The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy: The Reeducation of Tracy Morgan

June 11, 2011

That chill wind Hollywood liberal Tim Robbins warned about is indeed blowing and every stand-up comic and performance artist should be worried. However, it isn’t coming from some frustrated, prudish Christian right winger. It’s coming from the open minded, diversity embracing, tolerant other side of the aisle. Free speech is just a concept that was rejected at the pitch meeting. Artistic expression isn’t for the less enlightened. Tracy Morgan is now officially under reeducation by the Hollywood left.

In case you missed it, here is the back story: Tracy Morgan, stand-up comic and one of the stars of the NBC hit sit-com “30 Rock” was busted doing a stand-up routine at the Ryman Theater in Nashville. Unlike back when Saint Lenny was being busted the cops didn’t rush the stage and drag Mr. Morgan off. No, a single audience member got offended and reported Mr. Morgan to “the authorities” through Facebook.

The verboten topic was lack of empathy for homosexuality. The “authorities” are the liberal media. A gay man in the audience, Kevin Rogers took offence and wound up on CNN chatting about how horrible the show was.

I wasn’t there and I doubt there is a recording or transcript but from reports the “bit” was pretty raw. What I have read and seen on the internet is that Mr. Morgan was doing a rant where he imagined his son came home and announced he was gay. Mr. Morgan said if that happened he would stab him.

Yeah, I know, it’s not exactly knocking me of my chair either but that’s not the point.  

I have seen Mr. Morgan perform and found a lot of his act to be tasteless. I didn’t find a lot of his material to be funny. I don’t condone bullying or violence against anyone. However I also don’t condone drawing lines for performers or establishing sacred cows. Does anyone think that this was the first Mr. Morgan performed this routine? Doubt it! Now, under pressure from NBC, Tina Fey and uber -hypocrite Alec Baldwin, Mr. Morgan says his rant was “not funny in any context.”  Even though according to one person who attended the show, “No one was booing him. Everyone was laughing…”

Let’s step back and imagine for a minute that instead of the word “gay’ in his routine he had used the word “Republican” or “conservative.”  What if he had said, “… if my son came home and said he was joining the GOP I would stab him!” The audience and liberal media would still be praising his talent. Genius! Let’s further imagine the next day Reince Priebus issued a statement asking for an apology. More howls of laughter and perhaps a statement from Mr. Morgan telling the GOP leader he could plant one where the sun don’t shine. High fives all around!

So why isn’t the outspoken Mr. Morgan telling the GLAAD folks to kiss off? Simple, he’s worried about his job. He’s got plenty of reason to worry.  Isaiah Washington got canned from Grey’s Anatomy after using a gay slur and he did the entire apology tour. The movie “The Dilemma” was roundly criticized for using the dreaded “f’ word.  The “f” word, by the way, is not “fuck.” If you tried to stop comedians from using that word because you find it offensive Hollywood types would brand you a Nazi, fascist or worst some sort of Christian zealot. 

Meanwhile a congressman is sending pictures of his penis around the country and is being defended by Charlie Rangle who is saying “He wasn’t going out with little boys. He wasn’t going into men’s rooms with broad stances.”  That statement sounds offensive and more that a little homophobic to me. GLAAD, where are ya?

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The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy WWSD : What Would Sam Do?

November 24, 2010

 

Following my recent article on the dust up over the use of the word “gay” in a joke in the movie “The Dilemma” I engaged in an e mail discussion with  Big Hollywood editor John Nolte. The question that John posed to me was in the new era “everything is deeply offensive to someone” could guys like Sam Kinison, George Carlin and even Saint Lenny make it today?  Could three of the greatest comic voices ever survive in today’s comic environment?

My first impulse was to say a quick yes, give John a virtual eye roll, and get back to making funny Facebook status updates about the TSA. Then I considered his question a little more deeply. I was too young to have known or seen Lenny Bruce and only got to meet Carlin three times so I didn’t know him well. Sam, that was different. I got to know him pretty well back in the late seventies in Texas. We stayed friends and even worked together a few times through the years. I’ll get back to Sam in a minute.

Lenny Bruce got arrested a number of time for his language. Back in the sixties few people objected to making jokes about ethnic jokes. The word “gay” still meant filled with joy and to most Americans a “fag” was a Lucky Strike. Lenny got in trouble for his scatological references. “Cocksucker” was a big one. Most of the stuff Lenny suffered for seems mild in comparison to today’s cable fodder. However, one of Lenny’s greatest bits, which heavily features the notorious “N” word, couldn’t be broadcast today even on cable. Today it couldn’t even be written in a transcript without serious repercussions. It is however one of the most brilliant bits of comic social commentary ever performed. Dustin Hoffman does it justice in the movie, “Lenny.” Lenny also foreshadowed today’s political correctness in another bit featured in the movie when he substituted the word “blahblah” for “cocksucker.” Quoting Hoffman as Lenny in the movie, “It’s the dirtiest bit I have ever done and they can’t touch me!”

