Tag Archives: “Saturday Night Live”

Armistice Day Ethics Warm-Up, 11/11/18: Pettiness, Tit-For-Tat, And Fake All-Stars

Good Morning!

Why Nora Bayes? Let me tell you a story…

I learned about Nora Bayes (1880-1928) while mounting a production of a “lost” musical, George S. Kauffman’s Hollywood satire “Hollywood Pinafore,” which was essentially a parody of Gilbert & Sullivan’s classic, “H.M.S. Pinafore.” Nora was mentioned in a laugh line in the script, so the 1941 show assumed that the audience knew who she was. I had never heard of her, so I did some research. She was a fascinating character, and a huge vaudeville and Broadway singing and comedy star, household name huge. “Over There” was one of her biggest hits; another was “Shine on Harvest Moon,” which she wrote with her second husband (she ultimately had five), Jack Norwith. He also wrote “Take Me Out To The Ball Game,” another Bayes standard. According to one online biography, Bayes Bayes “provided some flamboyant, indeed extreme, examples of the broad social changes happening in the United States in the early twentieth century, namely the questioning of traditional roles for women as well as the challenges to male political and economic power that marked the women’s movement of the time.”

I almost wrote about her in April. As regular readers here know, I believe it is the our duty to honor the memories, accomplishments and cultural influence of past figures in American history, because the more we remember, the more we learn, and the wiser and more ethical we are. Somehow Nora Bayes, famous as she one was, had been in an unmarked grave for 90 years.  On April 21, a group of Nora Bayes enthusiasts placed a granite headstone over her plot. The New York Times told the strange tale here.

Now I think of Nora Bayes every time I hear “Over There,” “Shine on Harvest Moon,” and “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.” Maybe you will too.

1. Truth in labeling. Major League Baseball has sent a team to Japan to play a series of exhibition games against a Japanese All-Star team, reviving a long-time tradition that had been suspended for several years. As you may know, the U.S. was critical in introducing baseball to Japan, and sent several major stars there to help get the sport established. Playing in Japan is mostly a lark for the American players, but the games are taken very seriously by the Japanese. In the first two games, the MLB All-Stars have lost, greatly pleasing the locals.

I don’t begrudge the Japanese fans their David and Goliath fantasies, but calling the U.S. team “All-Stars” is misrepresentation. For example, one of the pitchers who got clobbered in the last game, a 9-6  contest that began with the Japanese team jumping out to a 9-0 lead, was a Red Sox pitcher named Brian Johnson. I like Johnson, a crafty swing-man who had some good moments last season, but he’s a lifetime 6-6 pitcher who was left off the Red Sox post-season roster, and will have to battle to stay in the majors next season. I know you can’t sell tickets if the U.S. team is called the “All the players we could talk into coming to Japan Team,” but that’s what it is.

2. Tit for Tat  may be funny, but it’s not ethical. Representative Dan Crenshaw, the veteran who was mocked last week on Saturday Night Live for his disfiguring war wound, appeared on the show last night to mock the appearance of his tormenter, Pete Davidson. Crenshaw was unusually poised for a pol on a comedy show, and the bit successfully got Davidson and SNL, which had been widely criticized for its nasty routine, off the hook. Clever. Successful. Funny. Still wrong, however. This represents an endorsement of Donald Trump ethics, as well as the endlessly repeated rationalization for the non-stop ad hominem attacks the President has inflicted on him daily by the news media and others. The President famously—infamously around here—has always said that if you attack him, he’ll attack you back harder. His haters argue, in turn, that their tactics are justified by his. This is how the culture got in the escalating spiral to Hell it is in. I don’t blame Crenshaw: if he hadn’t accepted the invitation to get funny revenge on Davidson, he would have looks like a petty jerk. Nonetheless, he has now officially become part of the problem, not just a victim of it.

3. Stop making me defend President Trump Dept.  You see, I am kicked around on Facebook for not just falling meekly into line and declaring that everything Donald Trump does is an outrage and proof that he should be impeached. I tell you, it’s tempting. The mass bullying campaign to herd everyone into the undemocratic effort to overthrow an elected President using relentless criticism and flagrant double standards has been effective in stifling others, and it also serves as a kind of mass cultural hypnosis. I don’t like defending Trump. He is doing serious damage to his office, as are his unhinged foes, who are apparently willing to destroy the nation, democracy, and the Constitution to “save” it from him. But I will not be intimidated out of pointing out the revolting pettiness, hypocrisy and unfairness of his critics. Two examples surfaced yesterday. Continue reading

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Prophesy Confirmed: SNL And Our Nation Of Assholes

The most unforgivable part of Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” mockery of Congressional candidate Dan Crenshaw was ridiculing a decorated veteran because of the disfigurement he recieved serving his country, though that was bad enough. It was his dismissive reference to the fact that he lost his eye in “war or whatever.” Yeah, my father had his foot blown up in “war or whatever.” Whatever.

