Tagged: John Oliver

John Ostrander: When He’s Wrong…

I’m a dyed in the wool pinko commie leftie and these Trump days are not great for me. So I find watching the various commentators like Samantha Bee, John Oliver, Seth Meyers, Trevor Noah and especially Stephen Colbert to be therapeutic.

Into this mix, I can usually add Bill Maher on his weekly HBO show, Real Time. Maher is very attack orientated and each week he winds up his hour with a rant on a given topic., Usually, I find him really funny and incisive but Maher does have his blind spots. He is anti-religion – Islam in particular. He thinks the majority of American voters to be morons and says so, which I find to be a broad generalization, counter-productive and not true.

His past two shows featured rants that gored a pair of my oxen. One was on space exploration, such as terraforming and colonizing Mars, and the other was a screed against super-hero movies.

Maher argued (ranted) that we should not be exploring space or even think of colonizing Mars so long as we have so many problems here at home. Neal DeGrasse Tyson rebutted Bill the following week when he pointed out that any technology that could terraform Mars could also terraform the Earth and restore what has been ravaged. I would add that a lot of our technological advances are a result of space exploration. That computer you carry in your pocket? That’s a result of the need to reduce the size of computers while making them faster and stronger to be of use to astronauts in space. Sorry, Bill, you didn’t think this through.

Then on his most recent show, Maher was quite disdainful about superhero movies in general.

He said there were too many superhero shows on TV and too many superhero movies at the cineplex and blamed the genre for the rise of Donald Trump. He said they “promote the mindset that we are not masters of our own destiny and the best we can do is sit back and wait for Star-Lord and a f*cking raccoon to sweep in and save our sorry asses. Forget hard work, government institutions, diplomacy, investments – we just need a hero to rise, so we put out the Bat Signal for one man who can step in and solve all of our problems.”

Really? Super-hero movies and TV are directly responsible for the presidency of Donald Trump? Right – and they also promote juvenile delinquency, Batman and Robin are really gay (not that that’s a bad thing) and Wonder Woman is a lesbian (not that that’s a bad thing). Wait, no. That was Dr. Frederic Wertham in his book Seduction of the Innocent back in the 1950s. He was every bit as full of shit back then as you are today, Bill.

And, besides, everybody these days knows that Wonder Woman is bisexual.

I have no idea where Maher pulled this notion of superheroes and Trump from. Maybe his ass. I doubt that he’s seen many if any of the films or TV shows that he’s knocking. He’s taken an attitude and applied his standard disdain, snark, and superior attitude to it. Just not much thought.

Why does this bother me? It’s unlikely that Maher’s words will cause the opening weekend grosses for Wonder Woman to drop. However, this is a topic I know something about and if Maher can get that so wrong, can I trust him on topics that I don’t know much about?

Maybe I’ve outgrown him.

Think I’ll go watch a good superhero movie and let it rot my brain. It’s been a long day.

Dennis O’Neil: Comics. The Other Kind.

Now as I was young and fuzzy, mired in what we were assured was a university education, just beginning to pull my head out of my… Okay, look – no need for vulgarity here. Let’s leave it at this: I was pulling my head from the sand and becoming aware of kinds of culture other than what I was being fed to us by radio and movies (that Bob Hope! What a stitch!) and that alien entity in the living room we called “the teevee” or “the television” or simply “the set.”

(No need for further elaboration: we had only two sets, the one in the living room and the one Mom kept tucked away somewhere and that we saw only on the most festive of occasions, such as Christmas and the like, Oh, and full disclosure; I’m not sure we ever really had a holiday meal on the family set. Mostly we did our holidaying at relatives’ places.)

Did I mention that Bob Hope was also on the (living room) set where, I guess, he continued stitching? Or that I was once in a one-act play with his daughter Linda, but never spoke to her? (Could that be why I didn’t get a Christmas card from the Hopes?)

But this isn’t about Bob and his show-biz peers – Bing Crosby, Eddie Cantor, Edgar Bergen, Jimmy Durante, those guys, oldish performers many of whom began in vaudeville. No, this is about the newish laugh-makers: Woody Allen, Mike Nichols and Elaine May, the Smothers Brothers, Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl… closer to Mark Twain than Bozo the Clown. And Dick Gregory. Especially Dick Gregory. (Mother-in-law jokes not welcome.) Their humor was well-observed, hip, topical, and sometimes about pain. You wouldn’t catch their acts on the broadcast networks, but you could enjoy them, sometimes, at live shows of various kinds.