Carlin had his transformation for the slick ex-adman comic the hipster we all know in the late sixties and early seventies. His most famous piece featured the “seven words you can never say on television.” Ironically, all seven are now heard with regularity on television, in movies, on Broadway and in teen conversations. Later in his career the seven words became about seven hundred. I heard him do an extended version of the original which took at least fifteen minutes on stage. If he did the bit today he would have to change the bit to , “ There are only five words you can’t say on TV , “N” word, “F” word, “R” word, “G” word, “  and Islamic Extremists!”

Sam was different. He seemed to invite harassment. Reviews of his show that called him obscene and offensive he wore as a badge of honor. He sometimes sent them out with his press kit! He defied authority at every chance. Once, at The Annex, a small club where we started he smashed a wooden stool on stage during a bit. The club manager told Sam he had to pay for the stool and warned him that he would be charged for future damages!  The next time Sam went up he took the new stool and smashed it against the wall and flipped some money down on the stage. He told the manager to get a few stools because he would need them! As I remember it that event which led to Sam being banned from the club for awhile and the infamous “crucifixion for comedy” incident.

At times I think he wanted people to hate him, it was good for business! He would antagonize those who protested his antics and language. He demeaned women onstage because he knew how it enraged NOW and other feminist groups. They would scream about it and the tickets to Sam’s shows became the hottest around. Some of his most famous bits sent howls of through the gay community even back then. His famous “Rock Hudson” bit where he imitated Mr. Hudson performing numerous acts of filatio and then regretting the last one which Sam imagined gave him AIDS was universally panned by the politically correct even back then. 

If Sam were starting today would he have a chance? You know it! Genius is a hard thing to stifle and Sam was a comic genius. Sam also would have succeeded today because back in the eighties he was already aware that those who presumed to speak for “the masses” were usually out of touch. He never worried about what people thought of him. He spoke his mind and used words he knew his audience would understand. As I am traveling today I am imagining what Sam would have to say about the TSA and enhanced pat downs. I would give just about anything to watch him go through an airport today and “engage” the security. That would be national news.


The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy: Writers Who Don’t Know Comedy

November 19, 2009

 

Stand up is the least respected of all the performing arts. As if being a stand-up comic weren’t hard enough; the years of being judged by every person who owns a liquor license and a microphone, driving six hours to a non-existent gig, begging moronic agents and managers who are looking for a “new, original and exciting” talent, to come out to see your show only to be asked why you aren’t more “Seinfeld-ish.” On top of that it takes years to develop an act and find your voice on stage. There are child actors, child musicians, tiny dancers and even I would guess a few very young working writers but no child comics. Why? Because stand-up comedy is the only experientially based art form. Kids can tell “jokes” but they can’t do stand-up. Stand-up comedy, really good stand-up comedy has evolved from joke telling into a personal narrative dialogue with the audience.

Still, every now and then some elitist hack with a degree from the right college and the proper connections gets a job at a failing weekly magazine and decides to take a shot at you and your profession, feeling they are qualified to judge this art form because they know how to laugh and talk. This is rarely if ever done with other art forms. Seriously folks, when is the last time you saw an article about actors who can’t act, dancers who can’t dance, painters who can’t paint or pointless “performance artists.” Yet, about every six months some “critic” declares a number of famous comics “not funny.”   

Ms. Sarah Ball of the soon defunct Newsweek is the latest to declare some great comics “not funny.” In her article, which I found on Newsweek.com she lists 12 acts and gives snarky put downs of their talents. I found it interesting that Ms. Ball’s list is mostly west coast, politically conservative/moderate comics. Apparently if you are from New York and ultra liberal Ms. Ball finds you hilarious!

Topping her list is every elitist favorite comedy punching bag Larry the Cable Guy. Larry’s sin seems to be his is a little too lowbrow for Ms. Ball whom I am sure worships at the altar of urinator Larry David, and  christophobe Sarah Silverman. There are a couple of folks working at the top of the intellectual chart. When talking about Dane Cook (I admit, not my favorite) she heaps praise on Louis C.K. (a guy I happen to also enjoy) who also tends towards the scatological for his humor.

Here is another thing that annoys me worst than Barney Frank, several times Ms. Ball demeans comics for being less than original and yet in her writing she uses a number of “stock” lines, clichés and banal comments. She also works for a magazine which recently selected a cover picture of Sarah Palin that was borrowed from a shoot for another magazine and used without contextual reference.

Ms. Ball also apparently hasn’t seen some of the comics she lists in some time. For Emo Phillips she uses an outdated photo, (again Newsweek using a photo out of context!) and critiques the vocal and delivery style he was using in the 90’s. Artists grow and change Ms. Ball; you might want to catch Bob Goldthwaite sometime this century too!  Her total critique of Jeff Dunham is that he is a ventriloquist, a comedy form she declared “went out of vogue in the Eisenhower era.” So did unbiased journalism and accurate reporting, Ms. Ball, but I’ll save that for another blog. Ventriloquism is experiencing a great revival outside elitist circles with Ronn Lucas and Terry Fator being two of the top draws in Las Vegas. While Jay Johnson, Jeff Dunham and Dan Horn wow audiences across the country. It might do Ms. Ball good to get out of Manhattan once in awhile and see what us rubes are doing out here in Flyoverland.

