Satire

Brilliant

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You're looking at a preview of the cover of The New Yorker, which has done some fabulous work lately satirizing the idea of Trump in stark terms and with vicious abandon.

If you want to understand what all the fuss is about, look to the arts. Everything is being cut, everything is under siege, and the only thing keeping a lot of people sane is knowing that there are like-minded humans out there who are creating things, writing things, and reflecting back the unreality of modern life right now. It's an insane time, but the satire is pretty fucking good, if you don't mind my saying it.

There's no pretense in this work of being "tongue in cheek" or of simply making fun of someone powerful. This cover shows a bloated, hapless Trump raining destruction down on our institutions. His soft, padded ass is the most prominent thing on display here, and this depiction goes to the heart of what matters about insulting a dictator. You take his most ridiculous feature and you blow it up. You make it indistinguishable from anything else.

When we can look back at this era with some perspective, these are the images that will stand out. They are searing and truthful in a time when the truth can't even get through the door.

 

 

Can VEEP Still be a Relief in Weary Times?

It used to be fun to watch VEEP because you just knew that the real thing wasn't as awful or as cynical as what you were seeing on television.

Now? 

Holy mother of God, it's like a version of reality we all wish we were living. The real thing is so much more awful, so much more venal that it is impossible to overstate just how horrible things have become.

Can a show that shows us a funny way of looking into the political and social lives of selfish people survive in an era when the real thing is more of a farce than what's written as fiction? Well, if they have been working their asses off, sure. It's entirely possible for art to transcend reality if people have put in the effort. This is a show where people have been doing that so why not?

Comedy Central Fired the Wrong Guy

Larry Wilmore's The Nightly Show was never supposed to be as huge as The Colbert Report. To expect that would be unfair since much of the staff went with Stephen Colbert to the Late Show. Wilmore was an important voice for people who we don't hear from enough in the culture. He did everything the right way and there is nothing to criticize him for. No matter how underwhelming his numbers, he did not deserve to be fired before Trevor Noah:

Comedy Central announced Monday it is canceling Larry Wilmore’s The Nightly Show, and the last episode will air on Thursday. Comedy Central President Kent Alterman said the show has not been resonating with the network’s audience. “Even though we’ve given it a year and a half, we’ve been hoping against hope that it would start to click with our audience, but it hasn’t happened and we haven’t seen evidence of it happening,” Alterman said. Wilmore recently headlined the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, where he was roundly criticized for using the n-word. Rory Albanese, a comedian who works on the show, tweeted Monday morning: “I’m very proud to have been a part of a show that has been funny, diverse & extremely necessary.”

Noah is the one who doesn't "resonate" with viewers. Why is he being given a pass?

When was the last time anything on the Daily Show was worth blogging about? For me, there has been a glaring omission from the political discussion ever since Jon Stewart stepped down. At least Wilmore understood American politics.

You Can't Make Fun of Reagan Anymore?

Sounds like bullshit to me, man:

Actor Will Ferrell has backed out of a movie that would have made light of President Ronald Reagan‘s battle with Alzheimer’s after the premise received condemnation.

“The REAGAN script is one of a number of scripts that had been submitted to Will Ferrell which he had considered,” Ferrell’s agenttold The New York Post. “While it is by no means a ‘Alzheimer’s comedy’ as has been suggested, Mr. Ferrell is not pursuing this project.”

According to a report from Variety, Ferrell would have played Reaganat the beginning of his second term, when the fictional version of Reagan would develop dementia. A White House intern would then be charged with convincing the former actor that he was playing the role of the president for a film.

 If Hillary had Alzheimer's, all we'd see on Fox are Family Guy jokes where she sets the house on fire and tries to gay marry herself to the piano. The new rule is that you can't make fun of Reagan anymore? That's just bullshit.

I realize people want to be sensitive to the terrible disease of Alzheimer's, but that should not begin to dictate what you can and can't satirize for a larger purpose. If there's one discussion this country should have had in the 1980s, it should have centered around whether or not Reagan was too old and whether or not his public displays of confusion should have led someone to make the difficult choice of having him resign from office.

There are far too many people who are still walking around today who should have had the moral courage to do what was best for the country and have Reagan resign or not run for re-election in 1984. Those would have been the same people who had a helluva time laughing about people who were dying of AIDS. They had no moral compass. They advanced their own agendas because they were able to take advantage of a man suffering from dementia. Any piece of art that highlights this complete and utter failure of decency and compassion should wake people up to the fact that we should never, ever go back down that road again.

Go watch Robin Williams make fun of him and then tell me he's off limits.

