This morning there was this huge Google Adsense ad spread across the top of my blog, right under the header (this one), for something called “Chummy Tees.”
There was no picture, so, wondering what was being promoted on my blog, I Googled the company (I didn’t dare click on the ad, as Google forbids me to do that). And I saw, among the rather plain, gray tee shirts being promoted, one that said “SURELY NOT EVERYONE WAS KUNG FU FIGHTING.”
And that cracked me up. I might be meaningless to people too young to remember the song, but I loved it. A perfect low-key joke for, say, an editor — someone who has spent most of his adult life keeping reporters from making extravagant statements that can’t be backed up. (Which is another way of saying you might not find it funny, but I do.)
I wasn’t going to shell out $23.95 for the shirt, of course. I’m neither crazy nor made of money. But… maybe I’d like to put it on my Amazon list. So I go to Amazon — I didn’t have to hunt for it because I already had a pop-up window from Amazon begging me to go there for such shirts — and it seems that while everyone may not be kung fu fighting, everyone seems to make a sure with that line (although all these used “everybody” instead of “everyone,” which is truer to the song).
And it got me to thinking, and not for the first time, that in the Internet age, we are no longer allowed to delude ourselves into thinking we have had an original thought. You think of something clever — something that in eras past you would have congratulated yourself for coming up with, convinced that you were quite the wag — and then for whatever reason you Google it, and you find out an army of people got there before you.
And this is frustrating. It fosters fatalism — why even TRY to come up with something good?, you ask yourself.
Yesterday on a podcast I was listening to, there was a discussion of the many ways that the internet casts a pall on our lives, bringing ills previously unimagined, and making us dread the future.
Add this to the list. It takes any small attempt to be original, and slams it to the ground.
And it makes you doubt there was ever anything such as originality. We may have thought we were clever, but that’s because we didn’t have the Web to set us straight. Each time you patted yourself on the back for a happy thought back in, say, 1975, there were a million other people out there having the same thought and thinking they were clever, too.
And we were all happier…
Yes, it’s time for Dave Barry’s annual look back at the year, which as one would expect in the era of Trump, both depressing and hilarious.
And occasionally educational. I, for one, didn’t even remember knowing that back in July, an asteroid with the potential destructive force of a large nuclear warhead passed uncomfortably close to the Earth. How close? Like, five times as close as the Moon.
Which is not, you know, “funny ha-ha.” But most of the piece is just fun stuff like:
Meanwhile as the 2020 U.S. presidential race heats up, several hundred Democratic presidential contenders gather in Miami for the first major debates. The front-runner is Joe Biden, but he suffers a setback when Sen. Kamala Harris, in what is clearly a planned attack, points out that Biden is wearing his pants backward. Biden’s staff hastily releases a statement explaining that the former vice president “thought it was Friday.” Also getting a lot of attention is Marianne Williamson, who qualifies for the debates based on the number of campaign donations she received from other dimensions.
And this passage shows that Dave still makes masterful use of his signature punchline, “I am not making this up:
In domestic politics, Virginia is rocked by a series of scandals involving elected Democratic state officials, originating with the publication of a 1984 photo from Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical-school yearbook showing a man in blackface. Northam initially says he is “deeply sorry” for appearing in the photo; the next day, however, he calls a news conference to declare that he does not believe he is in the photo, although he does recall one time that he was in blackface, that being when he entered a dance contest dressed as Michael Jackson and did the moonwalk. Northam further asserts that he won the contest, and at the request of a reporter appears to be on the verge of demonstrating to the press corps that he can still moonwalk, only to be stopped by his wife. We are not making any of this up.
As pressure builds on Northam to resign, Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax prepares to succeed him, only to become embroiled in a scandal of his own when he is accused of sexual assault. The third person in line is Attorney General Mark Herring, who, several days after calling on Northam to resign for wearing blackface, issues a statement admitting that as a college student he wore blackface when he went to a party as rapper Kurtis Blow. We are still not making this up.
OK, so in some other parts he exaggerates a tad (such as when he says a Trump rally in Orlando was “attended by 246 million people, as confirmed by Fox News”). But the funniest parts really do seem to be, as always, what he has to say about stuff that is, sadly, true.
