I Don't Want to Go to There
December 21, 2015 6:06 PM   Subscribe

Sarah Palin impersonates Tina Fey in an inexplicable new 30 Rock parody, with help from John McCain, Lindsey Graham and... Dot Com? (SLYT) Sarah Palin does her attempt at a Tina Fey impression. This is a thing that happened.

Sarah Palin has teamed up with the gang at Independent Journal to film an elaborate parody promo for 31 Rock, featuring Palin as Tiny Fey and John McCain as Alec Baldwin. The not-quite-funny title (are they supposed to be across the street from 30 Rock?) is just one of many things in this clip that seem like they may be trying to be jokes of some kind. These are the people who came perilously close to ruling the free world.
posted by Ursula Hitler (124 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm going to do myself a favor and NOT watch this, but thanks for posting it anyway! I'm just glad I can do my part for the good of humanity by ignoring/not clicking SP
posted by bird internet at 6:09 PM on December 21, 2015 [21 favorites]


Damn it. Tina Fey, not Tiny Fey. Although I see I'm in good company.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:09 PM on December 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


what. the fuck. is this.

dot com. what the fuck.

just. what the fuck.
posted by JimBennett at 6:11 PM on December 21, 2015 [12 favorites]


Without the set up I would have thought this was Roseanne doing a Tina Fey impression. But Roseanne would have done q better impression.
posted by sweetkid at 6:11 PM on December 21, 2015


Because, deep down, they want glory and attention, not to do the work it takes to make a better world. That's fine. Television is a great place for them.
posted by Vaike at 6:11 PM on December 21, 2015 [30 favorites]


et tu, Dot Com
posted by Greg Nog at 6:12 PM on December 21, 2015 [36 favorites]


Republicans are so cute when they're trying to be funny. Or, not cute. The other thing.
posted by Bringer Tom at 6:12 PM on December 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


dot com. what the fuck.

Brother gotta paid, don't be hatin'!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:14 PM on December 21, 2015 [8 favorites]


I have to say that this is actually... not horribly offensive and perhaps slightly funny. Which makes it the funniest thing anyone on the Right has produced in eons.

Still some punching down, tho.
posted by dw at 6:15 PM on December 21, 2015 [11 favorites]


Video's already almost done loading on my iPhone 3G. Jealous much ;)
posted by theodolite at 6:15 PM on December 21, 2015


It's brilliantesque.
posted by This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things at 6:16 PM on December 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't like Sarah Palin at all. I loathe her.

But I laughed when she said "Neeerds!"

I don't begrudge DotCom making money off of Palin.

She just sounds ridiculous when she's complaining about the culture being too PC.

DotCom is faking it. I perceive him laughing at/humoring her. Funny!
posted by discopolo at 6:19 PM on December 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Lindsey the Page works really well, actually. As for the rest, I don't mind taking some shots at overzealous PC culture but I don't know why Tina Fey would be a target of that. I guess they are just trying to ride the South Park wave.

Anyway, this is silly but it's just a dumb short promoting her book. No need to make a mountain out of it.

For much better Tina Fey related content, check out the bit on SNL the other day where she does the Philly accent.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:19 PM on December 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


ghost of gerald ford
pushes chevy chase down the stairs
who is laughing now
nobody
chevy lives alone
he has alienated those who love him
applause light goes on
the ghost looks
ashamed
at translucent hands
he claps
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:20 PM on December 21, 2015 [65 favorites]


She'll have to quit this too when Donald Trump needs a running mate. Undo, undoooooo!
posted by anothermug at 6:25 PM on December 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Between Cruz and his nearly perfect impressions and this brilliant, perfect bit of comedy, I'm surprised the entire Republican party doesn't have their own entertainment channel already, there are dozens of hours to be mined out of that.

Also, yeah, Tina Fey is not really that PC or progressive. Between being called out for blackface, comments on trans people, excerpts from her books, Kimmy Schmidt....there's a lot she's been criticized for in terms of social justice. Not that I expect conservative satire to actually understand what they're satirizing.
posted by Neronomius at 6:26 PM on December 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


Somebody had a pretty funny idea and money to make it, but couldn't find anybody to actually write the thing, apparently.
posted by The World Famous at 6:26 PM on December 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


what just happened and why did I watch to the end and why are my eyeballs bleeding
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:26 PM on December 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


Oh sweet Jesus.
posted by Pong74LS at 6:29 PM on December 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


No need to make a mountain out of it.

okay
posted by Greg Nog at 6:31 PM on December 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I know what you were planning, Greg Nog!
posted by Drinky Die at 6:32 PM on December 21, 2015


Also, yeah, Tina Fey is not really that PC or progressive.
Yeah, I took fey's "I'm not apologizing for jokes I make/write anymore" as her not owning up to being part of the annoying folks who complain that everyone is too sensitive because no one with a heart finds their racism and rude comments funny or acceptable. I loved Kimmy Schmidt, but I felt bad about Dr. Brandt feeling mocked for his appearance when he was already depressed. I cringe at a lot of gay jokes Fey constantly makes. Fey strikes me as a bit of a bully who doesn't like being questioned. Amy Poehler, who is my hero, seems to be a lot more empathetic and kindhearted, more of someone I'd like to be friends with.
posted by discopolo at 6:35 PM on December 21, 2015 [13 favorites]


I wonder where she could have gotten the idea. (skip to the 4:20 mark)

Lindsey Graham wasn't a bad choice for the Kenneth the Page role, but it really should have been Bobby Jindal.
posted by SisterHavana at 6:38 PM on December 21, 2015 [8 favorites]


For much better Tina Fey related content, check out the bit on SNL the other day where she does the Philly accent.

I was watching that episode yesterday and I couldn't figure out what was going on. She sounded like she was doing a weird combo of Philly-esque and British to me, and I wasn't sure if that was the joke or not?
posted by clockzero at 6:39 PM on December 21, 2015


That confused me.
posted by eggkeeper at 6:43 PM on December 21, 2015


The worst thing about this is that it could have been really pretty great if they'd gotten a better editor. A good chunk of the humor in 30 Rock relied on editing, and Palin wasn't so bad here that it wouldn't have worked with better pacing and beats.

Alas.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:43 PM on December 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


I thought this was sort of funny! I mean, it was well produced. And sorry to disagree shakespeherian, I thought the editing was on point. It felt like it had beats. And Sarah Palin wasn't bad.

OTOH Sarah Palin is awful. I like it better when I forget her except as some Alaskan governor who quit halfway through her term.
posted by Nelson at 6:56 PM on December 21, 2015


What's interesting to me is YouTube's recommendations that pop up at the end of the video: I got

  • Extreme Weight Loss S01E05
  • Beyblade S01E31 (Hindi)
  • Mummies Alive!: Tree O'Clock Rock
  • Cats vs. Dogs Debatable
  • Fraggle Rock
  • Angry Birds-Stella
  • She-Ra Princess of Power
  • Making the Band: Lego (R) Friends
  • Dance Moms Nationals Awards

    If you wanted to know the machine equivalent of screaming "what is this i can't even", I think this list pretty much answers that.

  • posted by Wolfdog at 7:09 PM on December 21, 2015 [33 favorites]


    Republicans are so cute when they're trying to be funny.

    It’s such a weird thing. Why can’t they be funny? It’s seemingly impossible.
    There has been a concerted effort for a while to get more conservatives into entertainment, especially among Mormons. They’re doing pretty good in music, it’s surprising how many pop bands come from that world. Comedy not so much.