Then the world’s change accelerated, humor along with everything else, and humor and news intermingled and, lo and behold, on Sunday nights we can now see the newest kind of new comedian, the comedian-activist. The program is called Last Week Tonight and it stars a Brit named John Oliver. Oliver delivers a brief news item – about 10 minutes long – and then a longer piece, loaded with irreverence and disrespect and gags and facts. You may not always get facts from the non-comedic news venues (though some seem to be cozy with “alternate facts.”) But Oliver always delivers the real deal.

This week, he upped his game. After presenting a detailed story concerning certain politicians’ ongoing efforts to revoke the legal protections laws that guarantee internet neutrality, he suggested that we pro-neutrality fight back by communicating with our senators. Then he told us how. Use that internet to contact your senator by visiting this address: www.gofccyoursef.com. The screen will tell you how to proceed from there.

Marifran did it. I did it. Your turn.

Martha Thomases: Not Just Another Word

Gay Pride 9“They hate us for our freedom.” George W. Bush

Like my pal Joe Corallo, I find it impossible to think about anything other than the massacre in Orlando. Comic books and other pop culture ephemera seem trivial in the face of such unfettered and violent hatred.

That said, we need our entertainment more than ever. We need joy and pleasure in our lives. That’s what makes us who we are. That’s why life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is in the Constitution. As John Oliver said at the opening of his HBO show on Sunday, about why the Pulse nightclub was a target, “Latin night at a gay club in the theme park capital of the world is the ultimate symbol of what is wonderful about America.”

Gay Pride 1It’s too easy to blame the attack on radical Islamic terrorism when so many radical Christians share so many of the same sentiments.

It is my opinion that most of the problems of modern American society come from our Puritanical mistrust of pleasure. We can’t allow anyone to enjoy sex or drugs or food or music or at without some suffering to offer in atonement.

It’s time we denounced these beliefs as un-American.

It’s time we minded our own business.

If a woman wants to wear a burqa or a hijab, or a thong and Spanx, she should go ahead and wear whatever she likes. I’m not going to wear any combination of those things, but any other woman’s choices have no effect on me.

gay pride 3If you want to be vegan or kosher or halal or gluten-free, that’s great. My food choices occasionally fit into some of those categories, too. Mostly, you should eat what makes you feel good in your body and what delights your taste buds. I would only caution you, as the Jewish mother that I am, to pay attention because as you age, you might have to adapt.

If you want to read sexist, racist, transphobic, homophobic, militaristic and/or xenophobic comic books, go right ahead. I might judge you, but I won’t stop you. Perhaps we can have a conversation about why you like them and I don’t, and we might each learn something useful about humanity.

It’s time we celebrate all those things that make consenting adults happy. This includes things that make us feel warm and fuzzy, like community service, but also things that delight the pleasure centers of our brains, like comic books, movies and television programs. And rock’n’roll music, hip hop, dancing and anything else consenting adults choose to enjoy.

Most of our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents and their ancestors came to this country because it offered them the opportunities they couldn’t find in their homelands. They came because the Constitution promised them separation of church and state. Freed slaves and their children were promised the same. It’s true that our governments have sometimes tried to renege on these promises, but that’s because it is a government by the people, and people make mistakes.

What makes us great as Americans is our inclusiveness. We don’t have to agree with each other about everything.

We are only required to pursue happiness.

Mike Gold: Life Goes On

Mike Gold: Life Goes On

Truth Justice and the American Way

There’s a lot to comment about in the comics and popular culture community this week – Rebirth, Civil War II, who screwed over whom but did they really… the usual stuff that promotes our fannish wrath and strokes our inner-nine-year-old. But I don’t feel like it. Sure, I could fake it but you’d see through that in a heartbeat.

In this space yesterday, Joe Corallo eloquently and soulfully expressed his views regarding Sunday morning’s Pulse massacre in Orlando Florida. Joe deftly tied the story in to our comics community, and as a writer and as his editor I applaud his effort. Crom knows I couldn’t top that even if I tried, and there’s absolutely no need to try. So, instead, I’m going to tell you about how a couple of our pop culture icons handled it.

Sunday night, John Oliver attached a two-minute opening to his political comedy news show. Oliver had a problem I wouldn’t wish upon any broadcaster, although most of us have faced lesser versions of it from time to time. Everybody woke up Sunday morning to the news out of from Orlando, and the news junkies among us (ahem) spent the better part of the day watching and listening to the coverage – particularly Brian Williams’ amazing marathon anchoring job at MSNBC. And several million of us pretty much go to bed after watching Oliver’s Last Week Tonight. There are plenty of people who labor in that field; John Oliver’s show was the first one up.