My prophesy that electing Donald Trump President would rapidly convert the United States into a “Nation of Assholes ” was accurate, and here’s the proof. In any civilized community since our nation—indeed, any nation, began, a six-year-old who mocked a veteran for his wounds would be punished and every adult who witnessed such ignorant disrespect, even from a child, would be embarrassed to see it.  Now, however, that same infantile, disrespectful insult is featured on national television, as alleged adults roar  with laughter.

Donald Trump mocked a disabled reporter on the way to the White House. He denigrated prisoners of war like John McCain, and recently called Stormy Daniels “horseface.” Of course, the civilized and respectable approach to discouraging such rude and vulgar behavior is to condemn it, and shun its practitioners. The Left and the resistance are now emulating it. They have used mockery of the President’s physical appearance for years, the purest and most inexcusable form of ad hominem attack. Now they are widening the target area, so a veteran who lost an eye in battle is considered fair game. (As an aside, how does someone  like Davidson have the gall to mock anyone’s appearance? The guy looks like a ventriloquist dummy come to life….)

But the same people who deride the President’s boorishness, viciousness and lack of ethics alarms are not justified in adopting his bad habits, and corrupting the culture. When they act like President Trump, they are subject to the same standards. Davidson’s ugly routine wasn’t a joke. This was “We all hate conservatives and Republicans, so isn’t it funny to mock how they look!” Sure it’s funny, if you’re ten. Continue reading

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Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 10/7/18, Part II: Fake Satire, Fake Racism, Fake Harvard

Good Morning AGAIN!

My OTHER favorite hymn when I’m feeling blue..

3. If I were the producer of Saturday Night Live…I would strongly push the show to do what satirical shows are supposed to do: make fun of everyone. It is just good business, as well as comedic integrity: make everyone watch to see who gets skewered.  But no: despite the over-abundance of potential and indeed near mandatory targets of parody and mockery, SNL took sides—the same one it has been taking now, virtually exclusively, for years. There was no Spartacus sketch, despite the preening of the absurd Cory Booker, and a skit that virtually writes itself. Lindsay Graham was cruelly mocked, but not Kirsten Gillibrand, nor Diane Feinstein. Ah, but Senator Susan Collins, who made a brave, clear, invaluable speech about her choice–women get choices, I hear—to buck the #MeToo bullies and lynch mobs and confirm Brett Kavanaugh, was mocked for THAT last night, aan portrayed as weak dupe. Yet despite the mannered, baby-talking, confused presentation by Blasey-Ford, whom I would deem a satirist’s dream, the show’s writers didn’t have the guts to touch her.

4. Speaking of jokes…Georgetown prof C. Christine Fair, who the college thinks can be trusted to be neutral and fair to white men in her classroom despite her racist and violent tweets, had an explanation after her Twitter account was suspended. She had written, you will recall,

“Look at [this] chorus of entitled white men. All of them deserve miserable deaths while feminists laugh as they take their last gasps. Bonus: we castrate their corpses and feed them to swine? Yes.”

Come on! Don’t you get the joke? She was kidding! Fair told the Washington Post, whose reporter didn’t have the integrity to respond, “How stupid do you think I am?”…

“Maybe this was not my most eloquent attempt,” Fair said. “And I will certainly concede I was attempting to make people feel uncomfortable,” but  “this idea I’m somehow calling for actual violence is preposterous.”

Gee, why can’t white supremacists and racists excuse their “jokes” the same way?

The Post’s writer, however, completely accepts Fair’s alibi, and impugns anyone who took offense at it as “extreme right wing.”  Read the article.

Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias! Continue reading

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Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/30/18: Gay Bashing, A Stupid Social Experiment, And The Brett Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck Keeps Rolling Along…

Good Morning!

It’s the last day of the regular season for baseball, or should be: there could be two tie-breakers tomorrow, and they are officially considered part of the season. There were more baseball ethics posts this year than ever before. You can review them here.

