As I noted recently, comics after Jonathan Winters are off my screen. [Male ones, anyway, I know, if anything, even less about female stand-ups, but don’t have the same specific objections to them.] Nobody’s ever accused me of being humorless, so I don’t feel bad about this outlook at all. What surprises me is how much reinforcement my attitude has gotten over the years. I thought The Sophisticates was a huge indictment of all the stand-up society. When I first moved to Boston in the late ’70s, comedy clubs were undergoing quite the boom. So I went to a show, I don’t remember who. I found the atmosphere relentlessly icky. Making members of the audience uncomfortable and encouraging those who were yukking it up to look down on them was a clear component of the act. It was a divisive collective experience the opposite of what I enjoyed about music performances. The final conclusion I came to is that far too many comedians are like what I consider the utter worst kind of fiction writer — those who create feuds and disasters in their own life to use as raw material.
Aw. c’mon — menace is over the top innit? I donno — when we visited Anaheim recently I thought it had the weirdest company-town vibe imaginable. Felt like you had to wear a Mouseketeer hat to live there. Non-Disney places felt like escape havens. Now it turns out Disney is doing something really, really shitty — banning LA Times critics from advance screenings because the paper is reporting on the freaky conquest of the town by the company. The only pleasure I take from any of this is that the shivery feeling I had out there was based in reality.
UPDATE: the ban is lifted after backlash that any non-arrogant non-bonehead could have seen coming.
If you find a way to dress them up in new terms and spins.
- There’s a way to eat and eat and eat and not get fat.
- Big organizations and institutions can’t be understood by anybody.
- Gender roles are really in the genes and can’t be fundamentally changed, ever.
- The government is hiding some big secret about (pick one): UFOs and aliens; paranormal mind powers; why gun violence really happens.
- Being an asshole isn’t really being an asshole.
In the process of retiring summer wear, now-skinnier me was able to wear the T-shirt I picked up when I covered the first performance of Michael Jackson and the Jacksons’s Victory Tour. Like so much associated with these performers, the shirt itself was a contradiction: beautifully designed and printed, but made of oddly thin, fragile fabric.
(Mine has red sleeves.)
MJ really was the king of pop then. Ten times more alive than even excellent performers on stage, he turned into an enigma the second he walked off. Now I thought how far he had rumbled down and never quite climbed out of the rubble. How it was impossible to have settled feelings about him.
This is a good examination of the whole story, which, to coin a cliche, should be in the dictionary next to “sordid.”
What saddened me most this time, however, is that Michael Jackson has become a King Donald-type symbol.
OF COURSE he was a wicked, guilty monster who bribed his way out of it.
OF COURSE he was an emotionally stunted superstar who showed disgraceful bad judgement and was attacked by evil extortionists because of it.
But either way, on the cross or off the hook, he ain’t gonna be resurrected into the Victory-era life he knew anytime soon.
“America has horrid sclotches of bigotry and oppression in its history — King Donald is more American than you want to admit.” This is of course another “normalizer” notion, but even as a critique of this country it’s lazy and outright evil. “We never live up to our ideals so let’s just wallow in the dark side.” Not unlike claiming that because Germany gave in to Nazis they are Nazis today.
While operations at tabloids have gotten more frantic and data-driven, a lot of their routines are not news to me and I remember how they were a source of astonishment and mild amusement. Headlines could offer timeless example of wiseass/jackass brilliance. And on occasion deathless pop-Surrealism. The astonishment came from the fact that the tabloids relied on impulse purchases at checkout counters. Having one of these printed cooties around the house was beyond my comprehension. And it has got to mean an aging audience these days.
But with a tyrant in charge, the tabloids are enjoying a power grab that no halfway normal person could imagine, let alone desire.
I knew I’d seen Steve Bannon somewhere long ago. I paid an intense but brief session of attention to the Biosphere 2 calamities more than 20 years back because it seemed like some muddled sci-fi story come to life. Biosphere 2 did not have clear, compelling explanations of its mission, and it seemed as much con job as science. Had no clue how common its tone and temperament would become in American culture and politics.