It’s an interesting time to be a comedian. Donald Trump’s daily utterances and actions are just sitting there, waiting for someone clever to pick them up and run with them.
If you ask the more successful ones, you will find that they consider themselves very serious people with a job to do. They may not be journalists or historians, but they believe they are on the front line of the culture wars. They have Something To Say.
Push the envelope. Say out loud what people are only thinking. Step over the line and cause a reaction. Ridicule authority. That’s what the good ones are privileged to do.
It’s a tough call when you have to produce an opinion on whether a comedian has gone too far. Are they protected wildlife, no matter what they say?
There’s an artistry to a good jab that makes people think. And the size of the pass we give to a comedian is roughly proportional to how good the jokes are.
Yesterday, Bill Maher, a white man who is a comedian, dropped the N-bomb on TV. It’s going to be a pain in the balls to keep this clip up, but here goes:
Now, in fairness, I may need to watch this whole interview for better context, but it wasn’t really funny-a big leap for a bad joke. I’m about 99% sure that it’s just not OK to use the damn word if you are white, and this wasn’t part of the 1% of the time when it might be OK. That’s just the way it is, and most white jokers can do without this word in their set.
Chances are Bill Maher’s career will survive a bad racist joke. He’s far too important to cut loose, if you ask me. I’m of two minds on Bill, as most of us are. Bill Maher’s show, Real Time, is an amazing environment for no-holds-barred political discussion that is not easy to come by. Some of the shows are truly electrifying. As for my love for Bill Maher himself? I don’t have much. In places, he’s the worst part of the show. I have to sit through 5 minutes of predictable stand up, he’ll stop a great debate to do unfunny bits with lame props, and then we have to endure “New Rules”. On the other hand, he finishes typically with a very good common sense rant. He’s also shown himself to be a good discussion moderator with a low tolerance for bullshit, and he has his facts right in front of him in case anyone tries to make things up in an argument. He’s an out atheist too, and that’s another reason I still think we need him.
It should go without saying that it’s not for me to pardon Bill Maher for using the word. I’ll be interested to see how black comedians respond.
But I don’t really want to tarry on Bill Maher too long. What I really want to know is what the hell is wrong with Kathy Griffin.
She’s come seriously undone, and it’s embarrassing for all of us Trump haters.
As I said, I haven’t found Kathy Griffin funny for decades now, and there certainly wasn’t anything funny about her photo shoot, even though she did it as a comedian and sure, I’ll be charitable, as an artist. But I supported her right to go there anyway. Presidents are not sacred cows, and that goes tenfold for a petit tyrant like Trump. That’s not how it works here, or anyplace else that respects free expression.
What I don’t really understand is how Kathy didn’t see the reaction coming. I think it’s safe to assume that she’s a liberal, just like you and me. We have studied the antics of the right wing and know that they’re a violent bunch, obsessed with guns and convinced they are God’s wrath on this earth. So you know going in when you’re about to take a hard shot at their president, they’re likely to threaten you with harm. Why wasn’t she ready? She reacted to the ugliness like a puppy who got hit on the nose for shitting on the carpet. It was an ignominious retreat. And it was totally unnecessary.
So she’s sorry. Very sorry.
Now she’s a victim of Donald Trump, who is trying to ruin her life. “He broke me,” said Kathy several times. She has a lawyer friend now, and she sounds recalcitrant instead of penitent. Which is where she should have been in the first place. But it’s a weird sort of fire that’s in her belly right now that I’m not sure I can follow.
“If you don’t stand up, you get run over,” Griffin said. “What’s happening to me has never happened in this great country. A sitting president of the U.S. … is personally trying to ruin my life forever.”
That first sentence is quite true. But history is probably littered with examples of “powers that be” attempting to ruin people’s lives. Dick Cheney tried to jeopardize Valerie Plame’s life because her husband called bullshit on the Iraq/uranium connection that he and his flunkies had worked so hard to lie about to start their horrible little war. Richard Nixon’s goons were looking for evidence that Daniel Ellsberg was mentally ill to discredit what would become the Pentagon Papers. So give that shit a rest, Kathy. It’s the kind of histrionics I expect from Donald Trump, who thinks that no politician has ever been treated as badly as he has.
Bloom said the comedian was contacted by the U.S. Secret Service and said she has retained a criminal lawyer.
OK. Not surprising, really. This might actually be unnerving, but again, I’m not sure why Griffin wasn’t prepared.
