Next: A Version of “The Mikado” Without Execution References

For a text-book example of how political correctness, ideology, ignorance and a humor deficit can undermine speech, culture and entertainment, we need look no further than Montana, and its public critics of the Missoula Community Theater’s production of “The Mikado,” perhaps the best of all Gilbert and Sullivan operettas and one of the very best musical comedies ever written.

The show is a free-wheeling satire of British society and politics as well as human foibles generally, supported by W. S. Gilbert’s peculiar brand of whimsical humor mixed with acid, and Sullivan’s marvelous melodies. Its comic hero is Ko-Ko, an executioner who can never quite manage the courage to actually behead anyone, though he talks a good game, notably in his famous patter song, “I’ve Got A Little List.” Ko-Ko runs down his list (typically a gag scroll that unwinds to six feet or more) of “society offenders who might well be underground and who never would be missed.” Ko-Ko’s list includes broad types ( “all people who have flabby hands and irritating laughs”) for two verses, then usually concludes with a burst of “statesmen” who originally included direct references, by manner or quotation, to political characters of the day. Gilbert specifically authorized updating this section to include controversial political celebrities from other times and places. Whoever did the updating for the Missoula Community Theater included Sarah Palin here, as Gilbert would have, I am quite sure. (And so would I: I’ve played Ko-Ko three times, including in high school, and written the political updates for Ko-Ko’s song for over a dozen productions.) The insults in Ko-Ko’s song are quite apolitical; for example, one of the people on his list is exactly the type Ms. Palin would deride herself:

“…the idiot who praises with enthusiastic tone

All centuries but this and every country but his own…”

Nonetheless, several audience members rose to Palin’s defense against the mild barbs of a Victorian era faux-Japanese fictional town executioner who has approximately the same gravitas as Daffy Duck. One, an outraged Rory Page, wrote The Missoulian:

“…Now, I realize you play to a mostly liberal audience in Missoula and so, I am sure, felt comfortable in your calling for the beheading of Sarah Palin. I am painfully aware that most in the audience tittered with laughter and clapped because “no one would miss her” but there were some in your audience who took great offense to this “uncivil tone” about another human being.

We are in the midst of a crisis that took place in Tucson where many started pointing fingers at that horrible right wing with all their hatred and targeting and standing for the second amendment and on and on and on. So, here we are in a lovely play with beautiful voices serenading us and we have to hear that it is okay to call for the killing of Sarah Palin because we don’t like her and no one would miss her. Unbelievable.

“As a professional you should be ashamed of yourself, the audience should be ashamed of themselves and I am ashamed of myself for not standing up and leaving at that very moment. I would like to see an apology from you not because I want to hinder free-speech but for the hypocrisy this so clearly shows.”

Here we have it all: complete ignorance of the historical and cultural context of a few lines in a song, misapplied to a political satire in which violence is used with the levity of a Roadrunner cartoon, connected without logic or perspective to an event, the shooting in Tucson, as far removed from Gilbert and Sullivan, the Town of Titipu, and Nanki-Poo (the wandering minstrel who is really the crown prince of Japan engaged to Katisha, who has a horrible face but a left elbow that people come miles to gaze at) as the shooting in Tucson was removed from, well, Sarah Palin, by someone who doesn’t understand satire, the humor of W.S. Gilbert, or the definition of civility, culminating in a clueless Palin fan demanding an apology for a faithful production of a 19th Century British operetta. And, if the Missoula Community Theatre is as conflict averse as most arts groups, he’ll probably get it, when in truth it should be Rory who apologizes to us.*

It is the efforts of Rory and people like him who want to suppress any joke, humor, image, comparison, barb or criticism that targets a figure, cause or belief they support that is part of the bi-partisan, multi-faith conspiracy to impose soft censorship on this country, gradually including the best of our literature, like “Huckleberry Finn”, and our stage shows, like “The Mikado.” They are so righteous that reality and common sense make no dent in their indignation: Rory, for example, calls “The Mikado” a “lovely show,” apparently not noticing that this lovely show, as written, is about looming decapitations, boiling in oil (or melted lead), threatened suicide by hanging or stabbing, with characters who are, without exception, either dim-witted, cowardly, blood-thirsty, vain, corrupt or certifiably insane…just like most of America’s politicians.**

Which, of course, was Gilbert’s point. I’m sure Rory didn’t hear them, because she was sputtering with outrage and already composing his angry (and silly) letter, but Ko-Ko’s words at the end of “I’ve Got A Little List” explain it well:

“But the task of filling up the blanks I’d rather leave to you—

For it really doesn’t matter whom you place upon the list,

For they’d none of them be missed.

