Tag Archives: “Seinfeld”

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

14 Comments

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

Ethics Dunce Hillary’s George Costanza Moment

In “The Comeback,” a much admired “Seinfeld” episode, George Costanza obsesses over the fact he missed what he is sure was the perfect comeback when a colleague at a staff lunch, watching him gluttonize a bowl of shrimp, quipped that “George, the Ocean called, and they’re out of shrimp!” George wishes he had said, “Yeah? Well, the jerk store called, they’re running out of you!” The problem is that much success in life is based on timing. If you miss your moment, it’s gone, and coming back later to explain that you had the perfect response and didn’t use it is trolling for sympathy, when you don’t deserve any.

Now Hillary Clinton, in her post-Presidential-run botch excuse tour, is channeling George as she muses about whether she missed the perfect comeback when, she says, Donald Trump was “invading her space” during the town meeting style debate.

In an audio clip to promote her upcoming book (above), Clinton reads the section in which she recounts her thoughts as she claims she considered telling her Republican adversary to “back up, you creep” as he roamed the stage behind her during the second presidential debate.

“My skin crawled,” Clinton reads. “It was one of those moments where you wish you could hit pause and ask everyone watching ‘well, what would you do?'” Just two days before, Clinton says, “the world heard [him] brag about groping women.” She says she decided against telling Trump to “back up, you creep, get away from me. I know you love to intimidate women, but you can’t intimidate me,” and instead gripped the microphone “extra hard.”  Now she wonders if she made the right choice.

Hey Hillary, the loser store called, and it’s out of you! Continue reading

18 Comments

Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Leadership, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President

“Should Bystanders Have a Legal Duty To Intervene?” Of Course Not, But It’s Worth Thinking About Why It’s A Terrible Idea

The real mystery is why a law professor would ever conclude that it was a good idea.

Amos N. Guiora, a professor at the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law, has authored The Crime of Complicity: The Bystander in the Holocaust, In it, he addresses the   bystander-victim relationship, focusing on the Holocaust. He comes to the remarkable conclusion that a society cannot rely on morality, ethics and compassion alone to move its members to come to the assistance of another human being in danger. He insists that it is a legal issue, and that society should make the obligation to intervene a legal duty, and  non-intervention a crime.

Wow. Here is a shining example of how bias can make smart people not only stupid, but blind. I have not read the book (I did listen to this podcast), because his contention is self-evidently anti-ethical, and typifies the attitude that has led to the criminalizing of so much in U.S. society that rigorous enforcement of the law would make the nation a police state. The Holocaust is the worst possible starting point for this issue: to state the most obvious absurdity, if the government is the victimizer, who would enforce the laws against not assisting victims? I get it, though: the professor is angry and bitter that the international community and Christians didn’t forcefully intervene before Hitler was on the verge of liquidating Non-Aryans from the face of the earth. But no law within imagination would have prevented this unique catastrophe. Nor would the kinds of laws he advocates improve the fate of most victims, or be practically enforceable.

Ethics Alarms has discussed the duty to rescue often and in great detail, and often notes, “when ethics fail, the law steps in.” The second stage of that statement is “and usually makes a mess of it.”  This is the compliance/ethics divide so exposed by corporate compliance rules, regulations and laws, which have done little to improve corporate conduct, and have provided cover for complainant and creative misconduct, like Wall Street leading up to the 2008 crash. Giving up on the teaching and strengthening of ethical values in society in favor of mandating what the state regards as “right” by inflicting punishment degrades society and insults humanity, treating it as if it is incapable of learning to care about others and society at large.  It also seldom works. The duty to rescue exists, but society must encourage and foster it by nurturing ethical society members, not by threatening them with punishment.

Society cannot mandate compassion—a law requiring charity?—kindness—a ticket for not rescuing an abandoned dog or helping a blind man across the street?—honesty–fines for telling a date that you’ll call the next day when you won’t?—-or courage —Sweep that child up whose in the path of a semi, or to jail. Of course it can’t. Increasing reliance on the state to force what a powerful group regard as “good behavior” is the catalyst of the current totalitarian bent of the American Left. Doesn’t the professor realize that what he is advocating leads directly to the Holocaust, and not away from it?

This is one slippery slope that needs a fence around it. Continue reading

40 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Childhood and children, Citizenship, Education, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Research and Scholarship, U.S. Society

Ethics Dunce Update: See, Jason, This Is Why We Need An Ethics Alarm…

 Too little, too late.

george03Jason Alexander has just responded to his agent’s and publicist’s frantic texts with a tweeted apology for his disreputable and needless swipe at an out-of-work actress now plucking ukuleles for a living…and not even in Hawaii.

He feels officially awful, he says. Her inability to play scenes with him and the other cast members wasn’t really the reason she was killed off on the show. It was all Jason’s insecurity, he says. Everybody “really liked and like Heidi…she is a kind, lovely person” he says. In show business, screwing over people you like and humiliating lovely people who make about 1% of what you do is just what stars do…wait, no he didn’t exactly say that.

He also says this: “But in telling this story, it sounds like we are putting a heavy burden on Heidi. I, personally, am not.”

