Larry Miller has started a column on The Daily Standard.
January 14, 2002 1:35 AM   Subscribe

Larry Miller has started a column on The Daily Standard. Nicely executed potboiler preaching to the choir. Not quite as brilliantly inflammatory as Ann Coulter, but quite enjoyable. Anybody got any favourite left-leaning humorists?
posted by BGM (22 comments total)
they don't exist in the UK anymore, not since they got cash in their pockets in the 90's. (apart from Mark Thomas)

BTW, does anyone know what the D.C. stands for in Washington DC? I am ignorant and need to know.
posted by Frasermoo at 5:22 AM on January 14, 2002

District of Columbia, and I don't know where Miller's politics are, but this piece was far from left-leaning.
posted by wsfinkel at 5:45 AM on January 14, 2002

The title "You say you want a resolution" signals that this is going to be a pretty witless piece. Here's the level of wit: the idea that "violence only leads to more violence" is

. . . so stupid you usually have to be the president of an Ivy League university to say it.
Yeesh. Maybe he's being ironical. Larry Miller was funny as the mayor in Waiting for Guffman.
posted by bmckenzie at 6:04 AM on January 14, 2002

posted by rodii at 6:06 AM on January 14, 2002

There are so many confusing things about this post/thread. I think I'll just move on...
posted by glenwood at 7:50 AM on January 14, 2002


...a chance to break out my new OED:

2. colloq. Applied depreciatively to a work of literature or art executed for the purpose of 'boiling the pot', i.e. of gaining a livelihood...a writing, picture, or other work made to sell. .

I think Mr. Miller would do better "boiling the pot" by continuing to play irritating types on television: this soup is pretty flavorless.
posted by BT at 8:01 AM on January 14, 2002

i'm shocked that the words "brilliant" and "Coulter" can be used in the same sentence and still retain a resemblence to coherent meaning.
posted by rhizome23 at 8:37 AM on January 14, 2002

I loved Larry Miller in "Pretty Woman", and he does a classic stand-up bit about the 5 stages of drinking.
posted by msacheson at 10:21 AM on January 14, 2002

wsfinkel -

"...this piece was far from left-leaning"

No kidding. Please pay attention. I was wondering if there were any humorists writing from the left point of view these days. The right has the aforementioned miss Coulter (who probably has to maintain a pen the size of several football fields for all the Democratic goats she's gotten lately), Mark Steyn, and Florence King, just to name a few. They have made a career of presenting right wing ideas employing exaggeration and scarcasm to make a point. This approach has the bonus effect of setting off a sputtering fit among the "WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?!?!?!" contingent, which provides added entertainment, and revealing these chicken littles as narrow, shallow, humorless, and misguided. Is there no one on the left similarly lampooning the excesses of the right?

Glossary Links:
get your goat
chicken little
posted by BGM at 12:05 PM on January 14, 2002

Umm, people seem to like that Molly Ivins writer pretty good. And, on about the same intellectual level that this Miller fella's working, there's Al Franken. Or Michael Moore. But I think most of them have been rounded up and shot in the last few months.
posted by hackly_fracture at 12:46 PM on January 14, 2002

I always thought that left-leaning and humorist were contradictory. (At least that is what P.J. O'Rourke said in the introduction to one of his books, I think it was Parliament of Whores or Republican Party Reptile.) I would love to be proven wrong.
posted by adampsyche at 12:51 PM on January 14, 2002

BGM: Of all the ones mentioned, only Florence King can be taken seriously as a humorist. It's possible to be seriously funny, y'know? Ann Coulter's just an asshole, and no one reads the National Post outside of certain circles in Canada. Much of King's material, by contrast, will be read for years to come.
posted by raysmj at 3:39 PM on January 14, 2002

Bleh, "nicely executed", yeah. If that's witty for you right-wingers, I don't want to know what you consider mediocre. You know the reason that lefties do not write as many "funny" columns like this one? It's because it ain't funny if death squads sponsored by Shell Oil murder your family because you're in the way of a fucking pipeline, such as in Nigeria. It's not funny if rich nations sell deadly weapons (whereas the US are the largest arms exporter) to poor countries ruled by ignored or supported dictators and ignore or support wars leading to the deaths of millions, while profiting from the same countries' resources, such as in the Congo. It's not funny if multinational corporations practically dictate the conditions under which whole countries can be ruled, thanks to NAFTA, the WTO and the IMF. It's not funny if the "war on drugs" leads to the destruction of hundreds of thousands of families, so cherished by the right wing, and to the overpopulation of an ever more punitive prison system. It's not funny if millions are without health insurance even in a nation which could easily afford reasonable minimum standards. It's not funny if religious fundamentalism runs amok and is ignored if it has the right label on it while the books are burned.