    Since practically the only thing I know of Tina Fey is her Sarah Palin impersonation Sarah didn’t seem so bad at impersonating Tina.
    posted by bongo_x at 7:09 PM on December 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


    Man, could there be any more definitive proof of how Fey cut Palin to the quick?
    posted by Reverend John at 7:10 PM on December 21, 2015 [22 favorites]


    I found that completely unfunny, so much so that my attention kind of wandered at about the 2/3 mark. I mean... why? Tina Fey is a professional comedian; she's paid quite well I'm sure because she has a massive talent for comedy. Trying to beat her at her own game is an incredibly bad idea, particularly in the arena of comedy, which I think requires both truth and sympathy (to wit: you gotta care about what goes on in other people's heads to construct joke they'll find funny) to do well. Two things the GOP and Palin have an incredibly tenuous grasp of, if any at all.
    posted by axiom at 7:22 PM on December 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


    Back in the day it wasn't actually Tina Fey who had the idea of her impersonating Palin; it was something everyone kept bringing up because of their physical resemblance, and so she decided to practice Palin's schtick a bit and it took off. Palin, being shallow as an oleic acid spill, has apparently never forgiven her.

    Fey herself is kind of hard to type because, as a comedienne, she does a lot of types. As with Stephen Colbert I'm not sure many of us have even seen her real self. It's pretty easy to impersonate Fey's public schtick because it's artifice, but unlike a politician Fey is wearing the fact that it's artifice out in the open. That Palin doesn't seem to understand that says volumes about her lack of understanding of what she's getting into here.
    posted by Bringer Tom at 7:23 PM on December 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


    It’s such a weird thing. Why can’t they be funny? It’s seemingly impossible.

    Because the current GOP is fucking insane?

    Tina Fey is (probably) more conservative than people may guess. In a sane world, she would probably be a Republican. 30 Rock is all about working really hard and sacrificing to find personal happiness in a competitive world; it's basically conservative humor. But it's sorta pre-Reagan-era conservatism; in other words, it comes across as classical liberalism, absent the commitment to religious and cultural domination that the GOP embraced in the early 80's. If the GOP weren't so batshit insane, 30 Rock would be a perfect rejoinder to the claim that conservatives aren't funny.

    The problem isn't that conservatism is inherently antithetical to humor; it's that the modern GOP's animating principles of unthinking vitriol, of cultural revanchism, are utterly humorless.
    posted by clockzero at 7:24 PM on December 21, 2015 [64 favorites]


    It’s such a weird thing. Why can’t they be funny? It’s seemingly impossible.

    Lizard people just have bad comic timing.
    posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:34 PM on December 21, 2015 [14 favorites]


    Yeah clockzero that's why I didn't say conservatives are so cute when they're trying to be funny. It's very specifically modern Republicans, who seem incapable of seeing themselves in any larger context than the thirty second news cycle.
    posted by Bringer Tom at 7:35 PM on December 21, 2015


    What is this for?
    posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:36 PM on December 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


    Tina Fey's parents were/are Republican, and IIRC during the 08 election she also helped her quite conservative in-laws get into a Palin rally.

    And yes, Lorne Michaels had to twist her arm to return to SNL. I also have the impression she felt a bit threatened by right-wing wackos at that time. (And this is a woman who doesn't seem to scare easily.)

    Neronimus, wrt blackface, what were you referring to? That one bit with Jenna on 30 Rock? (cos I thought that was hysterical.)
    posted by NorthernLite at 7:39 PM on December 21, 2015


    Lizard people just have bad comic timing.

    How can you stereotype an entire generation like that?
    posted by indubitable at 7:47 PM on December 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


    What is this for?

    and i heard as it were the noise of thunder one of the four beasts saying come and see
    posted by poffin boffin at 7:47 PM on December 21, 2015 [26 favorites]


    Well I liked it, whatever it was. Some of that is because my knee-jerk response to absurdity is to be entertained; some of it is because it was almost certainly a better use of Palin's time than whatever she would have been doing otherwise.

    Oh, and: props for the post title.
    posted by Spathe Cadet at 7:52 PM on December 21, 2015


    Do conservatives even watch 30 Rock? It skewers them fairly often. So not only are the jokes unfunny, they don't even have familiar context.
    posted by Brocktoon at 7:52 PM on December 21, 2015


    Do conservatives even watch 30 Rock? It skewers them fairly often.

    It skewers everyone and everything. Liz Lemon would consider herself a liberal, Jack a conservative, and they are both utterly ridiculous people.
    posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:58 PM on December 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


    30 Rock is [...] basically conservative humor.

    Except about how women and minorities are people
    posted by shakespeherian at 8:00 PM on December 21, 2015 [12 favorites]


    It’s such a weird thing. Why can’t they be funny? It’s seemingly impossible.

    Ever hear someone retell a joke that it's obvious that they just totally do not grasp?


    Republicans:
       Security (theater)
       What make a strong America
       Gun Rights
       Personal Responsibility
       Sarah Palin (rimshot)
    posted by sammyo at 8:08 PM on December 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


    Neronimus, wrt blackface, what were you referring to? That one bit with Jenna on 30 Rock? (cos I thought that was hysterical.)

    Yeah, she did it like three times on that show. This Tumblr has photos of all three incidents: http://yourfaveisproblematic.tumblr.com/post/46079499380/tina-fey

    (The Jon Hamm one would have been borderline except for the wig...)
    posted by tobascodagama at 8:13 PM on December 21, 2015


    -> Northernlite (^, beaten by a minute)
    There were two instances (three, actually, corrected). The one with Jenna and the one with Jon Hamm. It's her show, she saw it, acknowledged it, signed off on it. I always found it a perfect example of ironic racism. "We know it's racist but we're going to show it anyway and our characters will be offended by it so it's ok." It always rubbed me the wrong way but I've never been a fan of Fey's mean-spirited comedy though I liked her Palin for the most part.

    I watched this thing again and went on google. 30 Rock ended January 2013. Almost three years for this, is there a time limit on parodies? I don't think it's hit the "so out of date it's cool again" period. Or has it? Between the debates and this my entire worldview has been thrown in to question. Is the earth even round?
    posted by Neronomius at 8:14 PM on December 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


    Having come directly from an 800 comment Fanfare thread on The Force Awakens, I did have a chuckle at the solution to the "Nerrrrds!" problem.

    Overall, I am not sure why this exists. I am sure it isn't as funny as the creators intended. I am also fairly sure that in the scheme of things it is one of the more harmless ways these jokers could be kept occupied. So, on that reasoning, maybe it should be encouraged?
    posted by meinvt at 8:19 PM on December 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


    I am also fairly sure that in the scheme of things it is one of the more harmless ways these jokers could be kept occupied. So, on that reasoning, maybe it should be encouraged?

    I, for one, would be perfectly content to live in a world where everyone involved in this video goes off to do some conservative comedy show I'll never watch rather than appearing regularly on CNN.
    posted by tobascodagama at 8:22 PM on December 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


    I found that completely unfunny, so much so that my attention kind of wandered at about the 2/3 mark. I mean... why? Tina Fey is a professional comedian; she's paid quite well I'm sure because she has a massive talent for comedy. Trying to beat her at her own game is an incredibly bad idea, particularly in the arena of comedy, which I think requires both truth and sympathy (to wit: you gotta care about what goes on in other people's heads to construct joke they'll find funny) to do well. Two things the GOP and Palin have an incredibly tenuous grasp of, if any at all.

    I have this weird theory, just something I've been cooking up that I don't think other people have noticed, but I think Sarah Palin might have some Dunning–Kruger related issues.
    posted by Drinky Die at 8:27 PM on December 21, 2015 [10 favorites]


    Tina, I've got Sarah Palin on the line for you. Says she needs to relay an urgent message from the Jerk Store?
    posted by davejh at 8:28 PM on December 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


    I reject the notion that conservatives cannot be funny. Look, there is P. J. O'Rourke, and... er... I guess Kelsey Grammer is kind of funny. Dennis Miller has been funny and conservative, albeit sequentially. Uh, Drew Carey?