“As a result of the first family bullying her, she has been vilified, getting death threats, fired from multiple jobs and had multiple events canceled,” Bloom said.
Donald Trump does not need to tsk-tsk Kathy Griffin in public for the death threats to fly. Even if he said nothing, every right wing bigmouth with a TV show, blog or radio station would still have gone up her ass and sent their flying monkey audience after her.
And she got fired from her goofy gig for New Years. Duh. All of these things could have been telegraphed.
Griffin and Bloom believe the comedian has received harsher backlash because she is female.
Hmmm, it’s certainly possible, but this would not have been well-received no matter who did it. I think there’s a lot of doughy keyboard kommandos that got off on debasing a woman out there, but if a guy did this the opprobrium would still be there.
It just seems like she was not ready to take her “art” to the next level at all. I did read somewhere that she said that she and the photographer gave the shoot five minutes of thought. That sure seems clear.
I really should give her breathing room, because it was a powerful statement of defiance against a dangerous head of state, a statement that if made in some corners of the world would get her boiled or stoned. I just wish she hadn’t shrunk away, and I wish she didn’t have to compose herself in public or cry victim.
“I’m going to make fun of him more now,” she said.
Good, Kathy. Hit ’em hard, hon. Please don’t be afraid anymore, your country needs the laughs and the jabs. Parlay this thing you did into something great.
(Began May 31, 2017)
Hello, occasional visitor.
It has been some time between sessions at the seminary. And I really can’t tell you why. I have no excuses. I began a whirlwind autobiography on how I became a filthy libtard and have not returned to it; and Tucker Carlson has pretty much been pinning the asshole meter at Fox.
Perhaps it’s like this. Lately, every damn day is nothing but a harrowing procession of stories about Donald Trump’s reign of error. It’s like a blitzkrieg of shit news. Just this morning, Trump is purported to be ready to withdraw from an environmental agreement that the entire world signed up for except for Nicaragua and Syria. By the time the day is over, there will be three or four more bombshells about the bankruptcy and fecklessness of this administration. It could be another story about yet another campaign promise which the president has done a 180 on. Or one on how he’s draining the swamp in reverse, 1984 style. Another on how he’s becoming like a talentless Brian Wilson at his worst. Maybe, at the end of a day full of missteps and miscues, there will be a tweet at 11:59 that suggest the president is eating Lunesta by the scoopful.
And then there’s Russia, where every day we find a new connection to Trump and his cabal. How anyone wants to slog through that is beyond me. That’s for real journalists, not me. Bless those people.
What I am trying to say, before I get to saying what I want to say, is that it’s all become rather exhausting. I must be fatigued. It is far easier to share new fresh hell on Facebook with a click than it is to expound on what’s coming down the shit chute at any given hour.
I am slowly coming around to the idea that what is happening is that it’s just another day in America, and that Donald Trump has become, oddly enough…normal.
Is he fucking up the country?
Is it a day that ends in Y?
But I’ve got to try to deal with it better and not get swamped. I seem to have clammed up a bit because of Trump fatigue. This isn’t the first time this has happened to me here. Nor is it the second.
Then there are others who simply lash out, and that’s not exactly where I want to be either. Oh, there are times when I am a bit more demonstrative against the forces that teach us to resent each other, cause suffering, and spread hate, ignorance and misunderstanding. For example, I live in Georgia. We have a bluegrass festival every year. I don’t love the genre, but the musicianship is fairly amazing. I used to really dig the Dead and now I know where their roots are. These bluegrass folk clearly love to play their instruments. One dude last year plugged in a mandolin and I swear that his solo was goddamn heavy metal. This year, The Avett Brothers came and they did “Black Hole Sun” in memoriam of a rocker. Anyway, so I’m in a red state in a deep red county, about to go party with a few thousand pale-faced country music lovers, and this is what I chose to wear:
As should be well known by now, poor white people, especially in states like Georgia, believe they’re going to be rich someday if only their taxes were lowered so they wouldn’t have to feed the grubby ni**ers and illegals. They consistently vote for the rich people most likely to do them economic harm. Makes no sense. So I got accosted by more than one jackhole who wanted to argue with me about my shirt. We were all drunk so at one point my wife had to rescue me from trying to converse with the lizard people.
Permit me the clumsy segue. Let’s talk about if it’s “OK to punch the Nazi“. More specifically, we need to talk about whether or not it’s OK for the left to get into violence.