They’d none of them be missed!

I’m filling in the blanks in my list now, and I’m pretty sure Rory won’t like this version, either.


* Sadly, I was right: the Missoula Community Theatre pulled the lyric about Sarah Palin because of a few humorless Palin fans. Gilbert, in contrast, never backed down, even when those offended by his barbs included Queen Victoria and the nations of Japan and France. The Theatre, I am told, is in a bind—it is connected to its Children’s Theatre, and fears losing support and funding. The lesson: Don’t stir up P.C. bullies if you can’t or won’t stand up to them, because you just add to their power.

** Well after this was written, I learned from a reliable source what the Palin lyric was. It came in a different part of the song than where Gilbert put his political “victims,” and went like this:

“And that crazy Sarah Palin, needs a psychoanalyst!  She never would be missed.  No. She never would be missed.”

I’m not impressed with the lyric, especially: Gilbert would be subtler than calling a political figure “crazy,” but never mind: this is in keeping with the song’s traditions, and the lyric says she needs a shrink. It does not call for her death, as Rory’s letter claimed.

Note: Other posts on this matter can be found herehere, and especially here.

30 thoughts on “Next: A Version of “The Mikado” Without Execution References

  1. Gravitas of Daffy Duck and levity of a Roadrunner. Hmmm, I think this argument makes you an academic. Anyway I always took Ko-Ko a little more seriously than that. But what happened to “the nigger serenader and the others of his race”?

    • Replaced by “banjo serenader” about 100 years ago, with Gilbert’s assent…as was the other “nigger” reference, in the Mikado’s song. Not sure why W.S. was throwing around the N-word in that show…but the 19th Century word was not quite the epithet it is today.

      Listen, I WAS Ko-Ko, and trust me, the guy was a fruitcake.

    • A further thought on “nigger serenader”—to take Rory’s approach, Gilbert was advocating genocide. I think not. He was irritated by minstrel shows—or at least Ko-Ko was. Much later, he and Sullivan wrote a spectacular minstrel number in “Utopia, LTD.”

  2. I know this very production intimately, and am saddened by what has transpired. It was perfect political satire for today, just as Gilbert intended. When people respond to responses, this can happen. “I’ve got them on my list!”

  3. If the liberals responsible for this lyric change are true to their professed logic and claims of intellectual and artistic honesty, they will replace the name Sarah Palin with Barack Obama, sing for the death of the president and prove their point.

    Also – one would hope that all these people defending freedom of expression were defending Palin’s target poster when she urged AZ citizens to vote out G Giffords.

    • Why do you assume liberals added Palin? There is no valid reason to conclude that: The Mikado’s satire of politicians is non-partisan. And read my other posts on this broad topic: I defended the target map, in multiple posts. And, if you’ll read the next post on the “list”, the current President is often mentioned in versions of the song. BUT NO ONE IS “SINGING FOR THE DEATH OF” ANYONE!!!! Get it? The song is a JOKE. It is SATIRE. EVERYBODY has known that for over 100 YEARS except some politically deranged hyper-partisans who are surfacing now. Got that? Repeat it 100 times.

      • Let me see if I understand… as I am not familiar with the Mikado at all: A current political figure who was targeted in the press as a contributor to the mindset of the perpetrator of a recent mass shooting, who subsequently was bombarded with emails and other-media messages stating a desire and indicating designs for her death, who is the object of political-opponent obsession on a scale never before seen in the history of the country, is satirically mentioned as the subject for beheading in a farcical song of a Gilbert and Sullivan comedy… in a post- Daniel Pearl world. Is that it? Do I have it?
        Well… maybe this is an object-lesson for this theatre manager and anyone else wishing to mix art and politics: consider your audience… also, consider that NOTHING is local nor distant past any more. PC or not, the events of the past ten years have brought us to a crescendo of mixing politics, education, economics, violence and terrorism, art, personal expression and theatre in a way that requires we be more aware of the large effects or small decisions. If one cannot operate in that world, find another. And, if one cannot react positively to audience criticism, even if it is only an expression of inferential offense and disgust, one is in the wrong business.
        I suggest a healthy apology, a change in lyrics and a firm commitment to the idea that “satire” does not excuse all things. Oh, and a resignation would help.