    In all honesty, I just went googling for a list of Republicans in comedy. The biggest names I could pull up were Vince Vaughan, David Spade, and Tony Danza. It is an all-star lineup, you must admit (or possibly the bottom row on Hollywood Squares).
    posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:30 PM on December 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


    Napoleon Dynamite was made by mormons. Though, i think 50% of the population hates that movie. YMMV.
    posted by lkc at 8:35 PM on December 21, 2015


    Exceptions proving the rule, ricochet biscuit? I mean, if you listed the most famous/funniest comedians from the past 40 years, then made a pie chart showing the breakdown by political bent, the right-wing slice would be pretty thin, I'd expect.
    posted by axiom at 8:39 PM on December 21, 2015


    I reject the notion that conservatives cannot be funny.

    I know you’re being sarcastic, but even with that admittedly stellar line-up (and I do think some of them are mildly funny), they're never funny and conservative at the same time.

    I just find it odd. It’s like how Microsoft (or McDonalds), with all that money, cannot make a decent ad campaign that doesn’t seem like an SNL parody and make you cringe.
    posted by bongo_x at 8:42 PM on December 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


    You are all missing the real joke here. This is Tina Fey playing Sarah Palin parodying Tina Fey. It's comedic genius.
    posted by double block and bleed at 8:52 PM on December 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


    Does anyone else remember the Fox News' 1/2-Hour News Hour, News Corp's answer to The Daily Show? I was over my talk-radio-listening grandma's one time and she enthusiastically recommended it, hoping no doubt to spread some of its youthful flair my way. All I remember is a painful sketch about CFL bulbs giving everyone mercury poisoning.
    posted by JauntyFedora at 9:12 PM on December 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


    The guiding principle of the modern Republican party is punching down, so of course they are not good at humor.
    posted by ckape at 9:38 PM on December 21, 2015 [8 favorites]


    I dunno; this might be a flowering of the genetic crossing of the Fox-as-entertainment/reality-based-community GOP memes. Think about it: if you believe that to govern is to actively prevent leadership from anything but private enterprise, and that BigCharltonHestonInTheSky will save you from any of the climate change/financial chaos that you caused, wouldn't it also be reasonable to assume that your political career had a laugh track too? Kind of a ghastly inversion of The Truman Show: real consequences as TV. This ain't Being There; you can't make the bad people go away with the clicker
    posted by scruss at 9:50 PM on December 21, 2015


    Napoleon Dynamite was made by mormons.

    I have never seen anything to suggest the Hesses are conservative. I suspect, like a lot of young Mormons, they aren't 100 percent beholden to the LDS orthodoxy, and they have shown a strong ironic sensibility in addressing organized religion (Nacho Libre), homeschooling (Gentlemen Broncos), and Biblical inerrancy (Don Verdean). They have also worked with LGBT talent, repeatedly with Mike White.
    posted by maxsparber at 9:57 PM on December 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


    A prerequisite it takes to be funny is to be willing to self-deprecate. If you can't laugh at yourself, laughing at others just comes off as mean. That's why movement conservatives aren't usually that funny but Colbert can be funny saying the same things they do. People always express disbelief that conservatives who thought he was really conservative can exist, but if there was a genuine popular good natured conservative comedy news show, it would look more like The Colbert Report than the 1/2-Hour News Hour.
    posted by Drinky Die at 10:29 PM on December 21, 2015 [4 favorites]



    I reject the notion that conservatives cannot be funny. Look, there is P. J. O'Rourke, and... er...

    Florence King.

    And I suspect Joe Queenan, but it's late and I could be confusing his wealthy-white-guy-who-likes-cars schtick with old-school GOP leanings.
    posted by sobell at 10:35 PM on December 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


    It’s such a weird thing. Why can’t they be funny? It’s seemingly impossible.

    When your entire party is already a parody of itself without even trying, it's hard to actually turn that into comedy. It also requires a certain level of self awareness as well as the willingness to make fun of yourself, and this demographic seems to be fundamentally lacking in those crucial qualities.
    posted by litera scripta manet at 10:36 PM on December 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


    Good god. Is McCain still talking to Palin after she humiliated him and destroyed whatever small chance he had of becoming President?

    McCain -- dumb as he ever was.
    posted by JackFlash at 10:44 PM on December 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


    Upon close examination, they could have sorted that out so that Mccain didn't really know who was supposed to be on the other end of the line. I suppose there's only one person it could have possibly been in a Republican politician parody of 30 Rock, but then again, as little as Mccain is in that maybe they didn't even bother telling him it was a 30 Rock parody.
    posted by ckape at 11:07 PM on December 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


    The concept of impersonating your impersonator seems like it has promise, I think? Sarah Palin was game here and did a decent enough job for someone who is neither a comedian, actress, or impersonator. The problem, to me, was with the writing, in that none of it had any bite. The "PC" joke was cringe-worthy bad.
    posted by The Gooch at 11:11 PM on December 21, 2015


    Roseanne would have done q

    no. no she wouldn't have.
    posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 11:44 PM on December 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


    See, it would have worked if Tina Fey wrote it, but Sarah Palin would never ask Tina Fey to write it. That's why she will always be the punchline in the end.
    posted by Drinky Die at 11:45 PM on December 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


    Even though I did the post, I'm not actually Fey's biggest fan. I don't know 30 Rock super well, so maybe some of the gags in the parody were lost on me. While she's written some sketches I liked (the Colonel Angus SNL sketch with Christopher Walken was genius) I'm not fond of that smug, giggling Fallon/Fey era of SNL in general and she does seem to have some very rigid ideas about how women can/should behave. She's the kind of feminist who seems kind of anti-feminist to me, in the sense that she gets very sneery indeed about women who call themselves girls or wear a lot of pink or speak with "baby voices" that get on her nerves, like she's the right kind of woman and the woman who works at Hooters and spells her name as Jamee with two E's is the wrong kind of woman, full stop.

    I think she probably disliked Palin more for being an airhead former beauty queen than for all the vile bullshit that was spilling out her mouth. I remember Fey saying someplace that Liz Lemon thinks she's liberal but would probably secretly vote for McCain, and Fey strikes me as possibly a secret McCain fan too. Not like she'd vote for him NOW, but I suspect she shares Jon Stewart's delusion that McCain used to be this honest, lovable coot who went wrong, instead of him being a nasty, opportunistic SOB who couldn't hide his true colors forever.

    That being said, I truly haven't followed Fey closely enough to pretend I know her well and she has written some things I very much enjoyed. I also think her impression may have been what (FINALLY) turned the tide against Palin, and those SNL bits may have indirectly saved a lot of lives, including mine. I don't think she set out to destroy Palin, but that was the happy result. So Fey kind of averages out to OK with me. She gets on my nerves sometimes but she's also funny sometimes and seeing her decimate Palin's credibility was a true joy.
    posted by Ursula Hitler at 12:01 AM on December 22, 2015 [9 favorites]


    Fey and McCain were on the cover of Life together, in 2004. Before the 2008 election, that idea that McCain was a more reasonable Republican was much more commonplace - he even hosted SNL at least once. Though the joke from Liz Lemon that she'd likely secretly vote for McCain came before Palin was announced as his running mate.

    Her not explaining jokes thing to the internet anymore - well, considering how rigidly she's dismissed for not being the perfect exemplar of a powerful woman in comedy from both sides, the presumptions constantly made about her motivations and who she really is based on small aspects of her work, usually shorn of context and received in as surface a fashion as possible ... I'm with her on this one.

    As for conservatives in comedy - you can easily be a talented comedic performer and a conservative, such as Kelsey Grammer or Sherri Shepherd. It's harder, but you can also be a funny conservative comedian. What seems impossible is to be pushing Republican ideals through your comedy and also actually funny, a la that Fox News response to The Daily Show from a few years back. The only tack I can imagine potentially working is if it were only roast humour, or was so blackly cynical as to make Ricky Gervais look empathetic.

    But to me, I think it's notable that you can only make Republican comedy funny if you can make being an arsehole work for you.
    posted by gadge emeritus at 12:46 AM on December 22, 2015 [10 favorites]


    It's harder, but you can also be a funny conservative comedian.

