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Do Comedians Have A Point Of View?

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I’m not smart enough to debate you point to point on this, but I have the feeling, I have the feeling about 60 percent of what you say is crap. But I don’t know that for a fact.
I heard David Steinberg once said that, “A comedian has to have a point of view”. You look at some comedians known for being a buffoon like Tommy Smothers and not realize that he had a very strong point of view and a specific direction for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. As I listed in my Comedy Grievances CHILD OF TELEVISION: March 2005, “Comedians are accused of not taking things seriously” (David Letterman’s sarcastic style might fall under this category at times). This is far from the truth. Comedians, comedy writers and humorists are some the most serious and well read people I know. Another grievance I had is that comedians are expected to be funny on demand and the example I gave was the heated exchange between Jon Stewart and Tucker Carlson on Crossfire. Jon Stewart Crossfire Transcript

STEWART: You know, the interesting thing I have is, you have a responsibility to the public discourse, and you fail miserably.

CARLSON: You need to get a job at a journalism school, I think.

STEWART: You need to go to one. The thing that I want to say is, when you have people on for just knee-jerk, reactionary talk…

CARLSON: Wait. I thought you were going to be funny. Come on. Be funny.

STEWART: No. No. I’m not going to be your monkey.

For good or bad, many Americans turn to late night comedians for their news. I’d even say that there are times when comedians can do a more effective job at presenting the news than the newscasters themselves (Jon Stewart does it most of the time). After all they are sometimes using the same source material and just adding a punch line to it. David Letterman and Jay Leno do, in my opinion, make a good faith effort to be, dare I say it, “fair and balanced” when it comes to political humor something they learned from the master Johnny Carson. Even then there are those times where they can’t resist slamming someone. Still both comedians will always be criticized just because they joked about certain politician that was deemed off limits by someone void of humor. Since Jon Stewart specifically makes fun of the newsmakers and the news media. He targets those are currently in power and how the media covers them. All three comedians I listed have a specific point of view and then choose to play their cards close to the vest or lay them all out on the table. On Dave’s January 3rd show he decided to lay out all his cards on the table or in this case his desk.
Dave started his interview with Bill O’Reilly by having Bill recite his resume that included Inside Edition, ABC News and CBS News. Dave then asked Bill about his holidays where Bill responded with, “I had a nice winter solstice”. Bill then talks about how saying Merry Christmas is politically incorrect and list some examples including a school in Dodgeville, Wisconsin where the kids were made to sing a revised version of Silent Night (NOTE: Some Bloggers report this to be not true). Later in the interview Bill takes a swipe at Cindy Sheehan and the interview Dave’s tone shifts.
O’REILLY: And when people call them that, like Cindy Sheehan called the insurgents ‘freedom fighters,’ we don’t like that. It is a vitally important time in American history. And we should all take it very seriously. Be very careful with what we say.
LETTERMAN: Well, and you should be very careful with what you say also.
O’REILLY: Give me an example.
LETTERMAN: How can you possibly take exception with the motivation and the position of someone like Cindy Sheehan?
O’REILLY: Because I think she’s run by far-left elements in this country. I feel bad for the woman.
LETTERMAN: Have you lost family members in armed conflict?
O’REILLY: No, I have not.
LETTERMAN: Well, then you can hardly speak for her, can you?
You can read the whole transcript or watch the Video online. Please send me your thoughts. Since the broadcast I have seen Articles, Blogs and news shows covering the Letterman O’Reilly interview and it seems that those who are on the left are in Dave’s camp and those who are on the right are in Bill’s camp. Most people will judge the whole event on Dave’s one line.
LETTERMAN: I’m not smart enough to debate you point to point on this, but I have the feeling, I have the feeling about 60 percent of what you say is crap. But I don’t know that for a fact.

Should Dave have said that? I have made no secret that I am not a fan of Bill O’Reilly so of course I enjoyed seeing Dave taking him down a peg. And since the interview it looks like Bill is getting some mileage from it. Perhaps Dave baited Bill on the Christmas topic but when Bill made his comment about Cindy Sheehan, Dave had to speak his mind and present an opposing view. It’s obvious that he was not playing devil’s advocate. Another thing comedians do is articulating what everyone else is thinking and Dave expressed what a lot of people would like to say if given a chance. Finally to those critics who say that Dave crossed the line and should have kept things light, I have to remind them of Dave’s post 9/11 show (September 17, 2001). Dave getting on the air and speaking his mind opened the door for every other comedian working at the time. This was also the show where an emotional Dan Rather apologized for not being professional on the air. Dave reminded Mr. Rather that he was a human being and I remind you that Mr. Letterman is also a human being.

To quote David Letterman (Speaking to Bill O’Reilly) “Yeah, but I think there’s something, this fair and balanced. I’m not sure that it’s, I don’t think that you represent an objective viewpoint”.

It is amazing that those that the public has a hard time taking seriously understands what it is to be fair and balanced better than those who consider themselves to be journalists are. Maybe that’s why many Americans choose to get their news from late night comedians.

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

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About Tony Figueroa

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    Tony, very well-written piece. It makes me want to write something.

    First off, it was great television, which is why Bill used it on both his shows the next day. However, I don’t get how Dave is now the face of “Hollywood progressive secularists” in the War on Christmas.

    Dave started to needle Bill about the Christmas thing, but then got serious when it got to Cindy Sheenan. It was good to see some of the pompousity taken out of Bill, which can happen when you leave home, but I thought Bill held his own well.

    Letterman got in some great zingers, which is too be expected since he is a comedian. My favorite was after the 60% comment Bill asked for some proof. Dave came back with, “I can’t. I don’t watch your show.”