I need to admit it: I enjoyed watching professional racist Richard Spencer get walloped in the head by a counterprotester. Oh, come on, you thought it was great too.
It was kind of a watershed moment for today’s American left, where anarchy (or what we are now calling “antifa”) was introduced to a mainstream liberalism for whom nonviolence has been a key tenet for almost 40 years. Most of us are more the disciples of Martin Luther King Jr. than we are the Weather Underground. We march and we ridicule instead of break windows and burn effigies.
It feels good, good to know we are together now to resist. It also may be working on some fronts. I think mobilization has really blunted any Republican taste for much of the awful legislation people like Trump and Paul Ryan want to pass. In many corners, we are winning because we stand side by side. Organization is very important to left causes, because we have to work against a heavily propagandized right wing citizenry who has the entire AM dial, a cable “news” network and a well-developed internet presence bellowing disinformation and nastiness to it all day and night. I lament that we needed Donald Trump to really wake us up, but for better or worse, here we are.
So do we need to go further? Do we need to be disruptive in other ways that aren’t as comfortable? Is it time to move, time to get down? Time to
Because the hate is gettin’ fairly fuckin’ thick out there. You have to be blind to miss it, and still so many are. It took Donald Trump’s win to really galvanize the right wing as well, you see…hence this “alt-right” which is the id that the right wing superego could no longer contain. They’ve always talked here and there about a civil war between conservatives and liberals for as long as I can remember, which is one reason the guns keep flying from the shelves. And I hope the day does not come when Portland happens weekly because the wheels will really start to come off and sides will get chosen. I may not be here for it, but the kids most definitely will if we don’t find common ground and understanding. That may not be in the offing…I’m not terribly sanguine about the future. We may have broken the country for good this time. Time is the only thing that will tell us.
In the meantime, we good liberals are getting a bit froggier than usual. Stephen Colbert, erstwhile mild-mannered nighttime talk show host, has opined that Vladimir Putin’s dick should go into Donald Trump’s mouth when he’s not using it. Conservatives, who ordinarily have disdain for the politically correct and the easily offended, bitched and whined without irony that he had gone too far, and to Colbert’s credit, he didn’t back down. What Stephen realizes is that you can’t win with these ‘tards. They’ll get on you no matter what you do. What you believe as a liberal is enough to enrage them daily, they don’t need a harsh, pointed joke at their movement’s leader to begin their calumny.
So give ’em a kick in the family values. It’ll feel good and it’s fun to watch them holler. It’s not like they’re going to slow down on their offensive behavior, why should we hold our tongues for the sake of having manners? Manners are only of use when the receiver appreciates them.
I’ve been at this here and there all day today. I’m going to break here for some covfefe. Pleasant dreams.
(June 1, 2017)
Now. On to headier stuff.
Most of us past the age of thirty have a passing familiarity with comedienne Kathy Griffin. Most of us past the age of forty actually remember when she was funny. To her credit, she has survived through force of will in various iterations of a career. She did the sitcom thing, she hit the faghag circuit for a good bit, had a reality show, and every 365 days she earns a little making inappropriate sexual advances towards a gay man on TV for about two hours before an inane occurrence celebrated by drunk, maudlin sots wearing stupid number-shaped glasses otherwise known as the end of the calendar year.
Well, if we didn’t know it before, we definitely found out Tuesday that Kathy has an internet presence as well.
She’s probably as famous now as she has ever been. I saved a copy of one of the stills from a hard-to-forget photo shoot she did because I had a feeling it wouldn’t be around much longer. It has been mostly scrubbed from the polite part of the internet if Google searches are any indication. Only right wing ragefest websites like Breitbart are still hosting these pictures so they can make hypergeneralizations about the violence inherent in the left wing movement, once again without a trace of irony or self-awareness. I’m gonna post the picture, not because I want to put Donald’s battered head on a pike, or eat him (I like a little marbling, but not too much). I much prefer an option like exile a la Napoleon when the Terror comes to beheading a la King Louis XVI. But I think it does a disservice to Kathy to wipe away her statement, which she, unlike Colbert, would now desperately like to have disappear for feelings that are understandable, but unnecessary. For a shining moment, she summed up how done she was with this cheap ill-tempered loathsome criminal pretending to be a leader, protected by the glorious First Amendment. And she shared the fuck out of it.
And you righties thought you had the monopoly on political incorrectness. You’re a bunch of bitches compared to Griffin. Move over.
So the discussion still needs to be had: is it OK to get violent and still be a good lefty?