        • No, you don’t have it, and I’m not going to re-write everything I’ve written, explained and documented over the last several days. Read the posts; read The Mikado. If you are not familiar with it, then you cannot possibly know how idiotic it sounds to someone who is familiar with it, especially as familiar with it as I am, to hear anyone, other than in jest or in imitation of the brain-injured, seriously suggest that this song, in this show, sung by this character, after a full century in which “the Mikado” is as settled as a harmless satirical comedy as Santa Clause is settled as a nice, old guy with toys, could suggest that the people on Ko-Ko’s list are in any serious or genuine way suggested as “subject for beheading.” The last verse makes it clear: everyone is dispensable, and as dispensable as anyone mentioned in the song previously. Got THAT? There is no threat. It is explicitly a joke. It is an obvious joke that can only be misunderstood by someone, like the original letter-writer, who is dead-set on being offended, or someone like you, who has no context for an opinion at all except the other hearsay accounts by people out to make political hay off of an innocent and harmless act. Did you read the lyric? Did you? It says she needs a psychoanalyst. That’s what the song says about Palin. You have no idea how jaw-droppingly idiotic it is to say “I’ve Got A Little List” is about beheading people. There is no connection with Nick Berg…none, nada. Not in the same universe. If you said that knowing the show, you would be embarrassing yourself. Saying it without knowing the show is just irresponsible and foolish.

          What do you mean, “react positively to audience criticism”? This wasn’t criticism, it was slander, a lie. What was said and inferred was not true. Should Palin have reacted “positively” when she was called an instigator of the attack on Giffords because she used a common cross-hair graphic? Those attacking the MCT are so-hate filled and bent on revenge that they couldn’t and can’t see that they were repeating the exact same outrage FOR Palin that was done TO Palin.

          “Know your audience”—how about “respect your audience,” like by not assuming that a 125 year old, still funny, still brilliant comic operetta that wasn’t, but could be and should be (and often is), performed by children—who do GET it–isn’t too subtle or sophisticated for Montanans, who should be expected to know the difference between a song that says—“here are things we find annoying” and “here are people we want to kill like Nick Berg.”?

          The apology is owed to the production, and every conservative and Missoulian with an ounce of fairness, culture and sense, who was made to look like an illiterate boob by a few of their neighbors.
          Your comment about mixing art and politics is beyond absurd:politics has inspired great art from “The Trojan Women” to “The 1812 Overture” to “The Cradle Will Rock” to “Of Thee I Sing” to “Pogo” to “Doonesberry” to “All in the Family” to rap—your prescription is applicable, maybe, to fingerpainting and “Mama Mia” and little else. Certainly not to the art of satire, which is what all Gilbert and Sullivan involves (as well as comedy, verse and music) Let’s see—“Trial By Jury” lampooned the court system, “H.M. S. Pinafore” the Royal Navy, “The Pirates of Penzance” the police; “Patience” the military and celebrity; “Iolanthe” the House of Peers and the law…and “The Mikado”—just about anything. To go to a production of the “Mikado” and write a letter complaining about a prominent figure, any figure, being criticized, is as ridiculous as watching “Saturday Night Live” and writing to complain that the show was disrespectful to President Obama. It is not the fault of “SNL” or “The Mikado,” famous satires both, that some uninformed audience member who hasn’t the brain or wit for satire attends and is taken by surprise. Imagine poor Rory attending “Hamlet” and writing the Missouian to complain that the play argues for suicide and is dangerous for young people, and dim journalists who don’t know Hamlet from ham, based only on her warped sensibilities, write horrified stories about how the theater company is advocating suicide. Should the company apologize for Rory’s ignorance of Western culture? If someone attends a Gilbert and Sullivan show and is shocked to find satire, it is their deficiency, not the production’s.

          You talk about what satire doesn’t excuse, and yet you haven’t a clue what the show is like. You are suggesting resignations without any first hand knowledge of context, style, the show’s tradition, or—my God!!!—how incredibly wall-known and frequently performed it is! If I were attending a Mikado production anywhere in America is 2011, I would assume that Sarah Palin would among the figures lampooned. Go rent a video of the Mikado—Groucho Marx did one for TV in the 60’s that wasn’t bad. After you’ve seen it, realized what the style is, then weigh in with what is “appropriate,” if you still can honestly say that a comment about Sarah Palin being “on the list” is inappropriate. Then you will be wrong and silly, but at least you won’t be condemning something you neither understand nor have accurate information about.

