Integrity Check For Saturday Night Live: Time For A Mr. Mike Moment

Larry David was the darling of the left-tilting TV audience of Saturday Night Live last year when he became the lovable avatar of Bernie Sanders, a casting no-brainer which, I will remind the assembled, I predicted here well before it became reality. It was also predictable that David, the misanthrope who co-created Seinfeld, was the real life model for funny sociopath George Costanza, and who just returned to HBO playing a fictionalized version of his laughably awful self in “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” would be asked to host the creaky satire show, which he did last weekend.

But THE HORROR! David’s opening monologue was genuine Larry David, as any “Seinfeld” fan would recognize. That show mocked Jews, gays, women, AIDS marches, Puerto Rican Pride Day, old people, disabled people,  ugly babies, Kosher diet restrictions,  dwarves, Kennedy’s assassination and stroke victims, among other topics…in other words, it was intentional political incorrectness as comedy. It should not have been a surprise, then, when David riffed on girl-watching in Nazi concentration camps:

“I’ve always been obsessed with women, and I’ve often wondered if I’d grown up in Poland when Hitler came to power and was sent to a concentration camp, would I be checking women out in the camp? I think I would.However, there are no good opening lines in a concentration camp.”

Then he ventured into the Harvey Weinstein minefield, noting that a lot of the executives being accused of sexual misconduct are, like him, Jews:

“I don’t like when Jews are in the headlines for notorious reasons. I want ‘Einstein discovers the theory of relativity,’ ‘Salk cures polio.’ What I don’t want? ‘Weinstein took it out.’…I consistently strive to be a good Jewish representative. When people see me I want them to say, ‘Oh, there goes a fine Jew for you!'”

Either of these would have been at home on “Seinfeld,” where George once mused about Moses’ nose-picking habits, and enthused about having a prison inmate girlfriend, so he could have sex and ensure that she had to wait until he chose to come back and see her. (She escaped, though…). Ah, but 2017 isn’t the Nineties. Now delicate progressives seek safe spaces, and the only acceptable targets of humor are the rich, whites, males, straights, Christians and conservatives. And Donald Trump, of course. The rest is hate speech. Taboo. “We–the Virtuous Collective of the Left— are not amused.”

Social media erupted with condemnations of David for daring to be unfunny on Saturday Night Live. For perspective, consider that SNL has sometimes gone years without being funny. Salon pronounced him “out of his depth and out of his time.” How dare he make a Holocaust jokes “when an era when anti-Semitism is surging in the United States”? (Any guesses whether Salon would similarly object to anti-Republican jokes when GOP Senators are being shot at, and mugged by their Socialist neighbors?) He hasn’t “moved with times,” tut-tuts that arbiter of hilarity, Salon.  After all, “Blazing Saddles” isn’t funny any more. “The Producers” is offensive, with all those Hitler jokes. How dare “Airplane!”make fun of black dialect , seek (and get) laughs with a stereotypical gay character, or show African natives instinctively dunking the second they touch a basketball? That’s not funny! You aren’t allowed to laugh at that, Comrade. Watch it! Because we are watching you.

Now, calling the President of the United States a cockholder and suggesting that he wants to have sex with his daughter, THAT’S funny.

Check the rule book.

At the Washington Examiner, Tom Rogan has the right and ethical perspective:

At The Atlantic, Professor Jeremy Dauber wailed that David thought comedy was acceptable “after Charlottesville.” Dauber continued, “David’s invocation of the concentration camp on Saturday as a kind of peekaboo provocation … might ring particularly hollow in an America where neo-Nazis march openly on the streets and white-nationalist memes proliferate online.”

“Might ring particularly hollow” are the operative words there. Dauber encapsulates the Left’s new reflex that if some words might offend someone somewhere, they should not be said.

I believe the opposite is true. Humor is supposed to be unrestrained and, if a comedian so desires, uncomfortable. Whatever our particular personal views, we’re lucky to live in a society in which humor is defined by the humorist not the humorless hordes. So yes, some might be offended to see Larry David make concentration camp jokes or urinate on a picture of Jesus (that one made me uncomfortable) or have a Jewish boy knit a swastika.

I say too bad. The beauty of humor in a democracy is that it’s always those who laugh who matter most.

Bingo. I don’t care if you find something funny: if I find it funny, that’s all that matters….and vice versa. Moreover, if the Left abandons humor (unless it is politically weaponized, like the tediously redundant  all-anti-Right-hate-all-the-time  late night talk shows and  cable shows), humor is doomed. Comedians and comics have almost entirely arisen from the liberal side of the ideological spectrum. A funny conservative is as rare as a popular ethicist.