I’m going to answer in the affirmative after careful consideration of several dynamics. See, one of the reasons I think Griffin’s stunt fucked so many people up because it was visual.
And it was red and it was bloody.
It simply could not be ignored.
People have visceral reactions to visuals of this sort. Christ, remember when the Beatles wound some chop meat around themselves for an album cover?
That cover lasted about as long as Kathy Griffin’s stunt. People just couldn’t hack it, if you’ll pardon my accidental pun.
So there’s an “in your face and fuck you” compositional quality about it that causes it to dwarf some of the awful, inartful things people would do to Barack Obama’s effigies in absolute terms of violence.
Visuals, especially well done ones, are potent. They’re the first thing that comes to mind if you ask someone what art is.
Let’s use another medium for contrast. I have been a consumer of music for many moons now. And not even bands like The Crucifucks or MDC or Suicidal Tendencies, who all spoke of corporal violence against authority figures at a time when Kathy Griffin was still doing open mike night, move my needle as being necessarily shocking:
Do you see what I’m getting at? There’s a level of immediacy in visuals that leaves some other art in the dust. That’s not to say that the hardcore punks were tame in any way, they were breaking down barriers with sound that attacked you, much like the colors and imagery in the Griffin photo shoot. But singing “I wanna kill the president, chop off his head” is not the same as photographing yourself as someone who did the deed.
I’m ranking the senses, not ranking the expressions-I will always cherish “Our Will Be Done” and share it with other high-minded patrons of art and rebellion before I ever pull out Kathy’s photo.
Again, consider another medium. Are there sufficient words to describe the passion of Christ? Maybe. But Mel Gibson’s three hour torturefest sure upped the ante. I still refuse to watch that because I don’t get off that way. And I’m an atheist who couldn’t care less about Jesus and his pain (mainly because he and his dad are the stuff of old fairy tales).
Moving along, we could drill down on the fact that Griffin debased the image of a powerful white man. That upsets other male American whites, which is interesting because they haven’t been traditional victims of violence since never. Conservatives love this guy Trump not so much for what he does, but what he represents. I don’t have the time nor the inclination to take you back in time to his first political stints as a racist birther and bring you to today. If you don’t know by now that Donald Trump is a racist and a sexist, you can go jump in a lake. But what I am saying is Donald is the face of white male resentment-again, if you are not aware of this phenomenon, just go someplace else already, the rest of us have lapped you.
Kathy sure knows it, and she got sick of it and reacted. She went mano a mano, or cabeza a cabeza with the violence. In conservative land, it’s OK for Ted Nugent to say he wants to stick a gun in Hillary Clinton’s mouth or call the first black president a mongrel, but oh no, this cunt faglover can’t say anything about our bold, unapologetic president.
So we come full circle to the $64,000 question-is it OK to punch the Nazi? Is left wing violence the same or worse than right wing violence?
Frankly, I don’t think it should be expected of the left to always respond to right wing nastiness with a turn of the cheek. They use our core values of tolerance and respect for all against us. They call us hypocrites if we dare step out of the pigeonhole they have put us in and get intolerant of their intolerance. And that shit cannot stand. I’m not going to be policed by bigots or told by them I am offensive. I will not be disarmed by ironic charges of saying one thing and doing another. I’m all for peace and love but I know how to use an M-16 if it comes down to revolution or civil war.
The fact is that the just gods are rooting for the left side. We are the heirs of American democracy, which was begat by white aristocrats but belongs to everyone. Yet still the work continues to fight for equality even after all of our victories along the way. Because occasionally, we Americans take a step backward and elect a George Bush or a Donald Trump, and it can be hard to simmer quietly while they shit the country up.
Ultimately, Kathy Griffin could not stand the heat in the kitchen. But I don’t blame her for backing down at all. It is, after all, goddamn hot and getting hotter. Has she coarsened the political conversation? Hardly. By any objective measure, the time for comity was long past before her photo shoot. Civility is not always an option when you’ve got white nationalists and Nazi sympathizers in the Oval Office whispering to a mercurial and unsophisticated president who got into office because he peddled low-com-denom demagoguery to other unsophisticated people.
Remember: they demand of you a level of decorum that they do not demand of themselves. With that in mind, the occasional head punch and other assorted “violent” reactions are perfectly rational tools of resistance.
UPDATE 1 Jun 2017: Big sister Alex K. hits the Facebook scene on this story 10 minutes before me. She offers more content and clarity about the shoot than I could muster.