Hmmmm. Interesting “personally.” As in the comments to Stern, Alexander is again implying that it wasn’t his fault that the actress got dumped and sent to hula hell. But Jason: you told the story humiliating her on the air. You. Nobody else.

Finally, Alexander tries to shift blame to the news media:

“So, to all the press that is now running wild with this 15-year-old story, please don’t pervert it.

“George,” you, not anyone else, you, told the 15 year-old story. The story now is what a jerk you were on Stern’s show. That story is new, and you just added to it, because this “apology” makes you seem like even more of a jerk. Yes, there’s a nice “I personally apologize” to Heidi. It doesn’t matter. The harm was done, and can’t be undone, and many of us, like me, have a hard time believing that this mea culpa is anything but PR repair work. For her career, dignity and reputation, no repair is possible.

You want to make amends? Have your agent find her an acting gig.

10 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Dunces, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Professions, Unethical Tweet

Ethics Dunce: Actor and Ex-“George” Jason Alexander

susan-ross

The gag on “Seinfeld” was that all four of the main characters (and most everyone else, too) were selfish, neurotic, essentially horrible people. Michael Richards signaled that he might have been channeling his inner creep into “Kramer” when he had a spontaneous racist meltdown during a stand-up gig, effectively destroying his career. Now we have learned what a mean-spirited, gratuitously cruel jerk Jason Alexander is. And I always thought it was just the fact that he was playing mean-spirited, gratuitously cruel jerk Larry David as “George Costanza.”

The “Seinfeld” episode in which George’s rich, odd fiancee Susan Ross died by licking too many cheap wedding invitation envelopes has always been controversial, as many critics and fans felt that it caused the show’s characters to cross over the line from endearingly strange and self-involved to outright despicable—especially George, who received the news of her death with thinly veiled relief.

In an interview with a genuinely despicable individual, Howard Stern, Jason Alexander, previously “George Costanza,” was asked by Stern how Susan’s sudden death became an episode.

“This poor girl,” Alexander said, chuckling.  “The actress is this wonderful girl, Ms. [Heidi] Swedberg… I love her. She’s a terrific girl. I love her. I couldn’t figure out how to play off of her.”

Stern: “You’re being kind.”

“No,” said Alexander, meaning “Yes.”  “Her instincts for doing a scene — where the comedy was — and mine were always misfiring.”

Alexander went on to say that his castmates told him he was being unfair until they had to play scenes with Swedberg. “Finally, they do an episode where Elaine and Jerry have a lot of material with her,” Alexander said. According to Alexander, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Seinfeld concurred afterward that it was ” fucking impossible” to play off of her.

Alexander then fingered the actor who sealed “Susan’s” doom.  “Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Elaine”) actually said, ‘I know — don’t you just wanna kill her?’” “Seinfeld” co-creator and writer Larry David then agreed to execution by envelope.

“Every time I tell this story I cringe,” Alexander said, “because Heidi is the sweetest.”

In a career turn that sounds like a  punchline, Swedberg now lives by teaching the ukulele and leading her own ukulele band.

Alexander, not to be excessively harsh, is scum. Continue reading

11 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Humor and Satire, Popular Culture

A Boy Named Sue, A Woman Named Edward

I think I know where he works…

I have no idea what to make of this: I feel like I fell into a “Seinfeld” episode. Remember the “high talker”?

I received an e-mail yesterday from the executive of a large company inquiring about an ethics training. The first name of the executive was Edward, but when I called the listed number, a very high, very female voice answered the phone. I asked to speak to the executive, and received a perky, “I’m Edward! Thanks for calling me back.”

Come on. Edward? What woman goes by Edward? I was about to make a comment like, “That’s an unusual name—how did you come by it?” when I had an image of “Seinfeld’s” high talker, a short, fat, bald guy, becoming irate when callers mistook him for his girlfriend over the phone. This was a potential client, and I didn’t want to annoy her—or him. On the other hand, surely she, assuming it is a she, knows that her masculine  name causes confusion. I searched through her e-mail messages for any hint of her—if she was a her—gender, and found nothing. Wouldn’t it be reasonable and fair to at least confirm that yes, she was a woman, or yes, he was a male counter-tenor, or yes, he was indeed a castrati, or at least do something to clear up what he…or she, dammit… had to know was confusing to anyone meeting her over the phone? Continue reading

19 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Daily Life, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Popular Culture

Creating Captain Costanzas

Metaphor

I think I stopped finding George Costanza funny when I saw the “Seinfeld” episode in which he panicked at a kids party after smelling smoke and trampled the children rushing to be the first out the door. (His callous reaction to his fiancée’s death from licking envelopes had paved the way for my inability to laugh at George.) The thought of a real-life George Costanza, the most unethical character on a show about unethical characters, serving as the captain of an imperiled ship full of passengers is horrifying, but that’s basically what befell the unsuspecting tourists on board the cruise ship that tipped over after hitting a rock off the coast of Italy. Having caused the accident, it appears, by irresponsibly changing course, captain Francesco Schettino hit the life boats before most of his passengers, and claimed to be directing the evacuation from the relative safety of a lifeboat as he defied orders from the Italian Coast Guard to return to the ship. Continue reading

17 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Business & Commercial, Character, Daily Life, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Popular Culture, Professions, Sports, U.S. Society