    Disagree with Letterman’s comments is fine, but to say he crossed a line is absurd.

  • Baronius

    Tony, I’d have to disagree about Leno. I don’t get to watch Dave that often, but I’ve seen Leno enough to see a definite political slant. He makes fun of the Democrats: Gore is wooden, Clinton likes sex. He makes fun of the Republicans: Bush stole the election, and Cheney wants to destroy the country and help the rich with evil tax policies.

    The targets change over the years, because that’s the nature of politics. But the Dems are always teased for their foibles, and the Reps are criticized for their policies.

  • gonzo marx

    decent points Tony…

    might i suggest Countdown with Keith Olberman as a fine balance between reporting the News and bringing the Funny

    his sense of fun and sarcastuc delivery , coupled with a true professional journalists eye for the nerve center of a topic and a sportscasters timing make him a delightful jump off point for the interested viewer to then go out and do his own research on

    follow it up a few hours later with a nice dosage of the Daily Show and you can get the basics of the news without wanting to pull your own head off and use it for a game of nine pins

    well, usually….

    at any rate…in Western Culture, the Jester has always been the insightful voice stating things no others dared

    we would do well to remember that Lesson

    your mileage may vary

    Excelsior!

  • http://www.iamcorrect.com Lono

    I couldn’t be any happier than to see mainstream entertainers calling Bill O’Reilly on his bullshit. It has always been partisan bullshit, and now that the death count grows and the indictments continue to stack against this leadership Americans are demanding accountability.

    I read tonight on cnn.com that the GOP has turned against it’s own leadership because they realize the mid term elections will be DISASTROUS for the GOP.

    I mean, the Delay indictments
    Duke Cunningham’s guilty plea
    the Abramoff scandal will grow
    Frist will be up on charges for insider trading by then
    the Libby trial will be active, and surely implicate Rove at the very least

    the time of the GOP is over, and they have no one to blame but themselves. They are thieves, murderers, and liars.

    one last thing, why in the world hasn’t anyone taken Robert Novak to task on Plamegate? Why isn’t he being killed for malicious and deliberate treason? He should be, especially since he won’t even apologize.

    Y’all think people hated the Clintons… wait until the next election – when nearly all of the GOP leadership will be indicted or in jail.

    you people voted for these assholes, and in November 2006 you will have the chance to undo that.

    Sorry, that was a little ranty – but I don’t have the energy anymore to be fed up with these criminals.

  • http://www.iamcorrect.com Lono

    Tony,

    Good question. I believe the answer is yes, Dave was right to call O’Reilly out. The reason is that O’Reilly plays himself as non partisan, which is insulting. If you have seen the fabled ‘no spin zone’ you know two things:

    There is his spin on everything

    any other ‘spin’ is regarded as “idiotic and harmful”

    If he were truly nuetral, he might say things to his callers or guests like:

    Hey, that is a valid point. I hadn’t thought of it that way.

    But he doesn’t. As long as he quashes social dialogue – he needs to be taken to task by his peers in the media.

  • Shark

    I think it’s becoming obvious to most people that O’Reilly and the likes of Pat Robertson are simply Bat-Shit Crazy — so it’s not so controversial to confront and or criticize them.

    Personally, I think O’Reilly and Robertson are both about one click away from putting a 9mm Glock down their own throats and pulling a “Hunter S.”

    (As for Jay Leno and his “career” once he took over the Tonight Show — if Leno ever watches a videotape or happens to catch a rerun of his own monologues — he’ll beg for someone to loan him a pistol.)

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    It’s the arrogance of O’Reilly more than anything else that gets me. Al Franken is a goon, but do you notice how he’s self-deprecating and always leaves open the door that he’s wrong? It makes him bearable; you can listen to someone like that and not gag. OR changethe channel.

    From anyone, famous or not,, the idea that one person believes they have all the answers just galls me like nothing else in the world. Especially when they have been proven wrong by clear facts which they deny or ignore. You can’t have a discussion with these mindless, characterless drones as they will not listen.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    Maybe you can listen to Franken and not gag, but his mix of self-righteousness, sarcasm and smarminess is too much for me to take for more than a few minutes at a time. O’Reilly is bad too, of course – his overbearing style is tedious and his political views are bizarre.

    As for Letterman, it’s always been my impression that he’s more conservative than many of the late night figures, but even so I can see how he might take exception to O’Reilly just on principle.

    Dave

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    Yep, Leno does the monlogue because he’s expected to; he has a master and likes that role it appears. I don’t watch Leno (or LEtterman much but I like watching Letterman when I do) because gossip queens are a dime a dozen.

  • http://bonamassablog.us Joanie

    Thanks for jumping on this topic so quickly and for giving a forum to those who found this worthy of discussion.

    Consider yourself a Pick of the Week!

  • http://www.fotolog.com/butki13 Scott Butki

    IS there anyone – a journalist, a comedian, a blog critic – who does not have a point of view, or an agenda or whatever this week’s loaded term is?

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    This piece has been chosen for Blogcritics Editors’ Picks of the Week (Jan. 4 – Jan. 10): The Best Shiny Digital Big Tent Freedom Can Buy, congrats!

    Celebrate, call the neighbors, get down with yourself, you deserve it…

    You also have the honor and opportunity to choose your favorite BC story for the period of 1/11 – 1/17. Please use the comments area at the link above and provide the following by the night of the 17th:

    * Name of story
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  • http://www.fotolog.com/butki13 Scott Butki

    Congrats on getting picked.