Yeah, by all means. Let's not revisit a scenario where a president's enablers allowed him to hold onto the nuclear codes when they knew damned full and well he was suffering from dementia. That would cut a little too close to the bone for the people responsible for failing to do their duty to their country, wouldn't it?

Satire should never apologize for being right.

Put an End to the Daily Show Already

Really, really remarkable:

This is an election year in which a racist billionaire and a democratic socialist, both prone to rants, are somehow viable candidates for their respective parties’ nominations. This is exactly the kind of news cycle that makes for great political satire. Comedy Central’s The Daily Show With Trevor Noah should be having a season for the ages. So why isn’t it? How did this program go from being one of the most vital things on television to being a pleasant also-ran? Slate’s TV criticWilla Paskin has been pondering this state of events, and she delivers her verdict in an editorial called “Why Are Americans Ignoring Trevor Noah?” As that title indicates, Paskin lays the blame for The Daily Show’s slide into irrelevance at the feet of the show’s current host, Trevor Noah, who has perhaps overcompensated in his efforts to distinguish himself from his cranky, deeply committed predecessor, Jon Stewart. According to Paskin, Stewart “turned himself gray trying to rain sanity, silliness, and outrage on the hypocrisy, mendacity, and idiocy that is our political discourse.”
But Noah is a different kind of comedian and a different kind of host, and under his leadership, The Daily Show has been aiming for young male viewers who are not particularly well informed or even that concerned about current politics. Paskin argues that the affable, breezy Noah is not capable of the kind of sharp political satire currently being produced by more experienced TV hosts like Larry Wilmore. Here, she unfavorably compares The Daily Show’s funny but disposable take on the Flint, Michigan water crisis to The Nightly Show’s more cutting commentary on the same events. To be fair, Paskin admits that Noah is still learning the ropes: “The four months Noah has been in charge of The Daily Showis nothing.” But the article does express some real concern that the show has become neutered at the worst possible time. “You still may laugh,” Paskin writes, “but an inessential Daily Show is a real loss.”

At some point, we're going to find ourselves in Springtime and the Daily Show will continue to be completely irrelevant to the political discussion in the United States of America. An executive at Comedy Central will snap his or her fingers and come to the realization that they picked a good guy to follow Jon Stewart. They just didn't pick the right guy.

This summer, someone will hand Stewart a big bag of money. Come back for the election, they'll say. Will he take the bag of money and slide back into the chair while they look for a real replacement? I have no idea. But if they want to make The Daily Show relevant again, they'll have to bring back Stewart so that he can restore the show to some semblance of watchable again, and they'll have to find the right host to take over permanently. If they don't find that person, and, really, it should have been Samantha Bee, then just end the thing already. Comedy Central screwed up, big time.

Trevor Noah was the right pick in every sense of the word, except one. He had no idea what makes the Daily Show essential to American political discourse.

Art and Social Conscience

This is a bit of a pipe dream:
When the world is convulsed by a financial disaster, it seems only right that the arts should engage with it. Just to continue with its own concerns, shut away in its little world of galleries and concert halls would seem indecent, while millions are being thrown out of work or onto the street.

History offers an inspiring example of how art can help heal the social wounds brought on by a financial crisis. After the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed, the arts in America took on a new tone, epitomised in the career of Aaron Copland. He foreswore the nose-thumbing modernism of his youth and set about creating a ruggedly populist language, epitomised in such works as the Fanfare for the Common Man (later incorporated into the 3rd Symphony) and those wonderful ballets such as Billy the Kid.

Like the Depression-era artists such as Ben Shahn and playwrights such as Clifford Odets, Copland knew that to be politically effective, art has to speak in terms its audience will understand. In the Thirties, artists themselves often suffered from the same poverty as the Okie farmers and unemployed factory workers depicted in their art. That's why it has such a stirring sense of conviction; it was born out of social solidarity.

You would think that because our ability to exchange information has improved dramatically since the 1930s that the art of today would be more relevant in terms of commentary. It isn't, precisely because the technology and the context is too easy to ignore and misunderstand.

I think thinks were more straightforward in previous eras. There is always subtext, and sly humor, and satire has been ever-present, but the impact of Depression-era art is greater because you could hit people over the head with scenes of pathos and desperation and not be readily accused of manipulation and dishonesty.

What you see above is a distressed piece of euro currency. So, the artist doesn't like money or the design of the money? This is supposed to be a unique and biting piece of social commentary? Really? He colored on and chopped up a large denomination bill. Hey, that's original.

Snark, in other words, has undermined everything in the art world. These images of pathos you're displaying--are you for real or are you being ironic or are you juxtaposing things in order to make people laugh? That's why the impact is greatly reduced.