Let us now praise Ellen DeGeneres.
Last week, Ellen announced she’d go back to work on her show even though her comedy writers remain on strike. “I support [the writers] and hope that they get everything they’re asking for,” Ellen told her audience. But “I want to do everything I can to make your trip enjoyable and give you a show.”
That’s the right approach. The writers are on strike, and that’s their right. But their cause isn’t Ellen’s problem, and there’s no reason she should put her show on hold to satisfy their demands.
Unfortunately other hosts, including Jay Leno and David Letterman, did put their shows in reruns rather than cross the writers’ picket lines. Leno even turned up with doughnuts and disingenuous praise. “I’ve been working with these people for 20 years,” Leno said. “Without them, I’m not funny.” Oh, don’t give yourself so much credit, Jay. You’re not that funny with them.
Let’s face it: Late night comedy isn’t difficult. Even an infrequent viewer has surely noticed that most hosts simply come out and say, “George W. Bush is dumb. He’s dumb. I mean really DUMB.” At this point the host slips in a couple of “Dick Cheney is sneaky” zingers, heads for the desk and begins interviewing Hollywood airheads.
In fact, scripted late-night monologues aren’t as funny as plenty of the stuff that liberals pass off as factual and serious these days.
Look no further than a recent issue of The Atlantic magazine. Its editors asked scores of people to define “The American Idea.” Princeton University’s Joyce Carol Oates quoted D.H. Lawrence, who was unimpressed with the United States during a visit 80-some years ago. “If I say anything that displeases them, the free mob will lynch me,” Lawrence had observed. Apparently, we’re lucky he was able to survive long enough to criticize us.
That’s how Oates sees our country today. “If not ‘lynch’ precisely, how about ‘crucify in the media’? The ravenous tabloid press and ever-more-ominously ‘mainstream’ media have become the lynch mob of contemporary times,” she writes, “pummeling those guilty of the most innocuous blunders with the ferocity with which they pummel outright criminals.”Wow. Oates thinks being insulted in the media is like being killed? That’s so sad it’s funny.
Speaking of “crucify in the media,” is there anyone who’s been crucified more often than George W. Bush? Late night comedians aren’t the only ones who’ve raked him over the coals. The mainstream media is ever-ready to pile on as well. The passport fiasco offers a perfect template. Something goes wrong (it purportedly takes weeks to get a passport) and the press features innumerable front-page stories about the systemic breakdown (all Bush’s fault, naturally). Swiftly, the problem is fixed (recently, my wife and I separately renewed our passports, and had the new documents within just a few weeks) and, somehow, that’s never mentioned.
Also laughable is the idea, apparently widespread on the left, that conservatives are trying to do them in (lynch them?). A few weeks ago, Air America radio host Randi Rhodes was off the air because of some sort of injury. Randi’s friends were quick to blame conservatives. “Is this an attempt by the right-wing hate machine to silence one of our own?” Air America’s Jon Elliot asked on the air. “Are they afraid that we’re winning? Are they trying to silence, to intimidate us?” Liberal blogs were also quick to assume this was, as one put it, “a politically-motivated assault.”
These are serious times, but even with the writers on strike, real-life comedy is all around us. In my neighborhood recently, green “Impeach Him” signs have been springing up like mushrooms after a heavy rain. Well, your party controls congress. Go for it. Should be good for some laughs, anyway.
In the meantime, a representative from the Writers Guild of America is criticizing Ellen. “She should stand by her writers and help us bring this strike to a conclusion. We owe that to the thousands of people who are caught in the middle,” he said. Well, the writers can conclude their strike any time they please. Their keyboards are standing by, so to speak.
If they’re smart, the TV writers will hurry back and start banging out their predictable quips again. Otherwise, their jobs may disappear, since the true statements of liberals seem much funnier than anything ever scripted.