          Now you have it.

          • I have it… but you obviously don’t. Your “rant” (note your word count on the subject) omits a very simple set of concepts that, in your own words, you used to criticize RNC Chairman Michael Steele in 2009: “…show that they do not comprehend, or possess, the ethical values of civility, courtesy, decency, self-restraint, prudence, graciousness, empathy, and, yes, citizenship.” Welllll… pot, kettle. Kettle, pot. (btw – Steele’s criticism of the Obama Peace Prize was valid on its face. You defended the award by creating a false analogy of Obama directing a bad film… when, in fact, he had never ‘directed’ any film of any kind at that point.)
            So where’s the “civility, decency, self-restraint, prudence, graciousness and empathy” here?? Neither in the obviously only contextually-funny satire nor in your words. I posted a disagreement to your position, and I thank you for the opportunity to do so on your site. You graciously allow me and others to act as guests rather than treat us like trespassers. But then, sadly, you fell into the same old sad paradigm that so many do in your response… you made it personal. You obviously have this incident far too much on your mind. Your over-the-top tone reveals it all too clearly. There are so many different possible responses to my comments that might have been made that could have, possibly, swayed my view. Unfortunately, that opportunity has been “chopped off”… by you. I wonder if you are in costume.

            • Yes, Tom, it was a rant. Sorry. There were plenty of posts on this issue right here. If you read them, there is literally nothing else to say. It you didn’t, and just retreat to the beginning of the discussion as if nothing has been written, that is inconsiderate–I’ve worked hard on trying to clarify this, and that just makes it all feel futile.
              I’ve spent a lot of time on this issue, because, incredibly, I was the almost alone in trying to bring sanity and perspective to a teeny incident with big implications that go to the core of many principles I care about deeply.

              I apologize for the excessively intense tone, though again, if that is your definition of “civility,” it is part of the problem. Indeed, ou managed to hit almost every single wrong note in this entire musical mess;

              1. Falsely attaching a community theater production to media mistreatment of Sarah Plain, for which they have neither responsibility nor culpability. Nick Berg—come on!

              2. Continuing the Taranto myth that the lyric suggests the beheading of Sarah Palin

              3. Suggesting that people need to “watch what they say,” which applied to something as per se harmless as “the Mikado” in a small community theater in Montana, amounts to a call for soft censorship, which I detest, and which I believe is un-American.

              4. Misrepresenting art, as necessarily apolitical, which is simply untrue. I am an artist; I run a theater company. I have founded six. I write plays. I write comedy. I write satire. I know something about this.

              5. Demanding resignations and punishment for the company, which is no more than less bullying, and

              6. Doing all of this while admitting that you don’t know the show, so cannot possibly know what is being communicated to audiences who see it….which endorses the proud and shameless cultural ignorance that the critics of MCT seem to revel in.

              Finally, you did so in a tone that suggested I am the crazy one.

              It was late at night, and because I have been having dozens of on-line debates with people saying one or more of the same things you wrote—usually while accusing me of being a “lib” or “an elitist” or “having a double standard” or otherwise falsely assuming that I supported the attacks on Palin following Tucson (the extreme opposite is true), I think I wrote my response to you in a crescendo of annoyance and frustration–particularly since I had just read the WSJ’s Taranto’s THIRD repeat of the lie that the show “advocated the death of Sarah Palin.”

              You got the brunt of it, like the guy who walks into a saloon fight and get hit with a chair. I do apologize. I would love you to comment elsewhere. But I am sick of beating my head against human brick walls on this issue.

  4. Missing from these discussions is a critical piece of information — an exact quote of the MCT Palin swipe.

    Jack, before you get on your high horse denouncing the audience member’s complaint as somehow indicative of his “complete ignorance” and a sad commentary on our society and blah blah blah, doesn’t it behoove you to find out the nature of the actual line?

    At least Mr. Page was actually there and heard what was said and how it was delivered, and is basing his remarks on that, which is more than I can say for most of the folks commenting (pro or con) on the matter.

    Obviously the Palin swipe could have been a well-crafted, witty, oblique commentary on modern society done with the kind of clever satire G&S would have been proud of, and worthy of support by all patrons of the arts.

    Just as obviously, it could have been a ham-handed, awkwardly inserted bit of vicious Palin Derangement Syndrome that was rightly denounced as jarringly inappropriate in the play.

