Nothing is sacred at Comedy Central. The cable channel has perfected the formula of mocking positively everything, to find the final frontier of offensiveness and smash it to bits. And it's been able to reach the top of its field in spite of -- or, better put, because of -- the network's sheer lack of comedic talent.
In real comedy one can parody without mockery, rib without insults. Take the giants of this genre. Don Rickles made himself a household name "ridiculing" blacks, women, and anyone else who came across his cross-hairs on the Dean Martin roasts, and no one laughed harder than his victims, like Mohammed Ali, who then returned the volleys with equal panache, reducing the irascible Rickles to giggles. Jackie Mason continues to be one of the funniest men in America; his one-man show, "The World According To Me," in which he takes a pointer to a map of the world and for an hour assaults virtually every country, race and culture on the face of the earth, remains in my book one of the most clever comedic works I have ever watched. When he was finished with Ireland, he'd left this Irish-Catholic in tears with laughter.
That kind of comedy requires talent. What Comedy Central delivers -- the greatest possible insults for laughs -- is neither comedic nor demanding of talent. In the tradition of Howard Stern, the goal is only to shock, and at the center of this non-principle principle is a beautiful escape hatch from critics. As one Amazon.com reviewer argued, "the beauty of it is that it is offensive to so many different people you cannot possibly get angry." Mock everyone and everything, and you will somehow be immune from harm. They are most definitely immune from shame.
There is a network formula here -- shock equals publicity equals ratings -- and Comedy Central thrives on it. The all-mocking channel gained another wave of publicity when soul singer Isaac Hayes withdrew from his voice-over role as "Chef" in the vile cartoon "South Park," announcing that he could not abide its mockery of the one religion some in Hollywood will defend -- Scientology. This was just too much for one of the show's co-creators, Matt Stone, who quickly attacked the singer's sudden departure: "He has no problem -- and he's cashed plenty of checks -- with our show making fun of Christians."
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