Friday, April 21, 2017

"Contingent Considerations"

I have to keep this one short because I have an appointment today and my time here is limited.

I recently finished reading The Daily Show – The Book, which I enjoyed and learned a lot from, concerning particularly its continuing evolution.

At the beginning, The Daily Show hosted by replacement Jon Stewart included segments similar to those on its predecessor Craig Kilborn’s version of the Daily Show, showcasing on unusual characters, like the former Soviet scientist now working as a busboy. 

I made that one up; the actual ones are funnier, highlighting life’s comedic absurdity, possibly at the expense of the singled-out subject of the rib-tickling documentary.

In time, the Jon Stewart-headed Daily Show advanced to a more satirical perspective, using archival footage to trip up careless (or possibly cynical) politicians, proclaiming one ideological position on camera one time and its diametrical opposite position another.

Examples abound.  Pick you own laughable favorite.

The common denominator of these two approaches, however, remained unalterably the same:

To wit,

“Where’s the 'funny'?”

Reading the book, it occurred to me that this unwavering criterion promoted a likely unconscious but prevailing process of unrecognized censorship.

The Daily Show focused on meaningful stories.  But only meaningful stories they were able to make funny.

What happened to the meaningful stories they were unable to make funny?

They do not get into the show.

Becoming orphans to the spotlight.  

That is simply the way it works.  The Daily Show was, bottom line, a comedy, broadcast, conspicuously, on Comedy Central.  The show was produced by inordinately funny individuals, whose creative mandate, personal preference and artistic proclivity was to relentlessly “go for the funny”, carrying, to its everlasting acclaim, a serious message along with it.

Still, if they were unable to “find the funny”… well, there were other equally show-worthy stories where they could.

In its later incarnations, The Daily Show, likely at Jon Stewart’s insistence, did include meaningful stories with no comedic formulation, most heroically, when Stewart ventured to Washington, attempting to shame hypocritical Congress people into extending health coverage for injured “First Responders” from September 11th. 

And he got what he wanted.  Albeit without the normally necessary accompanying chuckle.

Even so, however, that was the exception rather than the norm.

Writing Just Thinking, I understand that ongoing conundrum.  There have been stories I have wanted to tell – and still do.  But I cannot find a satisfactory – Read:  at least minimally amusing – mode of communicating them.

For example:

I am attending a memorial service this morning.

And I am unable to fnd the funny part in that.

1 comment:

JED said...

I don't come to Earl Pomerantz: Just Thinking... expecting a side-splitting time with every visit. I come here because it is usually interesting and I often do laugh. I come here because the Earl Pomerantz part of the title is very thoughtful. I come here because I'm often challenged to think a little deeper than many other blogs and websites. I also come here because the articles are not always easy to read. A little work is needed to understand many of the articles (especially if spurious mentions of shingles are involved). I read it in the morning to get my creative side started because my mind, like an older engine with a lot of miles on it, often needs something intricate to think about to start revving.

One of your fellow writers on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, David Lloyd, did manage to write something funny about a fictional memorial service but could he write something witty about a real person's service? And you did manage to write funny episodes about a priest considering leaving the priesthood and about a man's changes after a heart attack. I think there's an old expression something like, "That's about as funny as a heart attack." So there's that, too.