    I think it's probably pretty easy to be a small-c conservative stand-up comedian. All you have to do for a cheap laugh is insult some group or individual people are already primed to hate (and I guess have good timing). Conservative satire is impossible by definition.
    posted by cotton dress sock at 1:32 AM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


    "Lindsey, sorry you had to drop out of the presidential race because anyone that would support you thinks you are a closet case BY THE WAY can you play the effeminate, ambiguously gay Southern bible hick from 30 Rock for this skit we're doing? So perfect!"
    posted by dgaicun at 2:05 AM on December 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


    While I am not a fan of Fey for similar reasons to the ones espoused upthread — I think she punches down a lot, and find her comedy to be frustratingly heartless — I'd be remiss not to point out 30 Rock Landed On Us, by Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Wesley Morris, who wants us to know that he thinks we're all wrong:
    30 Rock was always going deeper. It understood the phony limitations of race even as it grasped how much a part of American life it is. This is what separated it from Chappelle’s Show, which grasped how racism was a fact of life — its glass-half-empty gleaning of race in America was the source of its nuclear power. But 30 Rock's characters’ ability to live alongside each other is an acceptance that institutional and incidental racism and sexism and homophobia are part of how we live. We can survive by laughing at them. That’s an attitude that might not have been possible before an Obama presidency. Tracy’s right that Obama’s election resurrected old-school racism. But where Chappelle’s satire might have self-destructed over the birthers and Donald Trump, 30 Rock looked the other way and laughed. In the 21st century, old-school racism doesn’t die. It just seems more glib.

    It’s been suggested that the longer the show ran, the more about itself it became. But 30 Rock was always about itself, insofar as it generally was a show about the climate of American television and fame and specifically about the cravenness of network television. The episode in which Jack role-plays the Jordan family also features Carrie Fisher as Rosemary Howard, Liz’s comedy-writing hero who worked on a Laugh-In–type show during the liberal-activist era of Norman Lear. Liz brings Rosemary in as a guest writer on TGS and objects when Rosemary wants to try more confrontational stuff, like blackface. (“We would have done that on the Mandrell Sisters!”) Jack tells Liz to fire her. She does, and quits in daughterly solidarity. What follows is actually laugh-out-loud funnier than Jack doing the Jordans: Liz following Rosemary through a New York neighborhood called “Little Chechnya” and realizing that the line dividing iconoclasm and instability is thin. You also realize that TGS is actually a bad show, kept mediocre by Jack’s venal, spineless network.
    I'll double back around and say that I don't find Morris's argument convincing in many places, and that what he sees as brilliance I see as a lot of unashamed cheap gags written by a very funny team of gag writers not looking to say a thing about polemic. But I know enough people who think 30 Rock is as brilliant as Morris is to feel like his take is a valid one, albeit one that failed to persuade me in the least. He is a very good critic.
    posted by rorgy at 3:00 AM on December 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


    Comedy conservative vs. liberal aside, the single issue I hate about 30 Rock is the "comedy music"

    Liz says something self deprecating! Cue the comedy music! Alec says something only a disconnected wealthy white man would say! More comedy music!

    I don't need or want music cues to tell me when a joke happens. "Comedy music" is the laugh track for a new era and I hate it.
    posted by jeff-o-matic at 3:33 AM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


    "Napoleon Dynamite was made by mormons."

    Heh, I initially read that as "morons" (early, no coffee), and I thought "Of COURSE it was..and it was made FOR morons as well."
    posted by HuronBob at 3:39 AM on December 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


    What's interesting to me is YouTube's recommendations that pop up at the end of the video: I got

    You do know that somewhere around 1/4rth to 1/2 of the recommendations are usually based on your recent viewing history rather than current video right?
    posted by srboisvert at 4:07 AM on December 22, 2015


    So, it's not yet 7am and I'm still on my first cup of coffee, but I have a theory, I think. It's not that modern Republicans can't be funny. It's that the modern Republican Party is what it is because they don't have a properly-developed sense of humor. Humor is part of how we deal with fear of the unknown, fear of our own mortality, fear of life not having meaning, fear of being alone, fear of being wrong. In the absence of the ability to use that coping mechanism to deal with living in an unjust world, you defensively default to insisting the world must be just. The Haves and Have Nots all deserve to be right where they are, and any attempt to budge them from their rightful places must be wrong. Humor is too uneasy with the perfectly adequate status quo. They copy humor in an attempt to fit in because strategically they know they have to appeal to the young, but it's not theirs.

    Which was just an odd thought, but then it turns out that this is the same Independent Journal that hired a guy as a content editor who got fired from Buzzfeed for plagiarism... who had himself previously called out an IJR article as plagiarizing one of his own posts. They know they're supposed to be funny because funny is lucrative, but all they can do is try to borrow other people's senses of humor, people who themselves aren't exactly the best and brightest of the age. Thankfully, their target audience can't tell the difference.
    posted by Sequence at 4:12 AM on December 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


    Anybody ever notice the similarity between Jack Donaghy and Stephen Colbert's character? It does seem that, to make modern conservatives funny, you have to laugh at them... It's like asking why Christian rock rarely does.

    But also, about the "incidents" of blackface on 30 Rock... (scare quotes b/c the word sounds loaded to me)
    IIRC, they occurred in the show-within-a-show, which seems worth pointing out. And yes, having the saner (and/or black) characters on the show be offended and say so does make it OK in my mind. Does anybody think this is the same as Charlton Heston browning up the minute somebody needs a Mexican hero?

    Or hey, alternatively, should we exclude all the visual arts and media from confronting one of the major racist tropes of the 20th century? For reasons of, I don't know, excessive immediacy or something? Seems like a strange argument to make.
    posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 5:01 AM on December 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


    Man, could there be any more definitive proof of how Fey cut Palin to the quick?

    Well, the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about, right? For someone whose whole public persona is built around the resentment of conservative white people toward just about anybody and everybody who's not them, who still keeps pushing the "lamestream media" trope, Palin also assiduously courts that attention; thus, the weirdness of Palin appearing on SNL with Fey as Palin, then complaining about it in one of her books.
    posted by Halloween Jack at 5:07 AM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


    Thinking about it, I actually think a lot of comedy is essentially conservative, even if the comedians themselves are self-professed liberals. There's just this relentless support of the status quo and mocking of anything that upends it. A lot of stand-up is deeply reactionary, and it's amazing how many male comedians still insist women are not funny. A lot of comedies starring men should just be titled "look how privileges allows these guys to get away with being noxious man children for far longer than any one else could," and the function of women in these film is mostly to be mechanism for men becoming better men, as sort of spoilsport helpmates for the male species.

    It may not be big C conservative, but it remains a longstanding partner and supporter of a deeply conservative worldview.
    posted by maxsparber at 6:17 AM on December 22, 2015 [12 favorites]


    that what he sees as brilliance I see as a lot of unashamed cheap gags written by a very funny team of gag writers not looking to say a thing about polemic.

    I agree, rorgy, though I've only seen a few episodes of 30 Rock. It definitely seemed to be in the vein of heavily written American comedy, in which characters are mostly vehicles for snappy lines. (I think Modern Family and Arrested Development are like that, or it seems that way - also have not seen a lot of those shows). From what I saw, yeah, they did lean on stereotype, in the absence of social critique (like, yeah, Chapelle's Show, pretty firmly rooted in that perspective) or a deeper consideration of character + situation. But I only saw a bit of it.

    Does anybody think this is the same as Charlton Heston browning up the minute somebody needs a Mexican hero?

    It's probably a little better than that (or this or that), but even so, I'm not sure there wasn't some less potentially painful and more hilarious way to make the point.
    posted by cotton dress sock at 6:26 AM on December 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


    Or hey, alternatively, should we exclude all the visual arts and media from confronting one of the major racist tropes of the 20th century? For reasons of, I don't know, excessive immediacy or something? Seems like a strange argument to make.