But something good came out of that scolding of yours truly. It reminded me of a piece I read back in October, and meant to share here, and forgot. But it occurs to me that today is the perfect day to share it and the warning it contains.
It was an oped piece in The Washington Post by Joel Stein, author of In Defense of Elitism: Why I’m Better Than You and You Are Better Than Someone Who Didn’t Buy This Book.
I actually probably should buy that book, if it’s anywhere near as funny as the column. An excerpt:
… and so forth. That passage made me feel very smug, since I have never seen a John Wick movie, either. (Are they particularly stupid? I need you to tell me, because I wouldn’t know!)
The piece is full of good bits that tempt me to push the envelope just a mite on Fair Use. Here’s another one:
Populism is the demand for pure democracy. Its enemy is the republic, which removes the dangerous edges of democracy by protecting human rights from the majority’s will. Our founders gave us a republic. If they had wanted a direct democracy, the Constitution would be one page. Majorities don’t like republics. Majorities were sold a democratic system where they get whatever they want, right away. When they don’t get what they want, they get frustrated and turn to tyranny, which gets things done faster. Plato predicted this in “The Republic.” It’s the job of the elitist to explain this to people without mentioning Plato’s “The Republic.”…
Anyway, the serious point in all this hilarity is that the best approach to getting rid of Trump is to beat him next year at the polls, “Especially if we do it with a big enough majority so that we don’t have to explain the electoral college.”
But read the whole thing. It’s fun. And when you’re living in such depressing times — when a president is about to get the impeachment he so richly deserves, and the Senate is waiting to reject that impeachment in the most insultingly dismissive way they can think of — it’s nice if we can, even for just a moment, laugh about it…
I loved it. It was accompanied by some text. Having read it, and followed the links, I’ve concluded that as just as these mobs have always been with us, they’re probably not going away any time soon — mainly because the current culprits are immune to irony.
Even President Obama’s gentle attempt to speak to them as a grownup should got the mob howling at him. As the subhed of one piece taking exception to his plea says, “Old, powerful people often seem to be more upset by online criticism than they are by injustice.”
Speaking of Barack Obama. Yeah.
I’m guessing that if cancel culturists see this video, when a character says, “Our anger makes us qualified,” or “I‘m a peasant, and I’m offended,” they don’t get the joke. In fact, they may even get… offended.
Anyway, to add to the fun, here’s the original:
Recently, it has seemed as though I can’t watch a vid on YouTube without first having to see at least part of a trailer for the “Downton Abbey” movie.
At least, it was that way for awhile.
Anyway, today something made me remember my favorite “Downton Abbey” trailer of all time — the one SNL did imagining how the show would be promoted if it appeared on the now-defunct Spike TV. A sample from the voiceover:
It’s about a bunch of honkeys who live in a church — or maybe a museum — either way, they don’t got WiFi…. There’s a MILF and a dad, and they’ve got three daughters named ‘Hot,’ ‘Way Hot’ and…’The Other One.’ And they all hang out with this old lady that looks like a chicken.”
Yeah, it’s lowbrow humor, and not overly respectful of the best character of all, the Dowager Countess. But it cracked me up at the time. And back then, I actually watched “Downton”… (I stopped doing so when they killed off a main character in a way that I thought was particularly emotionally manipulative.)
Scene inside a Tucson City Council Meeting. Officials voted to put a "Sanctuary City" measure on the November ballot pic.twitter.com/mEh4PNj0Wo
— Nick VinZant (@NickVinZant) August 7, 2019
If only we could all be like this guy, we’d all be living in happier times.
He seems like… an earlier version of ourselves. A Regular Guy from pre-2016. He’s never seen or heard this kind of nonsense before, so the stupidity of it all just cracks him up. Or maybe it’s the woman tugging at her cutoffs while she makes her earnest statement. Or the guy next to her who apparently prepared a handmade sign for the occasion, but when the time comes can’t be bothered to put down his supersized sugary drink.
In any case, we need to be as philosophical as Alex Kack…
First, this is just plain hilarious, so enjoy.
