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.
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.
By the time you read this, I will be even more behind.
The Iron Fist series starts on Netflix today. I still have not seen Stranger Things or most of Black Mirror, or A Series of Unfortunate Events. I haven’t finished the most recent seasons of Orange is the New Black or Love. I haven’t seen the new Amy Schumer special, or Trevor Noah’s.
On my DVR is the entire last season of American Horror Story, which is one of my favorite shows. There’s more than half a season of Taboo, which I really like but it’s very dense. The Americans started up again, and I haven’t watched yet. I also have episodes of Ripper Street from, like, two years ago.
Sometimes I even read books that don’t have pictures or conversations. They don’t pile up as much as they used to now that I read so much on my Kindle, but, I assure you, the virtual stack is quite tall. As is the physical stack of the books I want to read that aren’t available digitally.
I’m behind on movies, too. When I think about going, I realize I could stay home and catch up on last year’s films with pay-per-view for less money. And then I realize I could watch some of the stuff on the DVR for free.
All of this is on top of the things that all of us have to do — meal preparation, sleep, work — and things we might not need to do, but should, like exercise and bill paying and laundry. Toss in as well my responsibilities as a citizen, like calling my representatives regularly to vote against the latest GOP rollback of civil rights, or sorting my recycling.
This would be okay if I was a normal person. I would accept that there are only 24 hours in a day, and only seven days in a week, and that there are only so many things a person can do within that amount of time. There is such a thing as speed reading, but I don’t enjoy it. I like to bathe in a story, let myself soak it all in. For the same reason, I don’t want to watch my television sped up.
Instead, I choose to feel guilty. We are living in a Golden Age, at least as far as media choices are concerned. I have a responsibility to keep up. I am supposed to enjoy it all and talk about it so that I can contribute to an environment in which there are so many choices. By doing so, I’ll help writers and artists (including actors and directors and film crews) get paid.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to spend an hour playing fetch with my cat.
(Note: As I write this, there are still three more shows. I’m going to assume that, if something newsworthy happens on-air between my deadline and publication, my editor will let me revise this accordingly.)
The Nightly Show replaced The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert’s Comedy Central show a few months, before Trevor Noah took over The Daily Show from Jon Stewart. Both Wilmore and Noah had been featured correspondents on The Daily Show, as had Colbert a decade earlier.
I love Jon Stewart. He is the man my mother wanted me to marry (even if he’s a decade younger than I am). I also love Stephen Colbert. He’s really, really smart and he can sing. I was sad when they were no longer hosting their own fake-news shows.
It was gutsy of Comedy Central to give their most successful hour to two relative unknowns, both men of color. If you don’t believe me, look at who else hosts television news shows, fake and otherwise. You’ll be blinded by the white.
I like Trevor Noah. Because he’s not an American, his perspective is very different from what I’m used to hearing. He’s not even European. From South Africa, Noah’s point of view, his entire frame of reference, is completely alien to me (although I took two semesters of African history in college, I’ve forgotten almost all of it). Therefore, when I hear him tell a joke about American politics, the surprise I feel from the way he sees it adds to my laughter. There were weeks when he didn’t have a single white person as an interview guest, and no one said anything about it.
The show has problems, of course. Noah’s interview skills could be better. I’m sorry that Jessica Williams left, even though she’s going to have her own show and make more money. Mostly, because they inherited The Daily Show format, it’s taking them too long to find their own rhythm.
I love Larry Wilmore much much more. He’s really sharp and smart. He’s nerdy enough to know super-heroes and science. Watching the show, I want to know if he would consider dating an old Jewish woman.
His contributors (especially Francesca Ramsey and Mike Yard) took a while to grow on me, but now I love them.
Some critics have said that the panel portion of the show (when a guest star and two contributors sit with Larry and discuss The Issues Of The Day) never gelled for them. I like it. Sure, it often features rappers I never heard of before, and I want to interrupt and give my opinion (extra difficult since I usually record it and watch the next day). That’s okay. That’s how conversations work. Watching the panels, I feel like I’m having conversations with people I don’t know, on their own terms.
My favorite parts are not funny, but revelatory. For example, Larry Wilmore complains about Bill Cosby a lot (he still hasn’t forgotten, as he often reminds us), but what he’s mostly enraged about is that fact that nobody believed he was a rapist until a manhttp://hannibalburess.com said something about it. I’m not one of the dozens of women violated by Cosby, but I felt validated when Wilmore said that.
Comedy Central said that The Nightly Show never got the ratings it needed. The Daily Show is also doing less well than it was before Jon Stewart left. Is this racism? Are millennials (the target audience) more resistant to getting their fake news from black people than we thought?
I don’t have the statistics to demonstrate whether this is true or false. I just have sadness that there is no more.
In the meantime, black-ish, for which Wilmore is executive producer, remains hilarious.