John OliverHe expressed his outrage, to be sure. What he said kinda sorta seemed like an apology for doing the subsequent comedy show, but if you pay attention to what he said you’ll see that was not the case. In fact, he made what I regard as the most gratifying statement I’d heard on the subject: “I will happily embrace a Latin night at a gay club at the theme park capital of the world as the ultimate symbol of what is truly wonderful about America.” Indeed.

Monday, Rolling Stone magazine covered Bob Weir’s comments at Sunday’s Bonnaroo Festival, held in Manchester, Tennessee. The Grateful Dead’s guitarist/vocalist said the anti-LGBTQ rhetoric coming from some prominent members of the Republican party mirrors the language of groups such as ISIS. Weir noted Georgia Rep. Rick W. Allen’s comments from the state legislature, quoting Romans 1:18-32 and Revelations 22:18-19 – the bits about how lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, the transgendered and queers (LGBTQ) are “worthy of death.” Not a steroid-raging young lunatic who had enough cash to buy a Sig Sauer MCX assault rifle, but a member of the state house of representatives presumably elected by the people in his district. You know, a position of honor.

Bob WeirWeir went on to quote Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick quoting Galatians 6:7. “This morning, the lieutenant governor of Texas using Galatians 6:7 to justify his comment regarding the LGBTQ community: ‘Well, they’re reaping what they’ve sown.’

Explain to me again the difference between fundamentalist Muslims and fundamentalist Christians and exactly who we should ban from our nation’s shores in order to protect the security of all Americans.

This latter bit comes from the mouth of Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump, who, after the Sunday morning massacre, doubled down on his position that Muslims should be banned (somehow) from entering this country. Not that such an act would have stopped the Pulse gunman: this asshole was born in America – in fact, he was born in the borough of Queens, New York City, the same place where Donald Trump was born.

How do we put an end to this madness? Well, of course we must speak up and we must speak out. We cannot stand by idly while our elected psychopaths call for the building of new and improved ovens.

More important, as people involved in our popular culture, both as financial supporters and as creators, we must speak out within the framework of our media and back those who do so. It is our obligation as human beings, and it is most certainly our role as Americans.

Do you need proof of that? Okay, friends. Here it is.

Truth. Justice. And the American Way.

John Ostrander: A Very Fond Farewell

Jon Stewart

It was a good show.

Jon Stewart ended his run on The Daily Show last week with an hour-plus long installment. It was a good episode and a good final episode. I’ve seen a few of these things – where a long time reporter or entertainer walks away, of their own volition, from their show. I saw Jack Paar (you kiddies go ahead and Google him or look him up on the Wikipedia) leave his weekly show, walking out through a series of spotlights cast on the floor. I saw beloved newscaster Walter Cronkite sign-off for the last time, telling us, “I’ll be away on assignment, and Dan Rather will be sitting in here for the next few years. Good night.” I saw Johnny Carson, the King of Late Night Television, leave The Tonight Show with his “very heartfelt good night.”

These kind of shows can be difficult to pull off. The episode can be too much, it can be too little, it can be awkward – as parodied brilliantly by Gary Shandling on The Larry Sanders Show. I thought Letterman’s exit from The Late Show was a little flat and Stephen Colbert’s exit from The Colbert Report somewhat over the top, even for him.

Stewart’s final show was entertaining, funny, surprising in places, and human. Basically, it was a very good episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. There were the tropes you expected and wanted to see such as the former “correspondents” coming back for one last gag, usually at Stewart’s expense. I didn’t even know who some of them were, that’s how far back it went.

One of the surprising sequences was the taped appearances of some of the folks Stewart has pilloried over the years, climaxing with Sen. John McCain’s “So long, jackass.” That sounded heartfelt to me. If you’re Jon Stewart and you’ve pissed off these people (and scores more) you’ve done your job.

What was both somewhat surprising and very human was Stewart’s final take to “Camera Three” where he used to give advice to some person or group. This last time it was to us, talking about “bullshit.” Basically, he was telling us how to pick up the slack once he left. His advice boiled down to: “If you smell something, say something.” That’s what he’d been doing, and doing well, during his tenure on The Daily Show. That’s what he was urging us to do.

The show wound up with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performing two songs live in the studio. The second was “Born To Run.” It was both a surprise and fitting – one New Jersey icon saluting another.

And then it was done.

