Tuesday, January 26, 2016

I appear in hard-hitting comedy documentary

I appear towards the end, but watch the whole thing to increase your understanding of where comedy went wrong.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Only a Proven Loser can Keep the GOP from Losing

I'm having a good laugh about this talk of installing Paul Ryan as GOP candidate through a "brokered" convention. Ryan didn't even carry Wisconsin for Mitt Romney. All the arguments being made in favor of Ryan were made verbatim about Jeb before his campaign started, and we see how that is working out. There isn't real appetite for establishment candidates among Republican voters.

If something technical were done to deny Trump (or Cruz) the nomination the backlash against the GOP establishment would go nuclear, so Ryan would get harangued daily by populist GOP media (not to mention MSNBC, NYT, etc.), making his eventual defeat extra ignominious. Whomever gets the nomination loses to Hillary anyway, it is just a question of whether the establishment finds a way to feel good about their loser.

As for Ryan's new beard, as sociologist Jimmy the Greek noted, women don't trust candidates with facial hair. Ryan would probably make a decent personal trainer, but is out of his depth in any other field. He won't stop Trump from combing over the competition.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Mike Payne Makes His Important Voice Heard Yet Again

I appear on the 200th episode of JL Cauvin's Righteous Prick podcast. We lose our religion over politics and religion (and comedy).

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Sad Clowns are Unhappy Coincidences

"Life is a tragedy when see in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot." - Famous Silent Era Hack

The consensus on comedy is that comedy comes from pain. No comedian can escape an "in-depth" interview" without some probing into whatever tragedy allegedly energized his funny bone.

Many comedians are screw-ups and emotional cripples, but this is more correlation than causation. If tragedy spawns comedy, why didn’t Vietnam produce a generation of vet vaudeville? Did Japanese comedy experience a renaissance in the wake of Hiroshima? Most people become twitchy, uncommunicative disasters after tragedy. The trauma leads to PTSD, not SNL.

The sad clown image is merely another case of artists mythologizing their lives. Comedians are self-absorbed, perhaps second only to actors in that department, so it isn't surprising they promote and believe this narrative. Unfortunately, the broad acceptance of it has caused a proliferation of godawful therapy comics. Believing your sad sack essence inspires creativity is more comforting than admitting you're a perennial wet blanket. Needing catharsis doesn’t mean you have the ability to make whatever pain you have entertaining (just ask a shrink).

Blues music is also linked to sadness, and yes, some blues singers had horrible lives, but if Howlin' Wolf didn't have natural ability, no amount of Delta angst would have done the trick. Ironically, blues singers are probably asked less about the tragedy underlying their art than comics, and when a person without talent tries the blues, everyone trashes him. No one would ever claim that just because someone has pain he doesn't need musical talent to play the blue. It is symptomatic of how little appreciated comedy talent is that people actually think: "Oh, you had a rough year?. You should turn it into a one-man show!" If everyone who grew up in a dysfunctional, booze soaked home could suddenly sing the blues there would be no space for any other music - though karaoke nights would be a lot more entertaining (and less tragic).

Pain doesn't come with charisma or writing ability. No outside intervention or grief can turn a dud into a laugh riot. Being an architect is as much art as it is engineering, but because architects don’t normally behave like brain damaged children there is no prevailing myth about the crying architect.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Is Donald Trump the New Wendell Wilkie?

To the horror of many who buy into the sacrosanctness of elections, the Donald Trump phenomenon hasn't fizzled out. Although one might compare him to recent previous businessmen who ran - Herman Cain and Mitt Romney - I think a better comparison can be made to the 1940 Republican Presidential nominee Wendell Wilkie.

Similarities:

Both had business backgrounds (though there were no such things as Wilkie Ties, Wilkie Vodka, Wilkie Water)

Both not supported by establishment Republicans

Both were former Democrats

Both not particularly religious (Trump talks about being Presbyterian, but when you hear the word Trump, church doesn't come to mind...exact maybe confession...)

Both were big talkers who energized people, in sharp contrast to their stodgy competition (if third chins could talk, they'd be Jeb Bush)

Although both were "outsiders" who rode populist waves, both were obviously not salt of the earth people (Wilkie's nomination was said to come "right from the grass roots of every country club in America.")

Wilkie was running Roosevelt's third term, Trump is running against a potential third Bush or Clinton term.

Both had quite crazy hair.

Wilkie and Trump aren't a perfect match, of course. The worst strike against Wilkie - his flip-flopping and eventual tacit embrace of Roosevelt's policies - are closer to Mitt "not a Reagan Republican except when I need to be seen as a Reagan Republican, pay no attention to Romneycare" Romney.

In the end Wendell Wilkie became very unpopular. I think Trump is headed for the same fate.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Joining the Mile High Club is Less Risky than Joining in Holy Matrimony

I think most of us have points where we act as though statistics alone should conquer all fears, when the truth is they seldom do. If simple standalone stats convinced people, no one would have fallen for the War on Terror - no politician would get elected if voters took stats to heart.

Which brings me to the fear of flying, the only fear guaranteed to get you pelted with smarm-covered stats the moment you bring it up. When you confess you're scared to fly, not only do you get the shopworn "It is much riskier to travel by car and here are some stats I haven't verified and couldn't calculate if my life depended on it," but you're forced to endure this condescension from people who blissfully pursue risks with much worse odds, all the while denying how much risk they're taking. People who get married, for instance.

Almost half of all marriages end in divorce, so the married person claiming that stats should persuade you is himself ignoring the very ominous stats stacked against him. He should be much more worried about his wedding than the flight he'll take to get there. Yes, maybe it is stupid to get nervous on a plane given how low the disaster odds are, but it is far stupider to enter into something with nearly even odds of disaster, where total financial ruin is just a coin toss away.

The odds against a marriage working are a lot like the safety demonstrations you receive at the beginning of a flight - no one pays attention.