1. And now for something completely stupid. I was temped to make this a free-standing post, but it triggered my stupid alarm, and doesn’t deserve it.

In Los Angeles, Boguslaw Matlak  and Laura Quijano decided to stage a “social experiment” to determine whether bystanders would act to protect an  endangered child. As their hidden cameras ran, they stuffed their 3-year-old son Leo into the trunk of their car. In truth, the back of the trunk had been rigged so Leo could climb into the back seat. He was in no danger.

“I was thinking maybe I should do a video to show people that they should do something about it when they see something wrong, to get involved,” Matlak said.  They got involved, all right. Witnesses called the cops, who arrested the couple and took Leo into protective custody.  The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services  placed the child with a relative. For the last three weeks, the couple has been trying to get him back.

“They are hurting my son emotionally at this point,” Quijano told reporters. “He’s not home with his parents who love him very much and what else do they want from us? I just don’t understand at this point.”

The agency recently informed the parents that it would would be returning Leo to their custody. Matlak  now faces one count of misdemeanor child endangerment.

Observations:

  • Ethics lesson #1: Don’t use human beings as props.
  • Ethics lesson #2: Three-year-olds can’t consent to such treatment.
  • Ethics lesson #3: Police have enough to do dealing with real crimes. Staging fake ones to see what will happen should be illegal, if it isn’t already.
  • What’s there to complain about? The social experiment was a success!
  • Is proof that parents of a small child are idiots sufficient to remove him? No, I suppose not.
  • The problem with this episode is that the child, who was innocent of wrong doing, is the primary one being punished.

Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/21/17: Dead Ethics Alarms All Over, And This Just In…Ana Navarro Is Still Stupid

Good Morning, all!

1 Dead Ethics Alarms on the Hill. Just as I cannot conceive of what kind of ethics alarm malfunction allows any man to think that parading his reproductive organs before unconsenting women in a work-related setting is anything but gross and wrong (Charlie Rose???), I cannot comprehend by what tortured logic an elected member of Congress reaches the conclusion that I should pay for his sexual harassment hobby. The latter is the height of arrogance and abuse of the public trust. Yet the Washington Post reported that Congress’s Office of Compliance paid out $17 million for 264 settlements with federal employees over the past 20 years for various violations, including sexual harassment, and now we have at least one name and specifics: John Conyers, the ranking member of the House Committee on the Judiciary. Perfect.

From Buzzfeed:

Michigan Rep. John Conyers, a Democrat and the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 with a former employee who alleged she was fired because she would not “succumb to [his] sexual advances.”

Documents from the complaint obtained by BuzzFeed News include four signed affidavits, three of which are notarized, from former staff members who allege that Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the powerful House Judiciary Committee, repeatedly made sexual advances to female staff that included requests for sex acts, contacting and transporting other women with whom they believed Conyers was having affairs, caressing their hands sexually, and rubbing their legs and backs in public. Four people involved with the case verified the documents are authentic….The woman who settled with Conyers launched the complaint with the Office of Compliance in 2014, alleging she was fired for refusing his sexual advances, and ended up facing a daunting process that ended with a confidentiality agreement in exchange for a settlement of more than $27,000. Her settlement, however, came from Conyers’ office budget rather than the designated fund for settlements.

Well, this section of the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck is doing some good, by throwing some light on this unethical practice. Congressional sexual harassers need to pay their hush money out of their own pockets. That’s the least they can do.

2.  Live from New York! It’s Double Standards Live! Although Saturday Night Live did have the integrity to mock alum Al Franken following the Senator’s sexual harassment accusations regarding his conduct when he was just an obnoxious comic, 36 SNL staffers, including original cast members Lorraine  Newman and Jane Curtin, felt it was appropriate to release this letter:

SNL Women Offer Solidarity in Support of Al Franken

We feel compelled to stand up for Al Franken, whom we have all had the pleasure of working with over the years on Saturday Night Live (SNL). What Al did was stupid and foolish, and we think it was appropriate for him to apologize to Ms Tweeden, and to the public. In our experience, we know Al as a devoted and dedicated family man, a wonderful comedic performer, and an honorable public servant. That is why we are moved to quickly and directly affirm that after years of working with him, we would like to acknowledge that not one of us ever experienced any inappropriate behavior; and mention our sincere appreciation that he treated each of us with the utmost respect and regard.

We send our support and gratitude to Al and his family this Thanksgiving and holiday season.