Thus the attack on David for telling the kinds of jokes Larry David tells creates an integrity test for Saturday Night Live. A commenter named Michael Bauer told  the New York Times that “Mr. David’s comments were completely unfunny and embarrassing, not only to Mr. David but also to the show’s producer, Lorne Michaels, and everyone associated with ‘Saturday Night Live.'”

Really? Really? This was the show that once, in its greatest years, featured the intentionally tasteless and blackest of black humor-obsessed Michael O’Donoghue. The ultimate O’Donoghue gag was a trilogy of sick  bits he performed as “Mr. Mike” to end SNL shows spaced over several weeks. In the first of them, he announced that he would do an impression of nice guy daytime talk show host Mike Douglas, with a twist:

Michael O’Donoghue: ” We all love Mike Douglas, of course. And I was watching Mike’s show this afternoon, and  a funny thought occurred to me. I thought, what if someone took steel needles, say, um, fifteen, eighteen inches long — with real sharp points — and plunged them into Mike Douglas’s eyes. What would his reaction be? I think it might go something… like this …

Then he removed his glasses, pocketed them, and turned around, in the fashion of celebrity impressionists from time immemorial, paused, and suddenly  began screaming and writhing on the floor.

TV critics, many of them, were not happy. The show and NBC received complaints. Cruelty, after all, isn’t funny. (I loved it.)

To their undying credit, SNL, Lorne Michaels, and O’Donoghue doubled down. A couple of weeks later, “Mr. Mike” was introduced again, again at the end of the show. This time, he was ushered on  by two attractive young African-American women in gowns:

Michael O’Donoghue: Thank you, thank you. And thank you, Buck. I’m gonna just name a few groups or teams of people: Burns and Allen, Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, the Andrews Sisters, the Marx Brothers, Ferrante and Teicher, Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne. Now, what do all these people have in common? I mean, of course, they’re all exciting entertainers, I know, but – but something deeper than that. Each of them has a special magic power, a power to reach out and touch not just the minds of the people for whom they’re performing … but their hearts as well. Today, in 1976, nobody fits that description better than Mr. Tony Orlando and Dawn. [Applause.] Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! [O’Donoghue applauds. Applause ends.] I happen to catch their show last week and a funny thought occurred to me. I thought, what if someone took steel needles, say, um, fifteen, eighteen inches long — with real sharp points — and plunged them into Tony Orlando — and Dawn’s — eyes. What would their reaction be? I think it might go something like this …

Then O’Donoghue removed his glasses, pocketed them, and  he and the two women turned their backs to the audience—which was now groaning and laughing nervously, guessing what was in store. After a pause, all three clutched their eyes, screaming, shrieking at the top of their lungs, staggering, collapsing to the floor, writhing around on the stage, kicking, trying to get up and then falling, and dropping to their knees in agony.

Now that’s integrity.  But it wasn’t the end.

A couple of weeks later, “Mr Mike” again was introduced to close the show, and to prove that when it comes to bad taste comedy, there is no retreat:

Michael O’Donoghue: As a top impressionist, I spend so much of my time out on the road doing club dates. And the thing I like to do the most after the show to relax and sort of wind down … You just turn on the old stereo and listen to a great choir. And when you’re talkin’ great choir, you’re talkin’ Mormon Tabernacle Choir. [The audience burst into applause, knowing what was in store. ] Yeah! Yeah! All right! All right! You know, I kid the Mormon Tabernacle Choir but — I love ’em. And I happened to be in Utah recently so I drove over to the tabernacle to hear them and while they were singing “Shenandoah” or “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” or “For Unto Us a Child is Born” — you know, one of those moving, inspirational songs that just sends a chill right up your spine — well, I was listening to this and a funny thought occurred to me. I thought, what if someone took steel needles — well, well, actually, hundreds of pairs of steel needles — say, fifteen, eighteen inches long — with real sharp points — and plunged them into the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s eyes? What would their reaction be? I think it might go something like this…

O’Donoghue removed his glasses, pocketed them as before, and turned around, as curtain opened behind him, revealing about 30 “choir members.” .O’Donoghue faced the choir, took a pitch pipe from his pocket and blew a C.  The choir responded by humming the note back. Then O’Donoghue paused, raised his arms in the airas all was motionless motionless, silent. “Mr. Mike” glanced to his left, then turned back to the choir, and suddenly he and the choir began clutching their eyes, screaming, shrieking at the top of their lungs, staggering, collapsing to the floor, writhing around on the stage, kicking, trying to get up and then falling, and dropping to their knees in agony, as total chaos reigned.

If Saturday Night Live has any integrity left after all these years, it will refuse to pander to the dark forces chilling the freedom of speech, dissent, and the vigorous battle of ideas and, yes, taste, that is the heart of America. These forces need to be defied. SNL should bring Larry David back as soon as possible to do more Holocaust jokes, hopefully funnier ones, or some other jokes and skits that really offend the hell out of people, especially the social justice warriors.