Second, it’s relevant. As brilliant as Tina Fey’s impersonation of Sarah Palin was, it’s easy to forget how good a job Jason Sudeikis did with Joe Biden. And the Joe Biden that he was making fun of in 2008 is the same Joe Biden we see today.
It seems particularly relevant in light of Joe’s statements last week about working with everyone who will agree to help (even segregationists). What he was trying to say (which I understood perfectly, as did John Lewis and Jim Clyburn, although some people claim to be confused) last week was a lot like what Sudeikis’ Biden is saying about John McCain. I mean that in the sense of Joe’s ability to happily and cheerfully “hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”
Or in the sense of his willingness to disagree vehemently with someone, but still regard him as a fellow human.
It’s a message that’s counterintuitive for people who believe that left is left and right is right and never the twain shall (or should) meet. And that’s where the humor comes from in these lines:
Well, I would do what I have done my whole career, whether it’s been dealing with violence against women or putting 100,000 police officers in the streets. I would reach across the aisle. Like I’ve done with so many members of the other party. Members like John McCain. Because, look, I LOVE John McCain. He is one of my dearest friends. But, at the same time, he’s also dangerously unbalanced. I mean, let’s be frank, John McCain — and again, this is a man I would take a bullet for — is bad at his job and is mentally unstable. As my mother would say, “God love him, but he’s a raging maniac…” and a dear, dear friend….
In order to be hilarious, it’s exaggerated. But it also expresses something about who Joe Biden is. And America knows Joe Biden is this way, which is one of the reasons he’s been leading in the polls.
But whether you love or hate the way he is, whether you think it makes him a better candidate or disqualifies him, I thought you might get a laugh out of this look back.
We knew all along that it would be extremely weird to see the strangest president in our nation’s history by far using his first live address from the Oval Office to try to convince us there’s a crisis on our border, and that it’s worth shutting down the government in order to implement his own preferred remedy for said nonexistent crisis.
Especially since we’d been conditioned all our lives to expect such addresses to be about something, you know, important. Like escalating the war in Vietnam, or killing bin Laden.
But there was an added weirdness bonus to the evening — Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi doing a Siamese twins impersonation standing behind one small podium at the same time.
It was predicted that we’ll definitely see this odd visual on SNL this week, and there were some good shots on social media as well:
Meeting my wife’s parents for the first time. https://t.co/IWbRUy993B
— Nick Wilock (@nickwilock) January 9, 2019
Your mother and I love you very much but you’re just going to have to stay in jail overnight. pic.twitter.com/gVir3sjAqO
— Brian J. White (@talkwordy) January 9, 2019
tonight was a waste of time for everyone but especially me since i just spent ten minutes doing this pic.twitter.com/vDPEHBeXjX
— Ashley Feinberg (@ashleyfeinberg) January 9, 2019
You know, we took a lot of criticism during the campaign for not separating James and Mandy more, but sheesh — at least they took turns at the microphone on their joint appearances….
Bryan, who is off somewhere in foreign parts today (California, I think), brings to my attention this piece from The Atlantic. Its headline is “How Late-Night Comedy Fueled the Rise of Trump,” with the subhed, “Sneering hosts have alienated conservatives and made liberals smug.”
Or at least, they were smug until Nov. 8.
The piece isn’t bad, although it gets sidetracked here and there, and reading it didn’t make me a whole lot smarter than I was after reading the hed and subhed — with which I agreed from the start.
Not that I didn’t learn anything new. For instance, I heard of this Samantha Bee person, and her salacious-sounding show “Full Frontal.” (Remember, folks, I don’t watch TV beyond Netflix, Amazon Prime and PBS.)
When I read the headline, I was picturing Jon Stewart — who, although he’s been replaced by Trevor Noah, still seems the perfect example to illustrate the point.