The Republican National Convention Circus came to town last week and they made the big clown their ringmaster.
As you might guess, I am not a supporter of Donald Trump. Evidently neither is Senator Ted Cruz, who declined to get behind the party’s nominee during a nationally televised prime time speech at the Republican National Convention. That was interesting.
ComicMix is about pop culture and you certainly can examine the RNC from that perspective. It was entertaining, in a sick way, and had more than a few surprises. It was like a Big League version of a reality show… and Trump knows about reality shows, believe me.
However, I think that the best thing coming out of the RNC was the return of Jon Stewart. He appeared at least twice on his old buddy Stephen Colbert’s The Late Show (I’m writing this before Friday night’s show; he may have shown up yet again) and it was a pleasure to see him.
Stewart was the host on The Daily Show between 1999 and 2015. The Daily Show is the mock news half hour that became the source of news for many people, and Stewart became the jester version of Walter Cronkite. He was a comedian and a critic employing commentary and satire and jokes. Often he was just silly but he also made some very solid points when he chose to do so. Underneath it all, there is a very intelligent, well read mind and a real sense of moral outrage.
I was not happy when Stewart announced his stepping down from The Daily Show in 2015. “What? With the 2016 elections just around the corner. Say it ain’t so, Jon! We need you!” His successor, Trevor Noah, has done a fine job but, damnit, I wanted Jon Stewart!
This week I got him or at least a taste of him. He and Stephen Colbert are great buddies and Stewart is an executive producer of The Late Show. Colbert says Stewart is not just a name in the credits but an active participant. In the first segment, Colbert knocks on a cabin door out in the woods where Stewart has supposedly gone into seclusion. He is not aware that Trump is the GOP presidential nominee. It’s short and mostly an excuse for both men to do some spit takes.
On Thursday night, however, immediately after Trump’s acceptance speech at the RNC, Stewart not only returned but Colbert let him take over the host desk. He also let him go off not just on Trump but on Trump’s supporters, especially at Fox News, some of Stewart’s favorite targets in the old days.
It was a vintage Stewart rant. The man hasn’t lost a step, IMO, nor any of his outrage. And he knows his funny. It was classic Stewart delivery, too, and the return of his voice to TV. Aside from the scraggly beard and the t-shirt (adorned, for this segment, with a clip-on tie), the segment could have been Jon at The Daily Show. Colbert, aside from popping up once or twice, gave Stewart his head and it reminded me why I miss the guy and how much we need him now.
I have a feeling this won’t be the last Stewart appearance on The Late Show, at least between now and election day. I hope not. There are others filling the gap (especially Samantha Bee) but it’s not quite the same. I wants me some more Jon Stewart.
I was watching The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore as I usually do. I’ll watch Colbert depending on who he has on but, in general, I’ve been watching The Nightly Show. I know, I could tape one and watch the other later but the reality is I just don‘t get around to watching the taped show.
I like Wilmore and did when he was “Senior Black Correspondent” on The Daily Show. He’s been sharp and timely… most of the time.
On Tuesday night, Wilmore did a segment on the water situation in Flint, Michigan. Flint has been a hard-luck case for quite a while, often trading with Detroit the title of the murder capital of America and usually high on the list of the most dangerous cities in the U.S. They’ve also been broke for a lot of the time, teetering on bankruptcy such as Detroit went through. Michigan’s governor, Rick Snyder, appointed an Emergency Financial Manager.
EFMs, as they are known, have broad powers that supersede those of the elected officials. They can void contracts, sell off assets, and ignore the mayor and the city council. Citizens who have elected their politicians bare stuck as long as the EFM is in charge. The elected officials can’t do anything. Michigan voters thought this undemocratic and, through referendum, repealed the law authorizing it in 2012. Less than two months later, the Republican dominated legislature re-enacted it with a referendum busting addition and the Republican governor, Mr. Snyder, signed it. All of which was a great big “fuck you” to the Michigan voters.
Please note: I live less than a half-hour away from Flint, and a couple years ago I lived even closer.
Flint had been drinking clean water supplied by Detroit but that got cut off. It cost too much and EFMs like to find ways to economize. The new plan was to take water from Lake Huron but that would take three years to implement so, short term, it was decided to get water from the Flint River. Flint spent a couple of million updating the local water processing plant but the Flint River was far more corrosive than the water from Detroit. A simple additive costing $1990 a day would have corrected that but that, evidently, was a cost that the Power(s)-That- Were didn’t want to pay or felt was unnecessary.
Flint has a lot more lead pipes in homes and lead solder in the city’s water mains. The Flint River leeched a lot of lead from the pipes and passed it on to the citizens of Flint. That can have, and already has caused, permanent and enormous damage to the brain, especially in children. It will create massive learning disabilities and behavioral problems that will last a lifetime and cannot be cured. And they’ve been drinking this toxic water for two years without any choice or alternative, despite warnings that were posted about a year ago.