I might even start respecting the show again.

Maybe he could do an impression of Alec Baldwin’s reaction if if someone took long steel needles, say  fifteen, eighteen inches long — with real sharp points …

 

________________________

Sources:Washington ExaminerNew York Daily News, Salon

 

14 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Etiquette and manners, Humor and Satire, U.S. Society

14 responses to “Integrity Check For Saturday Night Live: Time For A Mr. Mike Moment

  1. The O’Donohue joke sounds like a variation of a very simple old joke:

    Straight man: What does your father do?
    Comic: My father’s dead.
    SM: What did he do before he died, then?
    C: He went (clutches heart and makes deadly moan).

  2. Alan Anderson

    I’m still looking for evidence of ethics education on this site… this post reads more like a typical rant about Progressive snowflakes. Disappointed.

  3. Ash

    Because it is the 79th Anniversary of Kristallnacht, I have to be completely honest. Larry’s Holocaust jokes were terrible.

    Oh, I am not offended that he made them, I don’t think he is out of touch, I am annoyed that Larry and SNL thought those jokes were actually funny.

    I’d be annoyed if I had to pay to see Larry in standup say those jokes.
    I’d be annoyed if I were paying for TV to see those jokes on Curb.

    The problem with those jokes was not that they were about the Holocaust, the problem with the jokes was that they were not funny.

    We cannot let Larry or SNL off the hook for this. Reward unfunny jokes and you get more unfunny jokes in the future.

    As Chief of Army Lieutenant General David Morrison of the Australian Army famously stated when chewing out his troops over their alleged sexism, “The Standard You Walk Past is the Standard You Accept” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QaqpoeVgr8U

    If we are to make Holocaust jokes, we best remember the victims of the Nazis when our Holocaust jokes are funny. When our Holocaust jokes are not funny, we dismember them.

    So no, I saw little good about his SNL performance.

    • Alan Anderson

      Eloquently stated. Thank you.

    • So in other words, you missed the entire point of the post. I didn’t say the jokes were funny. You don’t have to think they were funny. What do you mean you are annoyed they thought they were funny? Comics often don’t know when jokes are funny. You are the arbiter of what are funny Holocaust jokes, then?

      My point was that just because of their topic, that doesn’t mean jokes are taboo. No jokes should be taboo. My Aunt made a hilarious joke about my other aunt’s death on the drive to bury her. Gutsy. and we thought it was funny. I really don’t care whether you would have thought so.

      You write: “The problem with those jokes was not that they were about the Holocaust, the problem with the jokes was that they were not funny.” That’s a problem with any unfunny joke. The Holocaust is irrelevant to that point. SNL gained respect once for having the courage to cross lines, take chances and fail. You want to punish the failures? Then you don’t get the big laughs, either.

      I’ve written comedy professionally, performed it, directed it, and mounted shows. Your comment makes no sense from that perspective. At all. The point is that if it has any integrity, SNL won’t back down from the next Holocaust joke either.

  4. Other Bill

    I found Larry David’s Weinstein comments/performance fascinating. I saw a clip of them embedded in an article. I don’t know that much about Larry David other than he’s some sort of saint who was connected with Seinfeld and made a fortune as a result. Over the past few weeks I’d wondered whether I was the only person in the world who’d noticed seemingly all these sexual harassers (who like to masturbate in front of strangers- weird) were Jewish guys. And there was Larry David talking about it. Pretty darned frankly. And the audience laughed as if they were a sound track on the Dick Van Dyke Show. Why were they guffawing? I’m guessing they’d been “warmed up” by somebody and told to laugh whenever the speaker paused. Why weren’t they silently discomfited and a little reflective? A truly remarkable moment in television. I think it tells us a great deal about the pablum that’s typical of late night comedy and so called political satire. They assumed he was just making fun of Republicans or white guys in pickup trucks and they weren’t even listening.

  5. La Sylphide

    I actually did check out a guy while at Auschwitz this past summer. I chastised myself for it later. But good god, he was breathtaking.

  6. Pennagain

    Sorry I missed the show. Being gay, and (genetically/culturally, if not religiously) Jewish — I was exposed to Holocaust humor as a child by both my grandfathers. Anyone of a generation that spent even a weekend in the Borscht Belt of the Catskills came back with a store of satire and jokes.

    p.s. I have a feeling that the reason the current crop of sex offenders are high-up Jews, straight or gay, is that the crop was planted and nurtured in the Hollywood hothouse that provided its natural prey. I know, that’s a terrible mixed metaphor: just think Little Crop of Horrors.

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