    More likely it fell somewhere between those extremes, but everyone, including Rory page, has a right to an opinion as to where it falls, especially since, ironically, it was Palin’s detractors who first made a big partisan hypersensitive stink about “violent imagery” from or directed at public figures. It seems fitting to turn that around and say, “oh, well then what about *this*, is it only considered ‘shocking’ when Palin does it, but not when it’s directed *at* her or other targets of liberals’ Two Minutes Hate?”

    It seems to me that anyone — and especially an ethicist — should not jump to conclusions about Mr. Page’s “ignorance” or “cluelessness” etc. without first knowing what, exactly, was said in the play. You bemoan Mr. Page’s “ignorance” of the “context” of the song, yet yourself lack the context of whether the inserted lines actually were well done and artistic, or truly classless and offensive. Ironic. You can’t presume based merely on their venue and then leap to broadly denounce someone and swaths of society as a whole based on your assumptions.

    Not ethically anyway.

    • The fact is, everyone from the Wall Street Journal to local websites to conservative commentators have been slapping around the production without an exact quote from the production. I am in touch with someone in the cast, and am hoping, waiting, to learn exactly what the lyric was. So what, exactly, would you have me do, when the vast majority is citing this, and only this, as the basis for its condemnation: the production put Sarah Palin, by name on Ko-Ko’s list, and this constituted a declaration that she should be killed? Well, that’s what I have to go on and what everyone has to go on, and going on that it—is—-wrong: unfair, ignorant, politically correct nonsense. That is true even if she was included in a part of the song other than the one I assume. The point is the song is not a series of death threats. Let’s see…if she was included like this..

      “And the lady from Alaska who’s so fond of all her guns
      With her ditsy dancing daughter and her dog-named batch of sons
      Along with every single patriot tea party-ist!
      I don’t think they’d be missed
      I’m sure they’d not be missed.”

      [CHORUS: Sarah Palin’s on the list, with each Tea Party-ist, and they’d none of ’em be missed, they’d none of them be missed.]

      OK? How about that? Mild, as political humor; a bit more direct than Gilbert, who would not use the name, clever or not; a swipe at Sarah’s politics and a bit mean to her kids, but within the range of political humor (and hardly original), but the point is—it doesn’t call for her to be killed; the list is just a device. I cannot imagine a way to use Palin in that song that would justify Rory’s complaint UNLESS it was something like this…

      “We should visit Sarah Palin and remove her from her bed
      Then rev up a power chain saw to remove it from her head…
      And then leave her head in Levi Johnston’s bed; now there’s a twist!
      They would none of ’em be missed
      They’d none of them be missed!

      Okay, now that’s over the line—the complaint would be valid. But I think the chances of anything like being in any community theater show are nil. If the lyrical use of Palin is anything like that, I’ll issue a complete apology.

      So based on the complaints, and Rory’s wasn’t the only one, I conclude that the objection is to Palin being on Ko-Ko’s list of possible “victims.” That’s what I wrote about; I’m comfortable with it. The alternative was to let everyone bash a lyric that is consistent with the show’s tradition and is not actually violent or hateful in any way, until the issue was stale and the damage done.

      Your other point is 100% unethical, misleading and illogical: “Everyone, including Rory page, has a right to an opinion as to where it falls, especially since, ironically, it was Palin’s detractors who first made a big partisan hypersensitive stink about “violent imagery” from or directed at public figures. It seems fitting to turn that around and say, “oh, well then what about *this*, is it only considered ‘shocking’ when Palin does it, but not when it’s directed *at* her or other targets of liberals’ Two Minutes Hate?”

      The fact that Palin and her supporters were outrageously slandered by the Palin-hunting media and some political figures like Tucson’s idiot sherriff does not justify or excuse her supporters doing the same to—W.S. GILBERT and the Missoula Community Theater. “They did it first” is an invalid rationalization for unethical conduct—tit for tat, revenge, sauce for the gander, whatever you call it, it’s wrong. If it’s wrong to do TO Palin, it is wrong to do FOR Palin.

      (And parenthetically, I’m out of patience with your hypocrisy argument, since if you’ll do a little due diligence research on this site, you will find that it would be hard to find anyone as immediate and clear in condemning the effort to tie Palin, Limbaugh, the Tea Party or any “culture of hate” to the attack in Tucson as I was. I’ve encountered that phony refrain in every discussion about this, and while it may be applicable to some, it sure as hell isn’t applicable to me. And even if it was, it STILL doesn’t justify reading a violent context into the Gilbert and Sullivan song!)