Wilmore covered the crisis in a Tuesday night segment and he did a bullshit job of it. He made it look like it was the fault of the citizens of Flint (the segment was called “The Larry People vs Flint”; clever but misleading). No mention was made of the role of the EFM or Governor Rick Snyder’s played in all this. Wilmore seemed appalled by a quote from the mayor of Flint citing ‘the democracy as we have it”. Larry, that means that the EFM was making the decisions, not him. Oh, and by the way, that was the former mayor, not the current one, that you quoted.
How bad is the situation? The National Guard is now handing out bottled water and faucet filters; the state has declared the situation an emergency and the President has declared Flint a disaster area. This means your tax dollars will go into fixing it. Snyder says he wasn’t really aware of the situation until October 1, but there is some question about that. There were warnings that were downplayed or ignored. The people of Flint were told the water was okay by both the governor and the then mayor of Flint when it was not. Snyder’s administration has been slow in taking steps to correct the situation.
Look, I get it – The Nightly Show is a comedy-news show. You’re a comedian, Larry, and not a reporter, but you’re also a social commentator. The situation is no joke. You did a lame fake interview with contributor Mike Yard pretending to be a Flint citizen when you could have been getting more of the facts out. The roles of the governor and the EFM weren’t mentioned, and that’s the real story here.
The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah also covered the story two days later and he did a slightly better job but he also missed Rick Snyder’s role Does it matter? There’s a lot of people who have cited The Daily Show and The Nightly Show as their principle source of news so, yes, you need to get the story right and not chop it to fit whatever joke you want to make.
Jon Stewart, as he left The Daily Show, admonished us all that “If you smell something, say something.” Well, I’m smelling something.
You didn’t keep it 100 percent, Larry. The segment was weak tea.
Well, it’s been a few weeks since Stephen Colbert assumed command of The Late Show and Trevor Noah has taken the reins of The Daily Show. In both cases the hosts are taking over from prior hosts who had long tenure at their respective shows (David Letterman and Jon Stewart). The new boys have been there long enough now to form some opinions. Admittedly, they’re just my opinions but this is my column.
I want to start with The Daily Show and Trevor Noah. To be honest, this was the one that was of greater concern to me because I really loved watching Jon Stewart. I felt that he (and the show) had an important role on television. It was very funny and had a real point of view and delighted in deflating personalities and kicking other networks and other media up the butt when needed (and it has been an ever increasing need over the past few years). Jon Stewart had a keen eye and a well developed sense of outrage to go with his highly developed sense of comedy.
Could Trevor Noah compete? Could he fill those shoes? Would The Daily Show still be a must-see show for me?
Trevor Noah, for those of you who don’t know, is a South African of mixed race parentage. In fact, at the time when Noah was born in 1984, apartheid held mixed race marriages to be a crime. He’s been an actor as well as a comedian. He joined The Daily Show in December of 2014 and was there only a few months when it was announced he would be Jon Stewart’s successor.
So – how’s he doing?
Very well, I think. He is easy and relaxed. He has a knowing smile that he flashes frequently during the broadcasts. He is sharp, witty, and in command. He has shown himself to be adept at interviews which account for at least a third of each show. He is also skilled at playing the straight man for the group of loonies that make up The Daily Show’s corps of correspondents. That’s a significant trick and one that Jon Stewart was very good at playing.
Is the show different? Somewhat, but it still feels like The Daily Show I knew and loved. For me, it’s still something I want to watch.
Stephen Colbert also used to be on Comedy Central as the star of The Colbert Report, a spin-off from The Daily Show. (He had been a correspondent with Jon Stewart.) The Colbert Report was even more satirical with Colbert playing a version of himself that parodied right wing commentators such as Bill O’Reilly and those populating Fox News.
Sometimes he was so good at it that I couldn’t bear watching; a lot of right-wing commentators give me mental hives. The Bush White House evidently bought into the gag and made the mistake one year of inviting Colbert to host the 2006 White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner. That was a large mistake on their part. Using his TV persona, Colbert blistered both President Bush (who was seated only a few feet away from him) and the media. The primary audience was not terribly amused but the tape of it went viral and the rest of us liberal pinko commie types gasped, laughed, and cheered. It was a brave and bravura performance.
I’ll be honest. I always liked The Daily Show with Jon Stewart more than I liked The Colbert Report. I admired Colbert tremendously but The Daily Show made me laugh more. So I had questions when it was announced that Colbert would be taking over for Dave Letterman. The big question was – could he escape the shadow of his own Colbert Report persona?
I think he has and he hasn’t.
