Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday Random 11

It's one more random than 10!

I have a pretty broad tolerance for taste. I don't revel in tastelessness, but I support the right of people to push boundaries and push buttons, especially when it comes to comedy. However, despite my own disposition toward the humorously profane, I appreciate when comedians are able to be tasteful and show restraint, yet still deliver a direct comedy hit.

This week offered two interesting comedy case studies in taste. The first is the David Letterman/Sarah Palin flap. Earlier this week, when Palin was in New York, Letterman took two jabs at her. First, in a top 10, he said she went to Bloomingdale's to update her "slutty flight attendant look." I have no love for Palin (as I've made pretty clear) and I don't understand how someone can be the future of the GOP when they would like nothing better than to throw America into a nuclear-powered DeLorean and send it back to 1954. However, I had a problem with this joke for a couple reasons. First, "slutty" is a loaded, sexist, cheap shot, especially since it's only leveled at Palin for her looks and the way she dresses. Certainly part of Palin's popularity is her cougar appeal, but it's also refreshing to see a major GOP candidate actually wearing tall leather boots instead of paying $300 to a woman so he can lick her tall leather boots. The second problem is that Palin's look is clearly sexy librarian, and that would have still made the punchline work without being inherently insulting.

The bigger gaffe, though, was Letterman's monologue. He mentioned Palin was at a Yankees game with her daughter, and that Alex Rodriguez knocked her daughter up during the seventh-inning stretch. The wingers pounced on this because it turns out the daughter at the game was Palin's 14-year-old daughter, Willow, not Bristol. They started screaming that Letterman was making jokes about child rape. I personally buy the explanation that Letterman (or, more specifically, Letterman's writers) thought 18-year-old Bristol was there, but even then, it's a cheap gag and one that should be beneath someone who's a pro.

I dislike the idea of dragging the children of politcians into political humor when the kids haven't done anything to warrant it. Bristol Palin's pregnancy certainly is relevant to discussing the failure of abstinence-only education to pull us out of the problem of teen pregnancy, and she's spoken up about how unrealistic those efforts are. That's not really enough to make her fodder for late-night monologues, and I find myself in the unfortunate position of agreeing with the mouthbreathers hyperventilating over this—even if they voted for Palin's running mate and his sense of "humor."

In contrast to Letterman's ham-fisted humor, Steven Colbert has done an amazing job broadcasting The Colbert Report from Iraq. After his performance at the White House Correspondent's Dinner (one of the ballsiest comedic performances ever), I wasn't sure how Colbert would manage to entertain the troops without either unfairly skewering them or dulling his satirical sword. It's one thing to rightfully savage the assholes who used 9/11 to bend American foreign policy over a Middle Eastern oil barrel while using the Constitution for a condom (quick tip: parchment is quite leaky). It's another thing to do the same to the troops who have to bleed and die over there and have no say in where or how they are deployed. At the same time, however, I don't believe in sacrificing your artistic integrity in the name of patriotic pandering. That put Colbert in a bit of a bind. How would he get out of it?

Like a comedy Harry Houdini. In the opening segment from his first show, he managed to be respectful to the audience while also taking aim at the redeployment policies keeping many troops in the combat zone. Later, he did an absolutely brilliant bit on "don't ask. don't tell" showed the lunacy of the policy without seeming preachy or smug. The whole week has been like that: satirical but supportive.

That's why The Colbert Report is not only so funny, but one of the most brilliant shows I've ever seen. He routinely manages to satirize his subjects without insulting them. Regardless of the conservative attempt to claim The Colbert Report as a conservative show (the most ridiculous rebranding effort since "This is not your father's Oldsmobile"), a lot of conservatives enjoy the show, laughing as they lick the pie off their faces. That takes a lot of talent.

1) "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine," The Killers. If you plopped Robert Smith into the middle of the vocal track, you'd think this was a killer lost Cure track. I consider that a good thing.

2) "Have You Fed the Fish," Badly Drawn Boy. I like songs with "sweep" to them. That usually involves some proggy thing that has to take 10 minutes to tell a story about honeydew and caves of ice (not that there's anything wrong with that). This manages to feel a little epic and orchestral in under four minutes.

3) "O Valencia!" The Decemberists. Despite the proggy love, I have to say the Decemberists decent into prog has left me a little cold. I've seen their CD on the shelf, begging me to buy it, tempting me with the aphrodisiac of a concept album, but the stuff I've heard has left me meh, and my experience with Interpol and ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead made me vow to no longer automatically buy new albums from bands just because their previous one kicked ass. This song, however, kicks said ass.

4) "Fall to Pieces," Velvet Revolver. This is the kind of song you pull a lighter out for, except that Scott Weiland would probably grab it to heat up his spoon.

5) "Sure Shot," Beastie Boys. I got mad hits like I was Rod Carew. One of their most infectious songs.

6) "Kiss Kiss Kiss," John Lennon & Yoko Ono. Shit shit shit.

7) "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You," The Monkees. I like watching them more than listening to them.

8) "If Wishes Were Changes," Nanci Griffith. Her voice sounds like the Dixie cousin of Stevie Nicks. One of those late-night roadhouse tunes, played after the alcohol has gone from happy to sad but before it ferments into, "Let's fight."

9) "Streets of Fire," The New Pornographers. I listen to music for moments like when the drums kick in during the middle of this song. It's all sweet strumming harmony, and then BOOM, big fat drum fills drive it out of the park like an HGH-fueled home run derby, only it's all legal and doesn't leave Barry Bonds looking like a giant Mr. Potato Head on Lou Ferrigno's body. Essential.

