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: Continue reading