Here’s probably the best bit in the piece. It comes after the author has established, in fairness, that Donald J. Trump is any comedian’s dream, and richly deserves every bit of mockery aimed at him and more (which is obviously true):
So Trump has it coming, and so do the minions pouring out of his clown car, with their lies and their gleeful disregard for what Nick Carraway called “the fundamental decencies.” But somewhere along the way, the hosts of the late-night shows decided that they had carte blanche to insult not just the people within this administration, but also the ordinary citizens who support Trump, and even those who merely identify as conservatives. In March, Samantha Bee’s show issued a formal apology to a young man who had attended the Conservative Political Action Conference and whom the show had blasted for having “Nazi hair.” As it turned out, the young man was suffering from Stage 4 brain cancer—which a moment’s research on the producers’ part would have revealed: He had tweeted about his frightening diagnosis days before the conference. As part of its apology, the show contributed $1,000 to the GoFundMe campaign that is raising money for his medical expenses, so now we know the price of a cancer joke.
It was hardly the first time Full Frontal had gone, guns blazing, after the sick or the meek. During the campaign, Bee dispatched a correspondent to go shoot fish in a barrel at something called the Western Conservative Summit, which the reporter described as “an annual Denver gathering popular with hard-right Christian conservatives.” He interviewed an earnest young boy who talked about going to church on Sundays and Bible study on Wednesdays, and about his hope to start a group called Children for Trump. For this, the boy—who spoke with the unguarded openness of a child who has assumed goodwill on the part of an adult—was described as “Jerry Falwell in blond, larval form.” Trump and Bee are on different sides politically, but culturally they are drinking from the same cup, one filled with the poisonous nectar of reality TV and its baseless values, which have now moved to the very center of our national discourse. Trump and Bee share a penchant for verbal cruelty and a willingness to mock the defenseless. Both consider self-restraint, once the hallmark of the admirable, to be for chumps….
She returns to that incident at the end:
… I’ve also thought a good deal about the boy on Samantha Bee’s program. I thought about the moment her producer approached the child’s mother to sign a release so that the woman’s young son could be humiliated on television. Was it a satisfying moment, or was it accompanied by a small glint of recognition that embarrassing children is a crappy way to make a living? I thought about the boy waiting eagerly to see himself on television, feeling a surge of pride that he’d talked about church and Bible study. And I thought about the moment when he realized that it had all been a trick—that the grown-up who had seemed so nice had only wanted to hurt him.
My God, I thought. What have we become?
But there’s something to her thesis beyond citing pain inflicted upon victims with whom even the most indoctrinated liberals might sympathize. She touches on the broader point when she says “the tone of these shows [is] one imbued with the conviction that they and their fans are intellectually and morally superior to those who espouse any of the beliefs of the political right.”
And then she wonders whether that tone is largely responsible for Trump supporters’ dismissal of “the media,” by which she means in this context HBO, Comedy Central, TBS, ABC, CBS, and NBC — the very networks that present the comedy shows. The point being that folks who feel so insulted by the late-night comedy tend to associate it with the news programming on the same networks, and dismiss it all.
You say “media” to me, and I think of the news that I consume — from leading print outlets to NPR. Others don’t see it that way, I’ve long been forced to realize. They think of television, and sometimes — perhaps most of the time — they have trouble distinguishing between the “news” presented by celebrities one hour from the entertainment presented by other celebrities in a different time slot.
Which is understandable, if regrettable…
You’ve probably already seen this gag — other people I showed it to this morning had — but for those who missed it, here’s a funny for you.
And no, it’s not supposed to be serious commentary or anything; it’s just a funny picture that was suggested by Trump’s body language in the photo, combined with Angela Merkel’s expression, which looks like a teacher addressing a wayward pupil. So lighten up, Francis.
I don’t know who did it. It was brought to my attention by this Tweet, from someone who didn’t know who had originated it, either…
There’s this obnoxious kid named Bruce Gibney — I haven’t found his age anywhere, but there’s a picture of him at right, so I think you’ll see my characterization is pretty much spot-on, especially the “obnoxious” part — who has written this book (and good for him! what a big-boy thing to do!) that just really rips into my generation.
It’s called A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America. He goes on and on about it apparently, else it would not be a book.
My wife says she heard him being interviewed on the radio, and was struck by how much he seems to really, really hate us.
Oh, yeah? Well, take a look at this, ya little punk. Here’s what we think of you…
Since Friday night, my wife and I have been semi-bingeing (I think we’ve seen five episodes so far) on “The Crown,” the new series from Netflix.