10) "Eminence Front," The Who. The last great song they ever recorded. This is going to sound incredibly nerdy, but Rock Band has given me a much greater appreciation for Pete Townshend as a guitar player. With all the other elements of The Who fighting for my attention—Moon's entropic drumming, Entwhistle's fat bass, and Daltrey's epic vocals, not to mention Townshend's lyrics—I overlooked just how good the guitar playing was. It's more rhythmic than flashy, but there are all these little chaotic flourishes, like ripped and frayed patches that give a nice pair of jeans a cool sense of street style. It's also obvious that I miss Project Runway more than I thought.

11) "Documented Minor Emotional Breakdown #1," Los Campesinos! One of those bands I like a little more every time I hear them. They remind me of timpano, an Italian dish featured in the movie Big Night. Timpano is this crazy-ass loaf of culinary heaven, a giant baked wheel full of pasta, meat, hard boiled eggs, and all these ingredients that seem overwhelming or incongruous when thrown together. I've been fortunate enough to have it a few times. When you see a slice of it on your plate, it looks like some Frankenstein creation. Yet it is probably the most amazing thing you can put in your mouth, unless you happen to be Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt, in which case it would be the second-best thing. Los Campesinos are like that, with all these ingredients thrown together that somehow work and leave me wanting seconds even after I've already had to unbutton my pants.

Have a great weekend.


Jennifer said...

Awesome list, wonderful opening. All I can add here is a quote from Yoko...

"Mouton! Mouton!"

Have a wonderful weekend, Brando!

fish said...

While I almost agree with you about the Bristol Palin joke, I don't. The major reason is here.
And quotes like this:
"If girls realized the consequences of sex, nobody would be having sex," the teen mom tells PEOPLE. "Trust me"
Not only is this stupidly wrong, but I have to wonder who is really talking here and who set up the People interview. She could be being used as a character in a right-wing passion play. She has stepped directly into the public realm and become an advocate for a certain philosophy. Now maybe she shouldn't have, but she did. To me, this means she is open to mockery, as harsh as that sounds. In contrast, Chelsea Clinton still avoids public commentary, so I think she should be protected.

Plus I took Letterman's joke to be more about how slimy A-Rod is...

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

I agree with Mr. fish. I also agree with Mr. Brando.

Politicians kids should be mostly off-limits. See Rush "Asswipe" Limbaugh and Chelsea Clinton.

But once said politician begins using those kids as a universal shield (see Palin, Sarah) and furthermore, when said kid makes themselves a target (see Palin, Bristol, McCain, Meghan, or Cheney, Liz) then fire the fuck away.

Said that, Letterman's jokes were lame. He DID commit the crime of bad jokery. Perhaps he should be using a certain Blogger as a writer?

And you are definitely correct. It certainly IS the Librarian thing (except for the boots, which are more MILF-Dom).

Also, I love Colbert's Iraq monologues with the driver over his shoulder. Great, subtle visual reference.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Jeez, were you talking MUSIC up there? Who Knew?

For a long time, Eminence Front was the only Who song I had on my iPod. In fact, I amgoing to cut the Roger Clyne and listen to it RIGHT NOW.


capcha has been infiltrated by stealthy LOLCats, apparently.

Snag said...

The Lovely Bride and I saw Nancy Griffith at a small theater. It was a great show and after the alcohol has gone from happy to sad but before it ferments into, "Let's fight" is a perfect description.

Brando said...

Fish, I did think that joke was as much of a swipe at A-Rod as it was Palin. But even if BP said some dumb things, I don't think she deserved that joke. There's a big difference between her and Meghan McCain or Liz Cheney. I don't think BP was seeking the spotlight as much as responding to having it shone on her. If she was saying the kind of stuff the former Miss California was, it'd be different.

ZRM, the Colbert Iraq shows have been utterly amazing. They have buried so many jokes in the show. I noticed the other day that the logo for the show says "Veritasisness". I think he's got the best comedy writing staff in TV with maybe the exception of 30 Rock.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

OK, I disagree with brandorama on Bristol Palin. Although she is only 18 and still finding her way, I feel she sought the spotlight much like her mother does. Her initial interview, with the unsupervised "abstinence is unrealistic" comment seems to support that.

I took the joke as more of a swipe at the Palin family and their self-righteous trashiness; like digby-master says, it's the hypocrisy and lack of empathy for women in similar situations, while it's something that is unacceptable to attack them for because it is their own private life (see Cheney, Mary)

I still don't think Letterman did a very good job at it.

Although I hope, some day, to be a Big Name Architect so I can skate the work in a similar fashion. Cuz you know, this working hard thing is making me a cranky damn zombie.

fish said...

I won't defend the quality of the joke, and it does seem a little weak for him to go after an 18yo, but I still think she has embraced the spotlight recently, so she has to deal with the downsides too...

Bill Stankus said...

Letterman? I was watching Conan. So happy Leno is gone.

Churlita said...

I love running to Eminence Front.

I used to work with a guy who started No Shame Theater here, and he loved to do a very loud shrieking Yoko Ono impersonation while he serenaded me with "Kiss Kiss Kiss". It was funny every single time.

The Uncanny Canadian said...

I mostly agree with everyone about the BP/Letterman joke thing. I do however want to vehemently support The Decemberists and want to make sure that you give all of their albums a proper listen. Personally, I found O Valencia the weakest song on The Crane Wife, and by that, I mean only 8/10. The director's cut video is excellent, though. Crane Wife took me about 5-6 listens before it really fully sunk in. Since then, I adore it almost Picaresquely. New Decemberists is the same cut. On first listen, it seems competent, but a little been there seen that-ish. On further listens it grows in complexity and art. I have vacated both Interpol and AYWKUBTTOD, but continue to hail her majesty, the Decemberists.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Fish agrees with Zombie.

Make a note. Zardoz is postponed.