Ugh. This is blatant Ethics Accounting, as if the fact that Al was fun to work with has anything to do with his misconduct, or mitigates it in any way:

21. Ethics Accounting, or “I’ve earned this”/ “I made up for that”. You cannot earn the right to act unethically by depositing a lot of ethical deeds in the imaginary ethics bank, nor can unethical conduct be erased by doing good for someone else. The illusion that one can balance the ethics books this way is referred to on the Ethics Alarms blog as “the Ruddigore Fallacy.”  Nobody earns the right to be unethical, not even once, no matter how exemplary their conduct. An unethical act is just as unethical, whether it is performed by a saint, a hero, or a villain.

Even more ridiculous is the “he never harassed me!” bit. This is reminiscent of Greta Van Susterin’s embarrassing defense of Roger Ailes, where she “stood up for” her boss and cast skepticism on his accusers because Greta had never been abused. The SNL letter drips with similar skepticism and bias. It is “appropriate” for Al to have apologized—never mind that the apology itself stunk on ice—and Al’s conduct may have been “stupid and foolish,” but come on, it wasn’t the worst thing.

What does standing up “in solidarity” mean, when it is in support of an accused harasser? It means “we don’t believe the victim, and anyway, we like the accused sufficiently that we will give him a pass.” I’m just guessing here, but I bet there are many, many women Harvey Weinstein worked with that he never molested, and that Louis C.K. hasn’t masturbated in front of every women he ever encountered. Those lucky women should sign a letter.

3. ” Gee, you mean I really have to pay it back?” In 19 states, government agencies can seize state-issued professional licenses from residents who default on their educational debts, while South Dakota suspends driver’s licenses for the same provocation.  The tone of the New York Times article on the topic is disapproving, even though seven of the 19 states don’t use the laws that allow such suspensions, and the others mostly employ them as threats to get deadbeats to take their responsibilities seriously. Nobody in any of the states loses a license who sets up a payment schedule. Continue reading

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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: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/16/2017: SNL, NFL, Collusion, Gossip, And Bribery

Good Morning.

1 Why am I only now getting around to today’s Warm-Up? It is because I spent more than 8 hours over the weekend, and three hours this morning, writing a Motion to Dismiss in response to a ridiculous, retaliatory, vindictive lawsuit by a pro se litigant with a grudge. The complaint has no legal cites, because no legal authority supports its claims. I, however, have to cite cases to show why the Complaint is completely without merit. Since the Complaint is a brain-rotting 18 pages, I have to carefully redact it to have a prayer of meeting the 20 page limit for motions. Even then, there is no guarantee that this won’t drag on for months.

No penalty will be exacted on the plaintiff for filing this spurious and groundless law suit. To do so would chill the right of citizens to seek justice and redress for wrongs through the courts. Thus the underlying objective of the suit will be accomplished: to force me to expend time and effort that I have far better uses for. Ethics Alarms readers are affected, my family is effected, my work is affected, my enjoyment of life is affected, and, of course, the system and the taxpayers who fund it are affected. This is an abuse of the system, but one that cannot and must not be impeded.

2. Does anyone have a theory about why the bribery trial of Democratic Senator Bob Menendez has received minimal mainstream media coverage that does not show bias? When Abscam was going on, the trials of the various members of Congress caught in a bribery sting were front page, Evening News headlines for weeks. The only U.S. Senator tried (and convicted) was a Democrat Harrison Williams. Has the news media become that much more partisan since the Reagan Administration?

3. As expected, exiled NFL kneeler (first) and quarterback (second) Colin Kaepernick has filed a grievance accusing NFL teams of colluding to prevent him from getting a contract with any team this season.

We’ve been here before. This is the Barry Bonds scenario all over again. Bonds, the definitive ethics corrupter in Major League Baseball and a flagrant steroid cheat and liar, was not resigned by the San Francisco Giants after the 2007 season. He was 42, but his season had been productive, with a 1.o45 OPS, close to the best in the game. I wrote an article for The Hardball Times arguing that Bonds would not be signed, because doing so would permanently scar any team that accepted him, injure the team’s culture, corrupt its young players, and wound baseball itself. The invective hurled at me and my article by sportswriters and readers was unrelenting. ESPN’s Keith Law said that my essay made anyone who read it stupid. MLB’s satellite channel’s hosts laughed about the idea that teams cared about such matters as integrity. Bonds, however, was not signed, and never played again. While he and his defenders claimed collusion among the owners, no evidence appeared. Continue reading

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