There are a lot of comics who I don’t find funny but I realize that my taste in comedy is skewered by my values, faith, politics and a number of other factors. I would never declare Bill Maher “not funny.” Thought I find his drug addled ramblings repulsive at times I realize that a number of equally intelligent folks find him hysterical. I might say I find his humor “baffling” or call him an “alleged” comedian but to declare him “not funny” isn’t fair to Bill or his fans.

People like different things, that’s why they put numbers on horses at the track. I would expect an open and fair minded progressive person like Ms. Ball to be a little more…what’s that word? Tolerant!


The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy: Welcome to Obamedy

July 21, 2009

I love being a stand-up comic. I have gotten to travel all over the world. I have met and worked with a number of my idols in the business. I have been my own boss and set my own schedule since I quit my last “real” job way back in 1980. I get to use my God given creative talents to make a living. What’s not to like?

The thing I like most about comedy is that is the last bastion of laissez-faire capitalism in America. There is no minimum wage and no salary cap. On the down side there is no pension plan and no health care. I get no sick days, no paid holidays, no personal days, and there is no family leave. I have to provide for myself and I do it gladly because there are no rules, no government regulations, and no unions.

My fear is that at the rate President Obama is going through the economy it won’t be long before he realizes that there are still a few Americans having some fun and outside his control. He is well on his way to ending the American automobile industry, private banking and nationalizing energy. Over at the Supreme Court we will soon have yet another activist judge who believes that equality of opportunity should yield equality of result and that if it doesn’t then there must be bias in the system.

It’s only a matter of time until the Obama Administration will discover that there is an unregulated business in America and move to bring the comedy industry under control. His first move will be to appoint a Comedy Czar who will be responsible for all regulation joke telling, writing and the hiring and firing of comedians. He will address the inequity in pay issue. Why should Jerry Seinfeld and Kevin James receive more and that I get for doing the same job?

The Comedy Czar will need to address the problem that women are underrepresented in the stand-up profession. Soon, thanks to the enlightened policies of the Obama administration, 51% of all stand-up comics will be women no matter how funny they are. At the same time the Czar may notice that other groups, like Jews and African-American are over represented. The government, backed by the courts will institute programs to assure that many humor challenged groups like Germans and the Sweedish have access to the comedy profession. Why should lack of talent and hard work stop people from their dreams?   

The Comedy Czar will also have to regulate who gets to use what jokes. Is it fair that some comedians are better writers and performers than others? Is it fair that the opening act has no great lines while the headliner has forty? Soon all comedians will pool their jokes for common use.

Thanks to card check there will soon be a National Union of Comedic Performers and all comedians will be doing the same amount of time on a show. They will also be forced to take their breaks at the appointed time. If that falls in the middle of a joke don’t worry, he’ll be back after a quick fifteen minute rest.

The Comedy Czar will control all aspects of stand-up except being funny. That unimportant aspect of the comedy business will be eliminated through careful government planning and regulation.


The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy: Work, Work, Work!

March 9, 2009

Dear Readers

I promised a new blog this morning but I have had a nutty weekend. Here is the thing about stand-up comics, we complain when we are busy and we complain when we aren’t busy!

My Weekend

 Friday: I kicked it of on Friday when I got an E mail from a friend on the west coast.  He had a business offer for me. He is kicking off a new social networking site and is looking for an editor for the comedy side, was I interested. So we had a conference call with the CEO and he asked me to get a few things together for him before a meeting tomorrow. No problem. Then I had to do a little fact checking for a guest commentary piece I had writen for my local newspaper, ( it is posted on this blog) . Off to the  church lenten fish fry for dinner with family and friends. I came home and had to show my mastery of the language by crushing Mrs. Jena in a game of “Upwords” then off to bed.

Saturday: I am out of bed at 4;30 A.M. ( Remember when 4:30 was the time you went to bed on Friday night?) and off to the Airport for a flight to Alburqurque N.M. via Atlanta, lunch with some old high school friends there, a two hour drive to Gallup, a show, a two hour drive back, sleep, shortened an hour by the moronic concept of Daylight Saving Time. I never did get the whole DST thing, it’s like taking a slice of bread from one end of the loaf and putting it on the other and saying. “Look , more bread!”

Sunday: Up at 5:30 A.M. and off to the Airport (remember when 5:30 A.M. was the time you went to bed on Saturday?) A flight to the Twin Cities, a three hour layover, during which I meet up with an old buddy at the airport who is a, raging liberal, we have a nice conversation though and it’s always great to see him, a flight down home during which we fly through several storms and try to land the first time during what might have been a tornado.  When I am walking out to the parking lot the sun comes out and a rainbow appears in the sky as if God is welcoming me home. But I’m not home yet since I was planning on being back three hours ago it is straight to my Sunday night group meeting and I finally hit the fron door at 9P.M. 

So what I am trying to tell you is that I got a litle behind this weekend and there will be a new posting here and on Big Hollywood tomorrow, thanks for listening.