      In summary: my assumption about the context is based on thorough knowledge, study and experience with the song, the setting, the works of the author, the theatrical piece itself and its history in this country and Britain, and is consistent with absolutely everything that has been printed about the Missoula incident. I await the actual lyrics, but I will be amazed if they warrant altering my opinion or my analysis. Yours, however, is invalid right now.

      Thanks for writing.

      • I was so happy to see this article written. I was in the audience of this show and I can say that the comment WAS made in the way intended by the authors. It fit perfectly into the song and show as a controversial name and was witty and well-timed (and I’m a Republican- go figure). Whether you agree with Palin’s politics or not, you must admit that she is controversial, which made her a perfect choice to fill in the political section of this song.
        As for MCT apologizing, they were not left with much of a choice. People do not recognize that this production was part of their Community Theatre branch rather than their Children’s Theatre branch. Their children’s theatre brings such amazing work to thousands of children annually across the world. Not apologizing meant risking the loss of such an important thing for hundreds of children- they took the high road and made the sacrifice for the greater good. I agree, it is sad that they had to do it – but they are under enough scrutiny right now thanks to a lot of ignorance – let’s not hold the apology against them as well!

        • Thanks, Sam, for the insight from a first person standpoint. Can you remember anything about the precise lyric? Was it is the part of the song I assumed it was? Were any other public figures included or suggested?

          I am sympathetic with the company, and the children’s theater connection does put them in a squeeze. If you’re going to court the wrath of bullies, though, you had better be prepared to stand up to them, or you encourage more bullying.

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  6. It sounds like people who like and support Sarah Palin don’t have any sense of humor, or sophisticated knowledge of G&S, if I’m understanding your post. That this no big deal and some people are being silly about it. Perhaps, but knowing that the woman receives death threats pretty much every day might be part of the reaction to those lines in the play. How about this–alternate Sarah Palin’s name with Nancy Pelosi; the same lines could easily fit for Pelosi, and then we could all have a good laugh, and would realize that it’s all in the true spirit of G&S. I’m serious here, not trying to be snarky. Just alternate the politicians and use names from both sides of the aisle, and everywhere in between.

    • Palin’s nothing if not tough—I doubt that she would think Ko-Ko’s plywood ax poses any danger. As I wrote Elizabeth, I got the idea that Ko-Ko’s list was a joke when I saw the show at the age of 8—this isn’t lack of sophistication by Rory et al., it’s either looking for an excuse to be offended, thick-headedness, or a pathological humor deficit, none of which is the fault of the Missoula Community Theater or Gilbert.

      The problem with your suggestion is that it solves a problem that doesn’t exist, and deals with a non-existent “offense.” The solution is that people need to grow up.

  7. So, it’s a “problem that doesn’t exist” and “deals with a non-existent ‘offense.'” Maybe you’re right; but I think it would be interesting to see the play done with with well-known liberal names injected into those very lines, and to see if liberals in attendance would still laugh it up as much.

    “And that crazy Nancy Pelosi needs a psycho-analyst,
    She never would be missed,
    No, she never would be missed.”

    Yes, I agree, it is harmless. That’s why I would like to hear that the play has been performed with a variety of names used.

    I strongly suspect that some supporters of Pelosi wouldn’t like it. But we’ll never know about that, will we?

    I agree with you that Sarah is tough, and I doubt that she’ll waste a single second thinking about this or being ruffled about it.

    • The point is that it doesn’t and shouldn’t matter who is on “the list.” Sure, there are ignorant, thin-skinned liberals too. Their existence doesn’t make the ignorant, thin-skinned conservatives who think Sarah Palin’s presence on Ko-Ko’s list is the equivalent of a death threat any less foolish, or any more worthy of respect. Satire involves making fun of people, institutions and ideas. It’s an art form, as well as political speech. It isn’t completely harmless—it’s intended to annoy people. So what? Someone who doesn’t understand satire should skip any production of the Mikado.

  8. Annie and Ichneumon nailed it. It’s OK for the left to sing about politician death as long as it’s conservative politicians you’re singing about. Marshall wails about ‘thin-skinned’ people a few weeks after the entire msm was ready to convict Palin with accessory to murder. How would you describe that smear campaign? Thin-skined? Small-brained? Dishonest and despicable?