    Well, I don't know. Dave Chappelle had a hard time with it in the end.
    posted by cotton dress sock at 6:33 AM on December 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


    I also think her impression may have been what (FINALLY) turned the tide against Palin,

    Fairly or unfairly, you can wreck a politician by reducing them to a single punchline. Once it was at the point where every time you heard "Sarah Palin," you thought, "I can see Russia from my house!" the election was effectively over. It was the Michael Dukakis in a Tank of 2008. And Tina Fey's realization of that dynamic was brilliant. That one-liner will live forever.
    posted by deanc at 6:33 AM on December 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


    The brilliance of Fey's parody of Palin is that she knew she only needed to turn up the absurdity ever so slightly to make her a joke. Palin was 95% of the way there all by herself.

    Of course, in retrospect, Palin was in the vanguard of Republican politicians who realized they could be popular enough with a segment of the voters by saying what we could heretofore only imagine being said as parody. Trump is of course the apotheosis of this trend. When Palin did it, it terrified people enough that most backed away from the GOP. 7 years later, with Trump doing it, it has become the mainstream dialogue of the Republican base.
    posted by dry white toast at 6:52 AM on December 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


    There seems to be an earnest belief amongst some conservatives that humour at their expense isn't funny, it's just biased and liberals find it entertaining because they hate conservatives. I remember a few years back when someone tried to start a "conservative counterpart" to The Daily Show with this same ethos. It was also drearily unfunny and lasted only a few episodes.

    They can't handle the idea that so many of them lend themselves so easily to parody and skewering through their actions and policies. I think they also don't realize that comedians satirize Democrats/liberal politicians just as much. It just takes a different tone: exasperated and embittered, the way you make fun of how much your local sports team sucks, even as you continue to root for them.

    I recall an exchange between the two main characters in Studio 60 (this was towards the end of the Bush II years):

    Danny: Hey, [so and so] has been complaining that we make a lot of jokes about Republicans on the show and not about Democrats
    Matt: I would happily make fun of the Democrats if they would SAY OR DO ANYTHING!!
    posted by dry white toast at 7:03 AM on December 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


    maxsparber: Thinking about it, I actually think a lot of comedy is essentially conservative, even if the comedians themselves are self-professed liberals. There's just this relentless support of the status quo and mocking of anything that upends it. A lot of stand-up is deeply reactionary, and it's amazing how many male comedians still insist women are not funny. A lot of comedies starring men should just be titled "look how privileges allows these guys to get away with being noxious man children for far longer than any one else could," and the function of women in these film is mostly to be mechanism for men becoming better men, as sort of spoilsport helpmates for the male species.

    +1000
    Have you seen a Judd Apatow movie? Those are always well reviewed as being super funny, and they are usually very conservative in their portrayal of relationships and morals.

    I liked the clip! But, I didn't go into it expecting great comedic chops - I don't think you could take Hillary and Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders and do better. Yeah, the writing could be punched up, but for what it is, it's cute.
    posted by bluefly at 7:06 AM on December 22, 2015


    HL Mencken's humor was essentially conservative. He could even make punching down funny.

    That Fox News show that plays ~2 AM called "Red Eye" hosted by Greg Gutfield is somewhat funny. Yes, lots of frat boy humor, but it still counts as humor.
    posted by deanc at 7:22 AM on December 22, 2015


    Before the 2008 election, that idea that McCain was a more reasonable Republican was much more commonplace - he even hosted SNL at least once.

    I'm not sure how that's supposed to be redeeming, given they let Donald Trump host last month.

    SNL/NBC and all of it's shows have been dead to me for awhile. For a long time I was really hopeful and even enjoyed the NBC comedy lineup. I was like, woah, look at this great new focus on comedy!

    Then it all became samey and never evolved, and continued to be problematic. Early days of 30 Rock, and the office, and parks and rec were great. But they never honed their shows, they just got sloppier and punched down more and more. (And I most likely evolved more as a person as well.)

    To that point, I actually thought this was produced by the 30 Rock production team. I was actually surprised when I found it wasn't, because this is totally something I'd expect them to do.
    posted by mayonnaises at 7:28 AM on December 22, 2015


    Re: conservatives and comedy, I think everyone, including conservatives, ignores the elephant in the comedy club: sitcoms.

    The "liberal" sitcom is a rare bird indeed, and most of the examples I can think of fall more into pre-Reagan blue collar politics, which is to say that they're socially conservative but break with modern Republicanism by being pro-union and pro-worker. I'm thinking of shows here like Roseanne, Grace Under Fire, and Laverne & Shirley. (And Dinosaurs!) Even Ellen stuck to the standard format before and after Ellen's coming out.

    But your average sitcom is a place where traditional social values play out and the status quo is quietly enforced. And then you've got the wildly popular sitcom characters with explicitly conservative values, like Archie Bunker and Al Bundy. They may have been the butt of jokes occasionally, but that just added to their appeal as hard-luck ordinary joes.
    posted by tobascodagama at 7:33 AM on December 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


    But your average sitcom is a place where traditional social values play out and the status quo is quietly enforced. And then you've got the wildly popular sitcom characters with explicitly conservative values, like Archie Bunker...They may have been the butt of jokes occasionally, but that just added to their appeal as hard-luck ordinary joes.

    Have you ever actually seen All in the Family? It wasn't a celebration of Archie's conservative views, the entire point of the show was that he was a relic stuck in the past struggling to adapt to changing times. Unless you're objecting to the very inclusion of conservative characters at all.
    posted by Sangermaine at 7:37 AM on December 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


    Yeah, I wonder what Norman Lear thinks about 30 Rock.
    posted by bluefly at 7:40 AM on December 22, 2015


    That was... bland.

    Back in the day it wasn't actually Tina Fey who had the idea of her impersonating Palin; it was something everyone kept bringing up because of their physical resemblance, and so she decided to practice Palin's schtick a bit and it took off. Palin, being shallow as an oleic acid spill, has apparently never forgiven her.

    Fey's spot-on parody was arguably the nail in the coffin that killed Palin's VP chances. There are no doubt still people who years later think believe Palin herself said "I can see Russia from my house!"

    That said, Palin blames everyone else for her failures. Katie Couric had it in for her. The media was against her. Etc., etc. She's notoriously thin-skinned and defensive, and prefers to dig in rather than let things go.
    posted by zarq at 7:57 AM on December 22, 2015


    Or hey, alternatively, should we exclude all the visual arts and media from confronting one of the major racist tropes of the 20th century?
    Was Bamboozled not enough for you?
    posted by pxe2000 at 8:00 AM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


    HL Mencken's humor was essentially conservative. He could even make punching down funny.

    your example is a well-known antisemite? really?
    posted by poffin boffin at 8:16 AM on December 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


    i can't believe you made me read this with my own eyes
    posted by poffin boffin at 8:16 AM on December 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


    your example is a well-known antisemite? really?

    The fact that he's been dead for 70 years and we're still here is amusing, though.
    posted by zarq at 8:20 AM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


    yes this calls for babka
    posted by poffin boffin at 8:21 AM on December 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


    > Have you seen a Judd Apatow movie? Those are always well reviewed as being super funny, and they are usually very conservative in their portrayal of relationships and morals.

    My wife and I just watched Trainwreck, and while it had its moments (LeBron James!) it was basically an old-fashioned morality tale with funny swears.
    posted by The Card Cheat at 8:24 AM on December 22, 2015


    I'm thinking of shows here like Roseanne

    I'm not sure where you got the idea that Roseanne was socially conservative. It was a show that included outspoken feminists, positive portrayals of same-sex relationships (during a time social conservatives were calling HIV/AIDS "the gay plague," no less), and a storyline about making end-of-life decisions for a premature baby. I'd wouldn't call that conservative by today's standards, let alone the late 80s and early 90s.
    posted by zombieflanders at 8:40 AM on December 22, 2015 [11 favorites]


    Yeah, Roseanne was not socially conservative. The show ran a two-episode arc called "Thanksgiving" about whether Roseanne should have an abortion or carry a baby to term.