I’m really going to miss Jon Stewart. Yes, his opinions mostly coincide with mine, although not on pizza. His denigration of Chicago-style pizza was a rare blot on his record. I know others prefer Steven Colbert or Bill Maher or John Oliver but Stewart made me laugh more, made me smile more, made me share his anger together at worthy targets. He was intelligent, witty, insightful and he wasn‘t afraid to make fun of himself as well as others. According to tributes I’ve read of him, he was generous to other talents, dedicated, and hard working.

In the end, he was tired. Why else would he leave with the 2016 elections coming up and the GOP offering up so many nice juicy easy-to-hit targets? He left while he was still on his game and I salute him for that.

I expect that, at some point, Jon Stewart will walk out on the public stage again. However, when Johnny Carson retired he said he would return in some format some day. He never did. I worry that Jon Stewart might do the same thing.

I’m sure the heir apparent to the Daily Show hot-seat, Trevor Noah, will do a fine job and I intend to tune in. He won’t replace Stewart; it’ll simply be a new show, Noah’s version of it. That’s how it should be. But he won’t be Stewart. Jon Stewart, over the years, became a friend, one who was articulate and funny and not afraid. You never have so many friends that you can afford to lose even one.

Damn, but I’m going to miss you, Jon Stewart.


John Ostrander: Handicapping the Stewart Sweepstakes

jon stewartThe day after Jon Stewart announced he was leaving The Daily Show, he plaintively asked his audience, “Did I die?” Lots of people are bemoaning the fact that he’s going, myself included. His show has been the counterpoint to the bilge spewed by Faux News and he’s been wonderful at showing the absurdity in politics.

Yes, he and I share very similar viewpoints on most topics and, while I’ve seen him skewer the Left, he’s more likely to skewer the Right and that’s just fine by me. He’s a comedian doing a fake news show; he doesn’t have to be “fair and balanced.” He simply has to have a consistent point of view and express it with wit and humor. However telling the point, he needs to get a laugh. That’s what he does. It’s what he is supposed to do.

However, The Daily Show must go on. Craig Kilbourn sat in the same seat before Stewart and someone else will come after him. The trick for Comedy Central is to bring in someone who won’t alienate the current audience while making the show their own. They have to be the head Jester while at the same time be the straight man (or woman) for the group of loons that are or will be the “reporters” on the show. (How many of the current team will stay after Stewart leaves is beyond my guess.)

Lots of people online have been giving odds on this candidate or that one. Whoever wins the slot will have a tough job. Lots of people will not like whoever comes next because they simply won’t be Stewart. Any changes that are made will be suspect by some because, again, they’re not Stewart. I might become one of those people myself.

Let’s explore for a moment who won’t be replacing Stewart. At one time, it would have been Stephen Colbert but now he’s replacing Letterman. John Oliver replaced Stewart for three months while Stewart was taking a sabbatical and did a good job. However, he’s at HBO with a show of his own and I don’t think contractually he can come back even if he’s so inclined.

Will Comedy Central go with someone who is already on the show? Jason Jones has filled in for Stewart and was, I think, surprisingly successful. Partner him with his wife Samantha Bee and you could have a very interesting format and show. Both of them are fearless and shameless (especially Bee) but I don’t know if either of them are material for the anchor’s chair on a regular basis.

I think it’s very possible Comedy Central will pick someone who has had experience on SNL as the news anchor for Weekend Update. The most interesting name I’ve heard mentioned is Amy Poehler. Her own show, Parks and Recreation, has just wound up and she has the background and chops for the job. I know there’s a lot of pressure to have a woman or a minority take Stewart’s place; there’s no one else on late night who is like that.

Except one. Larry Wilmore who used to be The Daily Show’s “senior black correspondent” has taken over Colbert’s spot following Stewart as the host of The Nightly Show. Yes, he just began his run in January but Stewart isn’t leaving until July or maybe December (it hasn’t been yet determined). Wilmore has shown himself to be sharp, funny, quick witted, and a good interviewer. He’s a good host.

If Wilmore went to the The Daily Show, that leaves a vacancy on The Nightly Show but I think that slot would be easier to fill. Jason Jones and/or Samantha Bee would kill in that position. Or scrap the current show and bring on something else; doing a sports show with the same sensibilities as The Daily Show might work very well.

The longest shot to replace Jon Stewart would be… Jon Stewart. In this scenario, he comes to his senses and changes his mind about leaving. Yeah, I know – not going to happen. A guy can wish, can’t he?


Mindy Newell: Much Ado About Nothing

Saturn GirlI really hate it when I’ve got nothing. Writing the column becomes a war between the empty page and my keyboard, with my brain as no-man’s land. It’s been like this since Friday.

