Good morning from San Diego!
Well, I was speaking to 600 seats just now, but only about 300 lawyers. Several came up to me afterward, inspired or stimulated, and thankful. In ethics, as in the theater, I have come to adopt William Saroyan’s creed that if just one person sings your song, your life as an artist has meaning. Like Saroyan, I have come to adopt that out of self-preservation and to stave off insanity.
1. It looks like a Saturday Night Live writer plagiarized at least two skits this season. The story is here.
The combination of SNL’s insane schedule, the pressure to be different and edgy week after week, and the temptation of YouTube made this inevitable. The rules on borrowing, adapting, copying comedy material has always been a gray area, often settled by the good faith and collegiality—or not—of the comics themselves. By accident, I just saw an old “Everybody Loves Raymond” episode which was an obvious rip-off of an even older Dick Van Dyke Show episode in which Laura writes a children’s book, and professional writer Rob offers to help her improve it.? Plagiarism? Comedy skits in vaudeville were passed around like the flu: Abbot and Costello weren’t the first to do the “Who’s On First?” routine, they just did it so much better than anyone else that they owned it. Was Lucy plagiarizing Red Skelton with her “Vitameatavegimin” skit, where a pitch woman gets drunk doing multiple takes of a TV ad that requires her to drink the alcohol-laced product, when Red had been doing the same routine for years as “Guzzler’s Gin”?
2. Beatle’s quiz answer: as one commenter noted, the song that topped the “100 Best Beatles’ songs” poll of the Beatles-obsessed listeners by the Sirius-Xm Beatles Channel two years running was “A Day in the Life,” the grand finale to the “Sgt. Pepper’s” album.
3. Donna Brazile has no shame. I was going to say “incredibly,” but Donna Brazile also has no integrity, so it is completely credible: the former DNC chair and debate cheater for Hillary Clinton will now be working as a commentator for Fox News, which before she became a pariah in her own party, she routinely mocked as fake news channel that only bolstered Republican talking points. She has said that she joined Fox because it’s important for political adversaries to have dialogue and work with each other. Right. She joined Fox because they were willing to pay her.
Fox News is an ethics dunce for hiring her, too—not because Brazile is a liberal, but because she has established herself as a liar, and news networks shouldn’t hire liars. The woman was deemed too untrustworthy to work for CNN! I don’t care what Donna Brazile says she thinks about anything. Nobody should.
4. “Russian Doll” Ethics. I finally began watching the extravagantly praised Netflix series “Russian Doll,” about a young woman in the East Village who keeps dying and finding herself back in the same bathroom during her birthday party. Don’t get me wrong, now, it’s good, but the critical praise seems way, way over the top to me, unless I’m missing something. The ethics lessons are the same as “Groundhog Day,” which was funnier, and if “Russian Doll” is profound in some manner its predecessor is not, I’ve missed it.
This, however, annoyed me in the recent New York Times feature about the show. It’s production staff is all female, and we get this quote:we get this quote:
The creators Natasha Lyonne and Leslye Headland spoke to IndieWire about how they assembled a very close team of personal friends to make the show, and about the vibe of a female-fronted production. Headland joked that day players would comment on how smooth and relaxed everything was on set. “And it was like, ‘Yeah, because it’s a female AD, and a female director, and a female showrunner and star,’” she said.
Hahahahaha! Great joke! Would “Yeah, because it’s a white AD, and a white director, and a female white showrunner and star,’” or “Yeah, because it’s a male AD, and a male director, and a male, white showrunner and star,’” or “Yeah, because it’s a straight AD, and a straight director, and a straight white showrunner and star,” be similarly acceptable as “jokes”? I doubt it. Female chauvinism is obnoxious, hypocritical and insulting, and ought to be regarded exactly as any other kind of prejudice. Apparently women, blacks and gays believe that the remedy for bigotry is more bigotry.
5. Arrrgh. Several juicy ethics topics on the runway, but none that I can do justice to in the time available. I’ll have to work on them after I get home. Heading to the airport…