is in the post.
posted by genghis at 4:38 PM on November 29, 2007


{cough}...water...please...{gasp}...I beg of you...
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 6:33 PM on November 29, 2007


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