I find it comforting, a warm embrace from our Mother Country, just when we were thoroughly traumatized and needed one.
(Digression: As you know, I’ve been listening to the music from “Hamilton” lately, and have enjoyed the songs sung by “King George” in the play… although I think there’s a good bit of Rebel propaganda in that version. I prefer the clip above from HBO’s “John Adams,” which is pretty much word-for-word accurate, according to David McCullough’s biography. You can easily see that while His Majesty didn’t want us to go, he was quite willing to be a sport about it, after the fact.)
Anyway, here’s the message. It has apparently been passed around on the Web so much that no one knows who originated it. So, you know, it could actually be from Elizabeth Windsor:
A MESSAGE FROM THE QUEEN
To the citizens of the United States of America from Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
In light of your failure to nominate competent candidates for President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately. (You should look up ‘revocation’ in the Oxford English Dictionary.)
Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (except North Dakota, which she does not fancy).
Your new Prime Minister, Theresa May, will appoint a Governor for America without the need for further elections.
Congress and the Senate will be disbanded.
A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed.
To aid in the transition to a British Crown dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:
1. The letter ‘U’ will be reinstated in words such as ‘colour,’ ‘favour,’ ‘labour’ and ‘neighbour.’ Likewise, you will learn to spell ‘doughnut’ without skipping half the letters, and the suffix ‘-ize’ will be replaced by the suffix ‘-ise.’
Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. (look up ‘vocabulary’).
2. Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as ”like’ and ‘you know’ is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. There is no such thing as U.S. English. We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take into account the reinstated letter ‘u” and the elimination of ‘-ize.’
3. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.
4. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you’re not quite ready to be independent. Guns should only be used for shooting grouse. If you can’t sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist, then you’re not ready to shoot grouse.
5. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. Although a permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.
6. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left side with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables. Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.
7. The former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been calling gasoline) of roughly $10/US gallon. Get used to it.
8. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with catsup, but with vinegar.
9. The cold, tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer, and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager. South African beer is also acceptable, as they are pound for pound the greatest sporting nation on earth and it can only be due to the beer. They are also part of the British Commonwealth – see what it did for them. American brands will be referred to as Near-Frozen Gnat’s Urine, so that all can be sold without risk of further confusion.
10. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters. Watching Andie Macdowell attempt English dialect in Four Weddings and a Funeral was an experience akin to having one’s ears removed with a cheese grater.
11. You will cease playing American football. There is only one kind of proper football; you call it soccer. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American football, but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like a bunch of nancies).
12. Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the World Series for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 2.1% of you are aware there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. You will learn cricket, and we will let you face the South Africans first to take the sting out of their deliveries.
13.. You must tell us who killed JFK. It’s been driving us mad.
14. An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty’s Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due (backdated to 1776).
15. Daily Tea Time begins promptly at 4 p.m. with proper cups, with saucers, and never mugs, with high quality biscuits (cookies) and cakes; plus strawberries (with cream) when in season.
God Save the Queen!
PS: Only share this with friends who have a good sense of humour (NOT humor)!
Personally, I can go along with all of the conditions except 3, 6 and 12. If Her Majesty insists on those points, I’m afraid we’ll have to keep muddling on without her….
A friend shared this with me. It’s pretty funny.
I don’t think it was peer-reviewed. How could it be? Who is great enough to presume to be Trump’s peer?
You can go look at the whole thing, but if you don’t, the above gives you a pretty good idea. It says the same things over and over. Just like Trump…
OK, twice in one week I’m succumbing to the temptation to share stuff sent out on mass emails.
And yet again, as with the dog picture, it’s from Samuel Tenenbaum, who forwarded it with the message, “Have a good laugh!”
Some of you may think the best thing on TV was a football game, but I beg to differ.
The above and the below beat that by a mile.
As wonderful as good satire (below) can be, in this year it’s hard for deliberate comedy to match real life (above) on the campaign trail…
This pretty much cracked me up.
One of Donald Trump’s more recent boasts was that “Somebody said I’m the Ernest Hemingway of 140 characters.”
So The Washington Post had some fun imagining what that would look like were it to be true:
Yes, the Tweets are fake. But funny. And, as the Post boasts, classy…