    It repeatedly and firmly emphasized that the only person who should have control over whether or not a woman has an abortion is the person who is pregnant. She tells her son DJ on the show: "No man has any right to tell any woman what she should do in a situation like this."
    posted by zarq at 8:49 AM on December 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


    Have you ever actually seen All in the Family? It wasn't a celebration of Archie's conservative views, the entire point of the show was that he was a relic stuck in the past struggling to adapt to changing times.

    Um, well, it may well have started out that way ...... but then as it got long in the tooth and morphed into Archie Bunker's Place it became more "Archie's so great and cuddly and curmudgeonly-lovable and he wasn't really that much of a racist or an asshole in the first place or even if he was he learned his lesson and look, he and Edith adopted a kid, and we're now gonna soft-pedal everything about him that was offensive." So the show itself became a relic, like most sitcoms do.
    posted by blucevalo at 8:59 AM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


    I was really confused about why Palin would have this seriously delayed reaction to Fey, and was even more confused at how just not funny this was, until Palin's new book was mentioned - title and brief synopsis ("political correctness is bad") in full. And then some more stuff about "political correctness". So basically it's a commercial for her new book - I guess?

    The whole shrill chorus from the right lately, railing against social justice, safe spaces, political correctness - it's bizarre. So many strawmen being propped up and shot down, then they all high-five each other for striking back in the name of free speech. I think it's a hyperreaction to any kind of push back against the status quo that has nothing to do with the freedom of others and more to do with shielding themselves from change. A safe space of their own, if you will.
    posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 9:09 AM on December 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


    There was also this from last week's SNL.
    posted by zarq at 9:15 AM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


    OH! Yeah, that may very well be related. Heh.
    posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 9:20 AM on December 22, 2015


    your example is a well-known antisemite? really?

    So were Wagner and Henry Ford. I still like Ride of the Valkyries and Volvos...
    posted by deanc at 9:29 AM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


    Have you seen a Judd Apatow movie? Those are always well reviewed as being super funny, and they are usually very conservative in their portrayal of relationships and morals.

    Judd Apatow? You mean that guy whose early big hit films were about high school kids deciding not to get laid, a man not having sex before marriage, and a woman keeping her pregnancy after a one-night stand instead of aborting? The dude whose cult classic TV show had an episode where the protagonist smokes pot and has a major freak-out? Yeah, I'd call that dude pretty conservative, on at least one level.

    The problem with attempting to make comedy out of politics is, you're dealing with issues that, for many people, are either life-and-death, or at least misery-and-happiness. It's hard to make light of that unless you're deliberately, intentionally taking a stance, but doing that tends to move towards the realm of satire, which isn't the kind of pleasant forget-everything fare that "comedy" usually implies. Take, for instance, Four Lions, or In The Loop. Both hilarious, both biting, both somewhat uncomfortable to watch. Veep, by the guy that made In The Loop, is an enjoyable sitcom, but it steers clear of the more blatant political points to satirize political process instead. (That's by design, mind you; Veep is still a very excellent show.)

    Television is still-harder, because most TV is static and unchanging—season 1 and season 7 are essentially the same thing. That creates a status quo that's hard to fight against, and since comedies don't function well when you despise the characters within it, anybody intended to be a lampoon of a particular kind of person or worldview tends to transmute into heartwarming and lovable over time.

    The clearest instance of that, for me, is the difference between the British Office, in which boss David Brent is a genuinely repulsive person with disgusting attitudes, and which was only 14 episodes long, and the American Office, which saw a succession of "antagonists" gradually become adorable and lovable. One is a critique of middle-class living and working, and the other is... not really much of anything.

    On the flip side, comedies that try and change over time run into the problem of finding ways to keep being funny. Parks and Recreation—not coincidentally run by the same person who ran The [US] Office, and who is additionally accused of being partly why The Simpsons lost its spark—had a marvelously delightful run of seasons in which Leslie Knope went from incompetent and awful to being hypercompetent and delightful. Then it stalled for about three seasons in a row, because it couldn't figure out what to let Leslie do without making her such an impulsive and shortsighted person that she became a kind of grotesque again. Meanwhile, Ron Swanson, the government-hating libertarian, went from total crank to Awesome American Icon, because they couldn't find things for him to do without escalating his tendencies to the point of near-superherodom.

    One way to get around this is by making shorter television shows, such as the dearly-missed Enlightened. Another way is to make a show without protagonists, one that lampoons everybody on it and allows the comedy to consist of Marx Brothers-style anarchy in which idiots collide over and over again. But that's got its perils too. Seinfeld went that route, but Seinfeld was either apolitical or actively detrimental to our culture, depending on your mood. The Simpsons had an incredible run and was remarkably cutting, but burnt itself out as per that essay I linked to above. Arrested Development is brilliant and delves into political situations frequently, but its wealthy characters are too privileged to really deal with the consequences of their actions—they're constantly sheltered from the damage they inflict upon others. (It was also frequently racist and transphobic, as well as homophobic if you're not willing to give it the benefit of the doubt; I think the first three seasons are about the best television's ever been, but its fourth season reeeeally made its insensitivity apparent.)

    South Park is... let's not talk about South Park.

    I think the most satisfying, and most surprisingly politically-astute, sitcom I've encountered is It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, which I'm reasonably certain still comes across as an absurd declaration to people who haven't seen a lot of the show. Emily Nussbaum wrote a great essay about it, which was what got me into it in the first place; the show apes the amorality of your Seinfelds and South Parks, but is a lot more alert than it lets on. It's almost astounding, I think, to watch a show involve itself time and again with taboo subjects, and unerringly avoid being crappy about it. Its scene about "the implication" is one of the darkest jokes I've ever seen a sitcom make, and it's perfectly clear about who its real target is.

    The key for me is that Sunny is aware of its characters as part of their surrounding culture. They're lower-class, especially compared to characters in most other sitcoms—Liz Lemon, Jerry Seinfeld, or the Bluths are all sheltered from the world outside their tiny bubbles, and thus are free to avoid really engaging with the political structure of their environments. The Gang, meanwhile, is poor but greedy, constantly seeking to mirror "successes" they see without understanding the lies they've been sold. It's almost like a Mythbusters aimed at the American Dream. They are all awful people, and thus their failures serve as both the comedy and the reset button; the status quo is one of heartlessness and self-serving ambition, which means you can like/enjoy the characters without ever once rooting for them to succeed. Ten seasons in, it's still absurdly sharp. I'm fascinated by that as much as I am by the show.

    I think that liberal comedy is possible, and perhaps more possible than it sometimes seems. But I don't think that 30 Rock and kin really make the grade, no matter what Wesley Morris says. The conservativism in comedy that maxsparber mentions stems, I think, from the hideous comic belief that Tina Fey herself espouses, which is that funny is apolitical, and that making people laugh matters more than what people believe. Which... I mean, it's one thing to appreciate Riefenstahl, and another thing to be Riefenstahl. You can appreciate the technique of things and care about those things and still have a moral compass, you know?

    Stand-up comics like Stewart Lee show that you can be very, very political while still being funny. It just takes... I dunno... caring about these things, I guess. Which most comedians don't seem to. I don't think it's a surprise that so much comedy is about relatively well-off people dealing with their relatively well-off problems—that's comics writing what they know. Even "progressive" comedic writers like Lena Dunham or Louis CK have serious issues with race and misogyny, and as soon as they're accused of a thing they switch from "speaking out about important political issues" to "it's funny, you know it's funny, come on can't you take a joke?"

    We should aim higher than that as a culture, I feel. It's not that high of a bar.
    posted by rorgy at 9:47 AM on December 22, 2015 [11 favorites]


    Sitting here a few miles from Ford WorldHQ trying to figure out if the Volvo comment was a deliberate malapropism. (Altho, channeling my inner Fey, as CarsThatSoundLikeLadyParts go, there isn’t much better than Volvo.)
    posted by NorthernLite at 10:19 AM on December 22, 2015


    So were Wagner and Henry Ford. I still like Ride of the Valkyries and Volvos...