    Could anyone imagine what the msm would have done with this if it had been tea party rally and someone dressed as Koko had called for the removal of Gabby Giffords pre-the Tucson bloodbath?

    And is Marshall really claiming with his update that it is only a plea for Palin to see a shrink when it’s still the LHE saying she will ‘not be missed’? And he claims others are incapable of understanding? lol

    Maybe marshall can channel other dead lyricists to explain it to him, meanwhile, you know someone’s losing the argument when they post nonsense in all capitals and feel their point is not strong enough without including terms like sputtering, ignorant and humor-deficient . Perhaps Marshall would be more understanding if he considered the fact that opponents of the current admin have been branded as hateful, racist xenophobes for merely arguing against its policies.

    • Exaggeration aside, you should already know that Mr. Marshall has continually criticized the grossly unfair way the media tends to treat people who are involved in Tea Party politics. Hell, despite the fact that he doesn’t like Palin, he’s been defending her against allegations of unethical conduct since 2008. If anything, the conservative complainers are acting like the worst of the politically-correct liberal cowards who complain every time someone who is not an able-bodied Caucasian Christian male is portrayed even slightly negatively.

  9. Oh Harkin, Harkin, Harkin. Did you really read my response, or anything that has been posted here to get past the rationalizations and false equivalencies? “It’s OK for the left to sing about politician death”— Silly misrepresentation #1: there is no call for anyone’s death in the Mikado, and more than Rodent Dangerfiled really getting no respect. Ko-Ko’s list is a joke that was obvious in 1885 and has been accepted as such since, in thousands upon thousands of production. This is tradition, common sense, and fact. Ko-Ko is a CLOWN dressed as an executioner. His song is all purpose piece of light satire that ends by say NOBODY “would be missed.” Is he advocating the death of EVERYBODY? Is he advocating genocide? If the people complaining about the song are really that dumb, I feel very sorry for them, but they are objectively wrong. There is no controversy.
    #2: “How would you describe that smear campaign?” you ask? Read for yourself…I have about five posts on the matter. It was absurd. It was slanderous. It was, in fact, almost as stupid and unfair as accusing Ko-Ko of advocating the death of anyone on his list. So what? The fact that stupidity and scapegoating exists doesn’t have a thing to do with writing letters condemning an innocent production because the writer is too muddled to get a joke that has been clear to everyone above the age of 6 since 1885.

    Absurdity #3, 4 and 5: “Could anyone imagine what the msm would have done with this if it had been tea party rally and someone dressed as Koko had called for the removal of Gabby Giffords pre-the Tucson bloodbath?” What does that have to do with the price of beans? This wasn’t a Tea Party rally, it was a British satirical operetta. If you don’t comprehend the key factor of context, I sure don’t have time to explain it. And this wasn’t “someone dressed as Ko-Ko”, it WAS Ko-Ko…see, that’s how theater works. Oh, never mind. One more thing I can’t bother to explain to the willfully confused.

    Yes, I indulged myself to use capital letters in a few places to convey my frustration that all the arguments exist in a complete vacuum of knowledge and logic, and it is frustrating arguing with people who won’t think, reason, or stick to facts. You keep recycling the same non-sequiturs, all ignoring the basic fact that the show is satire, nobody is beheaded, there is not one second of menace, malice or violence anywhere in the Mikado, and if anyone has a problem with The Mikado, it’s their problem, not the show’s, and not the production’s. You’re right…it was futile. But failing to convince someone is not the same as losing an argument. The tragedy is yours, because your perception, like Rory’s, like Aaron Flint, is so poisoned by bias and partisan insanity that you can’t think, reason or laugh.

  10. what happened to our constitutional right to offend. Isn’t art and the theatre the place to test boundaries. Art, the theatre and such is there to disturb us. to make us squrm in our chairs some…speech codes limit everyones freedom and it’s offensive to my sensibilities to not be trusted or trust others with wordplay with all it’s textures tastes and smells.

  11. Pingback: Mikado-gate: Missoula Children’s Theatre deals with backlash over Palin quote

    • No, that certainly wasn’t the problem. The problem is that critics were ignorant of the tradition and context. I agree that the lyric was slumsy, and that it should have been balanced, at least, with a similar target from the other side. But I am not so confident as you that Gilbert, writing today, would be as non-partisan as he was in his, not that it changes the absurdity of taking anything Kopko sings about literally. Pinafore, Iolanthe and Utopia had some partisan shots, or at least some at the time took them as such.

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