Some of the bits Colbert has done on The Late Show could have been done on The Colbert Report. Stephen still likes to grab the mike and sing, usually with his guests. He doesn’t have a bad voice but I don’t think he’s as good a singer as he evidently thinks he is.
When the show started, Colbert would come out dancing, doing high kicks and girly twirls which I found disconcerting. He’s stopped doing that now and that’s for the better. He was also his own opening announcer and the show now has someone else doing that job which I think is a better transition.
His first guest and his first interview was George Clooney who is usually a great guest. He’s very entertaining and can tell wonderful stories and you just point him in a direction and let him go. Colbert, however, was into doing some kind of schtick and it really hobbled Clooney. I’ve seen this continue off and on.
However, I think Colbert is evolving as an interviewer. He had Oprah Winfrey on last week and they got into a discussion of faith and belief. I’ve noticed when he has guests on like that we see more of Colbert himself. He is evidently a man of deep belief and, with Winfrey, the interview became a conversation. He listened and responded, she listened and responded, and we got to listen in. I think that’s how interviews on these types of shows should be – conversations.
Every host on late night TV has their own persona and it’s a question of how comfortable we are with those personas. We need to at least feel we’re getting something genuine about the interviewer. I don’t always get that with Colbert but I think he’s relaxing more into his new role and we may see more of it.
He also has interesting segments I won’t see elsewhere. He often has young entrepreneurs on, people doing things that I never heard about before. I think they’re geared for a younger demographic and that’s okay. It’s a question that most late night TV will have to face – how do they attract the generation that is more likely to be on the Internet?
His musical segments are also varied. There’s been a few too many older musicians who have bad cases of old man’s voice where they sound like aging echoes of who they were and some up and coming people who I don’t know and find it hard to summon an interest. However, he gets the occasional interesting performer as well. For example, he paired Misty Copeland, the first African American prima ballerina for the American Ballet Theater who danced while master cellist Yo-Yo Ma played. That was sublime.
Another musical guest was Michelle Dorrance, a tap dancer who won a MacArthur Foundation genius grant. She gave Stephen a tap lesson (which was great) and then performed with the house band, Jean Baptiste and Stay Human (who are very good). That’s new, that’s different, and very interesting.
Any late night show needs to find a way to stand out from the others, make people want to stay up to see it while, at the same time, be what they want to watch just before they go to sleep. I think the more Colbert shows of himself and the further he gets away from his old persona, the better his show is going to be.
Right now, I think both he and Noah Trevor are doing good jobs. I like The Daily Show a little bit better, I admire The Late Show a little more and I’m interested in seeing what they will be like as the hosts get more settled in.
But I really need to get to bed earlier! Sighhhhhh.
Getting old isn’t for quitters. I’m just back from Baltimore Comic-Con which is a lovely show in my time zone and I was chauffeured back and forth door to door by the lovely and talented Glenn Hauman and even in these non-stressful circumstances I’m exhausted.
Baltimore Comic-Con is, as I said,a lovely show. For one thing, it is almost entirely about comics. Yes, there are media stars signing autographs. There are dealers selling things that are not comic books (including some great jewelry that I wish I had a chance to eyeball more) but they are on the fringes.
Comics are the heart and soul of the show-floor. Comics are the heart and soul of the show.
Comics are among the few mass media to have a heart and soul. Because they can be produced on (relatively) small budgets compared to movies television and popular music and because the profit potential is (relatively) small they attract creators with more personal passion than greed. Yes, we can alcove up with our own list of exceptions but I’ll stand my my statement as a generality.
ComicMix shared a very large space with Insight Studios and The Sunday Comics. I’ve known Marc Hempel and Mark Wheatley of Insight for more than 25 years, longer than the Sunday Comics crew has been alive. I enjoyed standing around mouthing off to my old friends. I loved loved loved! watching the new kids show off their big beautiful paper comics to new readers.
Speaking of heart and soul I kvelled like the Jewish mother I am watching Vivek Tiwary host the Harvey Awards. Vivek is relatively new to comics as a creator and he reminds me every time I see him of the simple joy I feel when I get a good story in a four-color cover.
This was only the second time I’ve attended the Harvey Awards presentation and I have to say sitting in that banquet room at the Hyatt I felt very much like I was attending a family celebration. It wasn’t a wedding or a bat mitzvah but it had that same combination of vague bitchiness but overwhelming love that (my) family celebrations have. Instead of DNA the comics business shares a love of graphic story-telling as well as a sense of ourselves of outsiders.
It’s a beautiful thing. Even if I didn’t get to see Dean Haspiel without his shirt on.
On a completely different note I enjoyed the first episode of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. It wasn’t perfect and it wasn’t Jon Stewart whom I’ve adored since before he got that gig but I like the new host and I like that he has a different perspective than I do.
It’s fun to watch a show where the host appreciates indoor toilets.
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.