    "Look at the field. Do you see that fence? Look how well it's built! I built that fence stone by blessed stone, with my own two hands. But do they call me 'McGregor the Fence Builder?' No! And you see that bridge over there? I built that, took me two months! Through rain and sleet and scorching weather. But do they call me 'McGregor the Bridge Builder?" No! Do you see that pier out there that stretches out as far as the eye can see? I built that pier with the sweat off my back. I nailed it board by board. But do they call me 'McGregor the Pier Builder?' Noooooo!"

    The old guy looks around nervously to make sure no one is listening. He then leans in and mutters:

    "But you fuck ONE lousy sheep...."
    posted by zarq at 10:22 AM on December 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


    HL Mencken's humor was essentially conservative. He could even make punching down funny.

    your example is a well-known antisemite? really?


    Wait, if we’re talking about examples of funny conservatives I don’t think one of the criteria is "a good person that I agree with".
    posted by bongo_x at 10:25 AM on December 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


    Sitting here a few miles from Ford WorldHQ trying to figure out if the Volvo comment was a deliberate malapropism

    Volvo is owned by Ford. I don't actually like Ford-branded cars so much, so I had to reach for something.
    posted by deanc at 10:27 AM on December 22, 2015


    I try to keep an open mind, to take into account my own biases. But lately I do find myself feeling there’s a certain humorlessness and rigidity out there, and not just from capital C conservatives. (Who aren't funny because A) they mock Downward, and B) cannot self-deprecate. There, that settles that.)

    I’m more TeamPoehler than TeamFey, but admire a lot of what TF has brought to the table. 30Rock was not warm and fuzzy, feel-good; there was a sharp edge. But a slam on those certain bits as being racist I think misses the point. The Jon Hamm thing, part of an episode looking back on old TV shows, was a satire of the truly racist Amos and Andy.

    (And notice how I keep completely ignoring the original subject of the post, the half-wit, half-term guv?)

    (And I think Volvo is now owned by a Chinese co., which I’d try to make some kind of joke about but I’d probably be accused of racism ...)
    posted by NorthernLite at 11:06 AM on December 22, 2015


    Ford sold Volvo to Geely in 2010.
    posted by The World Famous at 11:23 AM on December 22, 2015


    South Park is... let's not talk about South Park.

    rorgy, you can't leave me hanging like this.

    Some seriously solid deconstruction going on and you leave out the one I desperately want to hear your thoughts on. Seriously, you hit some notes that I've been thinking about in respect to television comedy for a long, long time (especially the aspect of "shorter shows," as in writing a whole story with a beginning, middle, and end, instead of attempting to write the show into infinity only to leave people hanging when it inevitably gets cancelled.). Please don't leave me hanging, for real

    Also:

    I think the first three seasons are about the best television's ever been, but its fourth season reeeeally made its insensitivity apparent.

    I was super excited about the fourth season featuring Maria Bamford, especially because I don't think there's enough real talk about mental illness in comedy, and Bamford has been so good at dealing with such a difficult subject (that she herself experiences) in her standup. Her character in season 4 ended up being used and abused by Tobias in a way that made one of my favorite characters (Tobias) suddenly become something sinister that made me flat out angry while watching the show. It was incredibly insensitive and a huge aspect of why I haven't given the fourth season a second thought since.
    posted by deadaluspark at 11:33 AM on December 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


    Having read Fey's Bossypants and Poehler's Yes Please, I can see distinctions between the two that also kinda explain how they compliment each other. Fey's book was acerbic, sharp, cynical, very often very funny, but also a bit defensive and not shy about taking digs at other women. Poehler's book, by contrast, was ridiculously open - she poured her heart out, leaning more towards this kind of warm empathy rather than reaching for easy jokes - decidedly feminist and sympathetic. I can see how these two balance each other out when they work together.
    posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 11:36 AM on December 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


    deadaluspark: The Tobias arc of season 4 is one of the two major reasons I can't rewatch it, the other one being the "George Bluth slowly becomes more effeminate" spiral into hideous misogyny and transphobia. I made the mistake of watching the season with my at-the-time roommate and his trans boyfriend, and... yeesh. Never again.

    (What's interesting to me there is that seasons 1-3 had plot arcs that were just as offensive, if not more so. So much racism! So many broad stereotypes! But the editing and pacing is so insanely quick that, no matter how awful one joke is, it's gone in half a second and you're left appreciating the technical virtuosity—most of the time. Again, the glaring exception for me was Maeby telling Steve Holt that Lindsay was her father, which felt incredibly mean-spirited. Even the killer Steve Holt double entendres leave me feeling somewhat uncomfortable.)

    South Park is... kind of a shame. I used to rewatch the episodes I could tolerate endlessly, until it hit a point where I was just too uncomfortable with it as a show to keep watching. Some of the politics are reprehensible.

    If there's anything to be gleaned from SP, it's that parable-style comedy only works to the extent that it picks its targets very, very carefully. Even then, it's not going to stop being somewhat formulaic, because parables hew to more rigid formulas than other kinds of storytelling by their nature. Past a point, you can watch a scene from a random episode, and, within a couple lines, know exactly who Matt and Trey's "target" was for the scene, what Matt and Trey's personal outlook was, and why they were making the comic exaggerations that they were making. Past a point, any kind of absurdist exaggeration looks like any other; EmpressCallipygos made one of my favorite MeFi comments about precisely that, way back in the day.

    Really, though, it's more just a matter of political reprehensibility. Jokes about Hillary Clinton having a vagina aren't ever gonna be funny to me, unless they're done with a seriously skillful restraint. (Stewart Lee has a standup special that revolves entirely around a repetition of the phrase "I vomited into the gaping asshole of Christ", but that's also a special about religious censorship of another project he was working on, and Lee is so impressively respectful of Christ as a loving, gentle person that the entire thing becomes a gauntlet thrown at intolerant Christians rather than a mockery of their not-even-remotely-oppressed religious icon. Stewart Lee gets to do these things. Matt and Trey don't.)

    I think a wonderful counterpoint to South Park is the also-cancelled-well-before-its-time Moral Orel, which—funnily enough—starred one of the co-stars of 30 Rock! Orel (also the only TV show in history to have Charlie Kaufman on its writing staff *stops making digressions*) was definitely, like South Park, a parable comedy, in that it starred an adorable young fundamentalist Christian boy who listened to his hypocritical father use "lessons" from the Bible to control his behavior, enthusiastically committed to those lessons, and wound up doing far more terrible things than he was doing in the first place because of them. Not quite the South Park formula, but close.

    However, Moral Orel was using those parables to skirt around/distract viewers from the deeper story in question, which was of Orel's parents' dissolving marriage, and of the townspeople's misery in general. By the end of its second season, it had basically stopped functioning as a comedy, and its third season was a sweeping, serial epic about the people in this town dealing with their own private fundamentalism-related unhappiness. The plan, I read, was to tell the story of Orel losing his faith, then rediscovering Christianity on a more profound, wholesome level, but the show was canceled after its third season, partly (I suspect) because Adult Swim was no longer getting the comedy it was paying for.

    To me, that's great television; I don't mind that it's not easily-digestible sitcom-comedy material. But I also get why that's not the sort of thing people want to sit down to after a long day's work. (The creator of Moral Orel was involved in another sitcom, Community, that was notoriously bad at being interesting to viewers that weren't its hardcore fans.) Likewise, Adult Swim has become one of the all-time best sponsors of interesting, unusual comedy, some of which I'd say does some interesting things with political commentary, but that's getting so far away from the rest of the discussion that I'm gonna STFU and go back to editing my Venture Bros essay. One day.
    posted by rorgy at 1:04 PM on December 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


    Moral Orel is one of my secret favorites that no one else appreciates. Probably because they didn't grow up watching Davey & Goliath nor did they grow up going to a private Christian school which put them into positions of asking a lot of questions similar to Orels. Maybe or maybe not, but for whatever reason, while it started off goofy, the third season is probably one of my favorite seasons of any show ever.