At times like this, when I’m feeling unengaged and disinherited from the comics industry and generally just plain discombobulated, I just want to give it up and throw in the towel, like that weather woman from Alaska who said, “Fuck it, I quit” in the middle of her segment.

Ha. Weather Woman. Here’s how I imagine her open audition for the Legion of Super-Heroes would go:

She walks on stage. She can’t really see into the seats because of the bright lights shining on her, but she knows her judges are out there.

“Hi, I’m Weather Woman. I have control over the –

A voice comes out of the abyss in front of her.

“Woman? How old are you?”

“What business of that is yours?”

“Sorry, club rules specifically state that members must be in their teens.”

“You look on the far side of 25 to me.” That’s a literal stab in the dark. She can’t see a thing. Damn lights.

“Excuse us for a moment.”

“I’ll wait.”

She hears whispers.

“I apologize. I should have said members must be in their teens when they join.”

“There was nothing in the ad that specified age.”

“I’m sorry, Ma’m, but – “

“Ma’m ! I’m not your grandmother.”

“At any rate we’ve already got a Lightning Lad and Lightning Lass. A Sun Boy. A Polar Boy.

Another voice. “We had a Nightwind, but she died.”

First voice. “She doesn’t need to know that.”

Weather Woman’s not going down without a fight. “But you don’t have any one member who can control all the vagaries of weather, the entire climate. Let me demonstrate.”

“That’s not necessary.”

“Listen, your ad specifically stated that you are an equal employment opportunity employer.”

“We are.”

“But I’m not being given an equal opportunity.”

“We’ll get back to you.”

“My lawyer will get back to you.”

Boy, that’s weak. This is what happens when you’ve got nothing.

Did you read Mike’s column about the Joker, a Jewess, Jihadists and a “just joking” Joseph Goebbels-like propaganda video? Did you watch it? Let’s all nominate it for an Oscar.

In related news…

Do you know that the State Department has created its own video as an anti-propaganda propaganda tool to discourage Muslims from joining ISIL? It’s called “Welcome to ISIL-LAND.” It’s a “parody” recruitment video. I’m not making this up. Go watch it. You won’t believe it. I’ll wait.

Okay, you saw it. Does that seem like a parody recruitment video to you? As John Oliver of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” put it, “What the fuck are you doing?”

Which is what you all might be saying right now as you read this.

Well, I told you I got nothing this week.



Tumblr’s Hilarious Net Neutrality Statement!

If you log onto your tumblr dashboard today, you might notice what looks like a bit of a problem.  All the graphics on the page are replaced by those “please wait” spinny things, giving the impression you’re stuck with a slow connection.   But it’s just the latest in a series of events, pranks and publicity stunts designed to make people aware of the looming threat to what’s known as Net Neutrality.

Right now, all Internet data are transmitted at the same speed. You get articles and graphics for this site at the same speed you’d get them for Time.com, Amazon, or ElbowsDeepInAsianGirls.tv (Calm down, Michael Davis, I made that one up… I hope)  But if Net Neutrality is shot down, ISPs will gain the ability to offer data “fast lanes” on the information superhighway to companies, on which their data will sail at great speed to the user, while sites who do not pay such premium will see their sites lag at slower “normal” speeds.

The problem is, we won’t actually see the “fast lane” be any faster, it’ll be more a case of the “normal” lane being throttled. just as, oh, let’s say “certain companies” doing that to sites like Netflix.

The FCC is currently mulling over the idea of making this premium bandwidth an official thing, and tech-savvy Internet users have been doing everything they can to show the average users why this would be a calamity.  John Oliver’s recent monologue on the issue created such a response it actually brought the FCC’s website down.

The tumblr site offers a link to BattleForTheNet.com, which offers users the option to either have an email sent in their name to their congressperson, or will automatically connect you via phone to your representative’s office.  The response on this issue has been strong, but millions people shouting is not always as loud as the sound of wallets opening.

The verbiage on this issue has gotten quite dramatic, and yr. obt. svt. tries to refrain from hyperbole unless I’m sure I can a laugh out of it.  But it is very fair to say that if ISPs gain the right to charge companies for the right to get their data delivered, it will absolutely make it harder to get a new website into the eyes of new viewers, and make creating a new site so much more expensive.  Part of the wonder of the Web is it makes everybody equally capable of building a site that can reach the world, at the same speed as any other.  The loss of Net Neutrality will take that away.

This is quite important.