People, Personas, and Politics 5 — Stone, Parker, and Chappelle
People, Personas, and Politics 5 — Stone, Parker, and Chappelle
Scott Douglas Jacobsen & Rick Rosner
March 24, 2017 [Beginning of recorded material]
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: I feel as though there’s some Freudian reason for all of this. I don’t what. How about Trump changing the nature of comedy at the moment?
Rick Rosner: That’s a simple idea, and I think somebody else has pointed it out. I think it is hard to get mad at the Kardashians for joke purposes, when what is happening in politics is so brutal.
SDJ: Three of the top comedy people — two cartoonists and another standup — have talked about that. Matt Stone and Trey Parker, they said he is self-parody. So there’s no real point in doing it more. Chappelle said he’s kind of bad for comedy.
RR: There’s that. Trying to exaggerate his characteristics for comedic effect is not a winning game because he’s already so exaggerated that there’s not much farther that you can go. Plus, at some point, people who are in the public eye for screwing up go from being funny to being sad. Any time somebody dies. That automatically puts a lid on them being funny for a few years, if not in perpetuity. It was great to joke about Michael Jackson.
Until Michael Jackson was dead. Now it seems sad and a waste. Though you can probably still sneak in a Michael Jackson child molesting joke in if you were trying to be edgy. But it is part of the overall landscape of sadness around Jackson. Lindsay Lohan was great for a long time for making jokes about. Then she went from being funny to being sad because her screwing up got more consistent and pathetic. Same with Britney Spears. She shaved her head and attacked somebody. Probably a paparazzo, that crossed the line from funny to sad. Mischa Barton. Trump is — there are jokes to be made, but there is a bunch of anxiety behind the jokes.
SDJ: Where does that line cross in the political sphere?
RR: Hold on — well, there’s anxiety of two types with regard to jokes about Trump. One is, anxiety about how much he will screw up the country and how dangerous he is. Two is, anxiety about whether we’re overreacting and he is just one guy. We still have normal political processes, and everyone running around saying, “1930s Germany,” is a snowflake who is freaking out too much.
There are two types of anxiety and uncertainty. It makes it tough to joke about Trump or make it hard to joke about Trump. Also, there’s just too much. We’ve been joking about Trump for two years now. Ever since he announced he would be running and riding down the escalator in trump Tower; plus, he was a kind of jokey figure before that. So there’s Trump fatigue. But you had a question. You go ahead. You were asking a question.
SDJ: I have another. So with regard to the political comedy fault lines, on the one hand, there are the funny parts of it, whether the people or the situation. On the other hand, there’s that anxiety you were talking about. Where some things can possibly go very much against the better interests of people that would be more politically Left oriented, so there’s a certain sadness there.
SDJ: But when does funny become sad? So, for instance, when Trump talks about or talks big about some reproductive health rights issue, not in those terms — usually in an epithet form, in a phrase or a single word while taking down an individual, it becomes defunding or a bill is proposed. One defunding maneuver that comes to mind the “Global Gag Rule” that happened. Does that make it not funny but sad? Is that when that transition happens?
RR: Alright, so, all of the examples I gave of going from funny to sad. There’s something about going beyond the pale — being not subject to normal human limitations perhaps. Where Trump goes from funny to sad when — well, he is different from Michael Jackson or Britney or Lindsay Lohan. In that, he’s dangerous to millions of people. The idea, not the idea — that he wants to cancel Meals on Wheels, which is a program that provides home visits and meals for homebound seniors.
Seniors who can’t get out of their homes to get groceries to get something to eat, and disabled people. They serve. Meals on Wheels serves over 210 meals per year to over 2.4 million people. They provide human contact and food, and also checking in on people to make sure they’re okay. The federal government only supplies like 3.3% of their budget. But it is important money because it is guaranteed funding that allows to solicit donations. Somehow with government money in place, it makes gathering donations easier because it makes it a solid, reputable program. It only costs a few million per year. Basically, the cost of one of Trump’s trips to Mar-a-Lago. It goes from funny to sad. In that, it is so mean, so greedy, and also so dumb. Where Mick Mulvaney, the president’s budget guy comes out and says Meals on Wheels just isn’t a successful program and should probably go away. What is not successful about providing millions of meals to seniors for so little money? It has such bad optics. It shows such contempt and ineptitude that it is very worrisome, and it makes the jokes more loaded with pathos and ominousness. The Lindsay Lohan jokes became too loaded with ominousness because you were afraid she’d die. She was getting in car wrecks and getting caught puking in the gutter outside clubs. Ditto with Britney. You thought she might go completely insane. She might have to be sent away. She’s back, but she’s kind of not the Britney of before. She’s in her 30s now. She can’t be the Britney in the short schoolgirl skirt. And Michael Jackson did go ahead and die. I assume people were telling jokes about Elvis in the early to middle 70s about how fat he was getting and then he went ahead and did, which is terrible for comedy and for the subject of the jokes. I It is similar in our case, but certain liberties or political traditions of decency might die, and so we’re sad.
[End of recorded material]
Scott Douglas Jacobsen
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