    That show just hit really hard home for me. While it had Scott Adsit in it, I kind of always felt like it wouldn't have been anything had it not been for Dino Stamatopoulos, who was the brainchild behind the series. (Scott Adsit and Dino recently were reunited in a great sketch on With Bob and David.)

    While I generally agree with your assessments about South Park, I can't lie that I still keep watching just because I'm pretty floored that Matt & Trey seem to regularly have their finger on the pulse of American culture, no matter the year. While they exhibit some pretty terrible politics a lot of the time, they certainly know how to read the issues that people who watch their show care about. When this season ended up being kind of a Blade Runner parody, but with ads, I was just floored because it was completely unexpected but also right on target.
    posted by deadaluspark at 1:18 PM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


    So, I just got finished re-watching Seasons 1-3 of Arrested Development for about the zillionth time, and I'm wondering what people are calling the show out for, re: racism, homophobia. The show is light on actors of color, certainly, but the ones in it aren't treated in stereotypical ways, as far as I can remember. There is a lot of humor about Tobias' sexuality (and GOB's), but I don't think we're supposed to laugh at these characters because they are gay or bi (or whatever Tobias is), but rather we laugh at the way they try to hide behind fake identities that are so obviously flimsy. I do get the complaints about anti-trans humor -- the storyline in Season 4 with George Sr. "transitioning" is really unfortunate and comes off as very insulting to trans folks. However, I think the humor is not so much "Ha ha, look at the tranny!" sort of negative bashing, but more about George Sr. losing his faith in himself and instead of trying to the "Big Bear" daddy of the family, he goes in the opposite direction to try to find some meaning for himself.
    posted by Saxon Kane at 1:24 PM on December 22, 2015


    I mean, we're talking about a show that, in its second season, had the arc I mentioned in which Maeby stops her mother from hitting on her crush by buying her a shirt that reads "Shemale". The George Sr. arc was entirely about "look at how funny it is that an alpha male is turning into a [insert your favorite misogynistic slur here] because he took female hormones".

    The first several seasons of Arrested Development make a lot of Mexican jokes. I mean, a lot. And while Tobias is funny because he doesn't realize he's gay, you get characters like Barry Zuckercorn, who prowls for cross-dressing men at gas stations, or Barry Zuckercorn's flamboyantly gay secretary, whose entire character is "sounds like a stereotypically gay man, and sues Barry so he can have money to redo his kitchen".

    You also get your prison rape jokes, your "prison makes men gay" jokes... I could go on. Seriously, it's astonishing how effectively Arrested Development avoids criticism; they get away with some blatantly ugly stuff (I love Rita's arc, but holy hell is it insulting to... people like Rita) through the sheer audacity of their comic timing. Which is why the fourth season, which turned sight gags into extended scenes, makes it all the more apparent how many problems the show has got. Its India segments are among the most grotesque things I've seen a show do, and they do not by any means make it a joke on the Bluths.
    posted by rorgy at 2:05 PM on December 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


    I know they say revenge is a dish best served cold, but after seven years this might have freezer burn.
    posted by kirkaracha at 2:12 PM on December 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


    In an older thread about Quentin Tarantino, I theorized that as long as Samuel Jackson (and maybe the RZA) gave a thumbs up and the movies make money, he probably feels like he has the all-clear to do whatever material he's doing with race. Now Samuel London. Now Jackson is a multimillionaire in his late sixties so his current perspective is certainly not universal, but from a lazy Hollywood perspective, this probably counts as Tarantino doing his due dilligence and checking his privilege.

    Blazing Saddles got a pass on a lot of material just for having Richard Pryor as a writer, even though it would come out later that he was only really interested in writing parts for the white oaf Mongo.

    I'm assuming that whenTina a Fey's show is doing intentionally-incendiary racial material and she's got actors Tracy Morgan and Keith Powell and Sherri Shepard backing words written by Donald Glover and Hannibal Burress, she probably feels she's in the clear. It doesn't mean she is, or the jokes are, but if she thinks her and her staff have agonized over the script that she doesn't have to explain it later, that's her prerogative.

    While the show wasn't revolutionary and was a lot about "it's hard to be an successful white woman who cares", it did have a long running poly, kinky, queer, gender-nonconforming relationship between Jane Krakowski and Will Forte that did a better job of showing "our relationship isn't exactly the same as a straight hetero vanilla relationship all the time, although occasionally can overlap and give that appearance", even if it was with two of the show's broadest characters, which is rare as hell. It had a lot of moments, like Tracy and Jenny arguing over whether it was hard to be a (famous successful) woman or (famous sucfessful) black man in America when the (not-famous, so-unsucessful-they-had-to-deal-with-this-shit) human resources mediator blow a fuse and argue, "do either of you know what it's like to be an overweight transgender in this country?"
    posted by elr at 2:14 PM on December 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


    Yes, the "Shemale" shirt episode is pretty bad too, admitted.

    I always took the Mexican jokes not to be jokes about Mexicans (although there's some jabs at Mexican telenovelas), but jokes about how oblivious and unsympathetic most of the Bluths are -- "She's not THAT Mexican, Mom, she's MY Mexican! And she's Colombian or something."

    As far as its treatment of sexuality, I never got the impression that anyone was being targeted as humorous because of their sexuality, but rather their personalities (which include their sexual orientations) drive them to ridiculous circumstances, largely because they are unable to admit to themselves (and others) who they are and what they really feel.
    posted by Saxon Kane at 2:16 PM on December 22, 2015


    I always took the Mexican jokes not to be jokes about Mexicans (although there's some jabs at Mexican telenovelas), but jokes about how oblivious and unsympathetic most of the Bluths are -- "She's not THAT Mexican, Mom, she's MY Mexican! And she's Colombian or something."

    Yeah, I took it to be a characteristic of their stupidity. After all, Lucille and Gob aren't really admirable people anyone would want to identify with. I guess I took it as unlikable and ridiculous and despicable people being aNd saying unlikable and ridiculous and despicable things.
    posted by discopolo at 2:49 PM on December 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


    Totally! But there are jokes where the joke is "look at how desperate Mexicans are for money" or "look at these Mexicans faking a death by using a piñata for the body". Those aren't "the Bluths grossly caricaturize Mexicans", they're "Arrested Development grossly caricaturizes Mexicans".
    posted by rorgy at 4:19 PM on December 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


    Yeah, I see what you're getting at, like in Season 2 (is it?) when they actually go to Mexico, it's pretty badly stereotyped. I want to try to write that off as a meta-joke that's self-deprecating about the show's quality -- there are a number of moments when they make cracks about the writing, the budget, etc. -- so maybe that's like them joking about how they're lazily reusing stereotypes... but that's not too satisfying. Minus points to you, Mitch Hurwitz and crew.
    posted by Saxon Kane at 4:25 PM on December 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


    Stand-up comics like Stewart Lee yt show that you can be very, very political while still being funny. It just takes... I dunno... caring about these things, I guess.

    I think also, tremendous skill. Stewart Lee's work today is the result of several decades of consistent and conscious development of his craft, which had to be in place in order to serve the scope he can now handily address. I'm not sure his earliest stuff was as ambitious. Louis CK (who I agree can be problematic at times), same thing, pretty sure he did a few rounds with some dafter stuff before Louie could come into being.

    I think it's hard, because to some degree or other, comedians have to work with stereotypes, that's sort of the raw material they start with, & rely on for recognition, especially given the economy required of jokes (if they're doing "jokes"). The degree to which they reassert stereotypes for the sake of a laugh (arguably the reason they're doing comedy vs. writing polemic novels) vs. subvert them for a larger political goal, probably a question of skill, taste, and temperament, yeah (re Fey vs. Poehler). And of course, point of view.
    posted by cotton dress sock at 5:41 PM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


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