Jonah Goldberg

I'd held off writing about "Air America," the new liberal radio talk show network, out of a mixture of contempt and prudence. But Frankenfreude compels me to share my views. For those of you unaware of this rare condition, Frankenfreude, a subset of schadenfreude, is a state of restrained glee at the failures or setbacks of Al Franken.

Here's what set off my latest bout of FF. Air America is off-air in Chicago and L.A. because they bounced a check after only two weeks of broadcasting, according to Arthur Liu, the owner of Multicultural Radio Broadcasting Inc., who was essentially renting airtime to Air America. The folks at Air America deny this, claiming that Mr. Liu is lying and - I quote - a "Liu-ser."

I am delighted to hear that making fun of Asian last names is now socially acceptable according to liberals. I am grateful that Mr. Liu's last name isn't Dong or Wang. Who knows what those joke-meisters might have come up with then.

The network's Web site issued a jokey press-release via their "Sludge Report." Get it? After calling Matt Drudge a "habitual liar" etc., Air America downplayed its troubles in Chicago and L.A., the second and third largest radio markets in America: "What they don't tell you is that we're still on in Portland. And we OWN Portland. And let's not forget Riverside and Plattsburgh. And New York. And streaming on the internet. And XM. And Sirius."

This reminds me of the scene in "This is Spinal Tap" when the band gets the news that its Boston gig has been canceled. The manager, played by Tony Hendra, deadpans, "I wouldn't worry about it though, it's not a big college town.

"Oh come on," Air America's (dozen or so) fans are probably saying, "these guys are joking around. Don't take them so seriously."

But that's one my biggest problems with Franken's schtick. He's schizophrenic; unwilling to decide whether he's a comedian or political commentator. This is different from being a funny commentator or a political comedian. Franken wants to be both, which often makes him fail at both because he's too serious to be one and not funny enough to be the other.

Franken is entirely about attacking conservatives, which is fine to a point. But ultimately, he - like this silly radio network, "The Sludge Report," etc. - is all about being derivative and unoriginal.

I cannot recall ever hearing Franken talk about what he believes, other than the righteousness and hilarity of his insults about his "fat," "insane," "stupid" opponents. His radio show is even called "The O'Franken Factor," which promises a "zero-spin zone" - an unclever play on Bill O'Reilly's eminently mockable act.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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