And here we have another one of those no-brain idiots, almost all of which are heavily funded by industry-sponsored right-wing "think" tanks like Cato, spewing off oxymoronic rhetoric about how the US are truly the greatest nation of them all, the haven of liberty and hope, whereas in reality it is the worst of all the industrialized "First World" countries in almost every respect. Ignoring almost all US involvement in the arming and training of Islamic fundamentalists around the world, the involvement of oil corporations in harboring terrorists whose agendas are beneficial to their own, and rejecting even the simplest criticism, thereby confirming Chomsky's nightmare that patriotism will become another national religion. And we have BMG, a poster with the apparent autonomous thinking capabilities of a chestnut, pointing us to "Chicken Little", a term which has been deliberately broadcasted and associated with much of the environmental movement by PR companies paid and funded by all major US corporation (cf. Stauber and Rampton's books). Conservatives are people who have practically rented their brain away to the highest bidder, and who get their greatest pleasure in life from cashing in their checks.

The reason leftists and progressives can only laugh about all of this to a very limited degree is that they actually care about the future of this fucking planet instead of trying to get their selective perception that everything's great as always "validated" from as many "potboilers" as possible. But I understand much of the right-wingers' motivation, given the ridiculous state of the mainstream "left" in the US, whose main distinguishing feature from the "right" is that they say "Bend over, please" before they make passionate love with you.
posted by Eloquence at 4:29 PM on January 14, 2002

adampsyche-for some leftward(or at least anti-right) humor read the novels of Tim Dorsey. Very funny and very on target.

eloquence- You may have just proved PJ O'Rourke's point for all of us. Obviously none of the atrocities you describe are funny in the slightest. However, mockery is an effective weapon against those who perpetrate them. And mockery, to be effective and reach people had better be funny.
Trust me, what those in power fear more than guns is being exposed as the bad jokes they are and humor is the best way to do that while minimizing harm to everyone else. Not to mention, we get a big cathartic laugh at their expense.
posted by jonmc at 5:42 PM on January 14, 2002

PS- as far as your comments to BMG(if you're gonna insult someone gratuitously at least spell their name right. And if you wanna be a troll, do us all a favor and crawl back under your bridge.
posted by jonmc at 5:54 PM on January 14, 2002

Now we know the cause of all the hate and suffering in the world, Jon: people just don't take it with enough humor. Tell that to someone with a rifle under his nose. I think "Dubya" should have proven the "humor for change" thesis wrong beyond all reasonable doubt, no? Has there ever been a president more made fun of? I don't think he cares at all. In fact, in the long term, it will probably help his popularity. Social change is possible, but it is not humor that will be its motor, it is better communication and organization. Surely some of the "propaganda" of the progressive side should be satirical in nature, but to believe that humor is an end in itself is just naive and, in fact, dangerously close to complacency. And as far as trolling goes, MetaFilter is my bridge.
posted by Eloquence at 6:22 PM on January 14, 2002

You're missing my point entirely, eloquence. I never said that those suffering under atrocious circumstances should chuckle there way through life; although many people I have known who've lived through horrible circumstances have fantastic senses of humor. Maintaining one in the face of tyranny actually amounts to big middle finger raised in your enemy's face.
Also, obviously humor is not going to be the primary engine that changes anything, but comedy, like all art can help change minds. Abbie Hoffman, Lenny Bruce, George Carlin and Eric Bogosian have definitely made me and probably many others laugh and think at the same time. Mahatma Gandhi for instance had a gently wicked sense of humor. On the other side of the fence Hitler and Stalin were notoriously humorless."Der Fuhrer's Face," may not have one World War II for us but it surely felt good to deflate Hitler's pomposity.
No matter what your political stripe(and anyone on MeFi can tell you mine is substantially different from yours but just as hostile to the status quo), maintaining a sense of humor is vital. This,if for no other reason, is to keep us from becoming as self-important, pedantic and tyrannical as the people we denounce.
Pick up a copy of the aforemnetioned Tim Dorsey's latest novel "Orange Crush" and I think you'll start to see what I mean.
posted by jonmc at 6:46 PM on January 14, 2002

Hitler and Stalin were notoriously humorless

Is that so? Surely that is the way we imagine them. We cannot associate something pleasant like humor with mass murder and censorship. We like to picture evildoers under permanent black clouds, never laughing (except in a cartoon-like evil fashion), always plotting their next evil deeds. (The Taliban are making it quite easy for us, of course.) To your disgust, you might find that Stalin would have enjoyed many of the jokes you enjoy (while he would, of course, have rejected others that hurt his sensibilities, and would possibly have people executed for a bad joke). At least in public, Hitler & Stalin were often portrayed as "statesmen", joking and having fun with their families. Sure, Hitler was choleric and barbaric, but I'm quite sure that he had his share of laughs.

I'm not saying you're entirely wrong: Murderous dictators have always had a tendency to repress all forms of pleasure, humor being one of them -- that is, they could not tolerate it if others had pleasure. Repressing expressions of humor, much as any opinion, would be idiotic and wrong, but suggesting that it is a requirement for change in those who want to promote change, and that tyrants are "humorless" is just selective perception. Actually, some nice songs have been written about that ("Does the sun shine for nazis? Can they also see the blue sky?").

So, in summary: I have offered an explanation why the left may be less humorous than the right or even humorless, namely that many find it hard to find humor in face of suffering, whereas the right spends most of its time denying said suffering or blaming the victims (some of its humor is quite sadistic). I do not think that a change of methodology is in any way required or necessary, although I would like to live in a world with more happy people in it. I do not think that the left should "discipline" itself against expressions of humor, as you might assume, I just think that the current lack of humor is understandable. Blame the 20th century.
posted by Eloquence at 7:09 PM on January 14, 2002

many find it hard to find humor in face of suffering,

true enough, yet many use it as method of defiance and as a means of bridging cultural gaps by disarming people; witness the following three examples(both of which I swear I'm not making up:

The female muslim comedian who refers to "Osama bin Liner" and introdes herself to her audience by showing them her pilot's license; and the wheelchair-bound standup who begins her routine by shouting "OK, which one of you assholes is in my parking space?!"; the gay male comic who assumes Jesse Helms is homophobic because he thinks gays are going to break in and redecorate his house.

the left may be less humorous than the right or even humorless,

Well, not being a member of the left(or the right either, before you ask) I can't really make that judgement. But the examples above show that's probably not true. Although a percieved sense of humorlessness and self-importance may be a reason why the left may not be converting many folks lately. In the 1960's folks like Abbie Hoffman and Dick Gregory(he used to be funny before the diet counseling days, trust me) made the left seem loose and fun-loving and their numbers swelled.

So in summary, take a few minutes to laugh because humor is the only sane way to make sense of a world that remains insane no matter what we try to do with it. to paraphrase Mother Jones...If I can't make a wisecrack than I don't want your revolution.
I saw both of these comediennes on TV and while I was laughing out loud I also granted that they made their point.
posted by jonmc at 7:35 PM on January 14, 2002

cut and paste error- that last sentence should be at the end of the second paragraph, sorry.
posted by jonmc at 7:37 PM on January 14, 2002

Just to attempt to dig out a little bit from under the weight of that last exchange, I'd follow jonmc's mention of Hoffman and posit that the Left's most succesful humorists were those who mined a Surrealist vein, paying attention to language and the way it constructed realities that seemed implacable until someone like Lenny Bruce or the Firesign Theatre began playing (very funny) magic tricks with it. (I never found Hoffman all that entertaining, but I suspect that's partially because his act wasn't built to last past any given news cycle.)

That said, it's hard to imagine getting laffs on that track these days; recent reports of the demise of irony notwithstanding, I think we're a more cynical audience now, both on the left and on the right, perhaps.
posted by BT at 8:47 PM on January 14, 2002

Hmmm. What about cartoonists? Doonesbury, This Modern World, Boondocks.
posted by Charmian at 9:42 AM on January 15, 2002

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