Category Archives: Saturday Night Live

Finding Myself in the Awkward Position of Defending Glenn Beck

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AOL asked me to write a blog post this week on all the comic invective directed recently toward Glenn Beck, knowing that both his defenders and detractors would come out of the woodwork to wage war in the comments section.* And come they did, by the tens of thousands, thanks in part to a headline on the AOL welcome screen that overstated my concern about some of the more below-the-belt spoofs. (“Attacks on Beck Crossing the Line: Our Writer Says Recent Parodies Are Anything but Funny: Skits Under Fire”)

Now, I’m not a Beck fan, as even a cursory reading of the article would make clear. If anything, the assignment gave me an excuse to embed videos of several Beck-lampooning sketches, some of which I think are perfectly fair. The best of these was the Stephen Colbert monologue embedded at the top of this post, which perfectly mimics Beck’s performance style, calls him on his BS, and does so without resorting to ad hominem attacks. What I objected to was those sketches that got personal — Jon Stewart appearing to make fun of Beck’s recent health woes, Andy Cobb taking Beck’s icky incest fantasy from his book The Real America: Messages from the Heart and Heartland out of context to imply that Beck really meant it (he did not; he was merely making an offensive analogy to gay relationships), and The Onion wishing for Beck to die a violent and gory death (a video that contains some NSFW language). Continue reading

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Filed under Barack Obama, Feuds, Late Night TV, Media, Saturday Night Live, TV

Who Does Rush Limbaugh Remind You Of?

Is there a liberal confab anywhere that gets as much media attention as CPAC did this week? You’d think the speakers and attendees actually had some relevance to what’s going on in politics today, instead of having responded to being voted out of power by insisting that they’re going to take their ball and go home. To their credit, some of the speakers (well, Tucker Carlson) have noted that, for conservatism to recover its mojo, it needs to be based on principles other than obstructionism and pissing off liberals. In other words, it needs to come up with some actual new, practical policy ideas. (Hint: “More tax cuts” doesn’t count.)

Some conservative bloggers covering the conference have noticed this as well. Hats off to Patrick Ruffini for recognizing that his side needs more than populist anger and symbolism, though I’m not sure his prescription (Look to has-been demagogue Newt Gingrich for new ideas!) is going to change anything. Conor Friedersdorf takes a step beyond Ruffini and recognizes that most people want good policy ideas no matter which side comes up with them, just as most people want good movies without worrying much about the ideological agenda of the filmmakers. (In other words, Big Hollywood folks, tell a good story, not a propagandistic one, and the free market that you worship will finally work in your favor.) Friedersdorf is even willing to grant that people with whom he disagrees on policy aren’t necessarily operating out of bad faith or treasonous motives. Continue reading

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Filed under Barack Obama, Movies, Saturday Night Live

Separated at Mirth: Gov. Bobby Jindal and Kenneth the Page

Bobby Jindal was supposed to be the GOP’s Great Nonwhite Hope, a potential challenger to Barack Obama in 2012 who would match the Democrat in youth and exotic ethnicity. But then we heard him speak — giving the official Republican response to the president’s speech on Tuesday night — and his chances for a presidential nomination were suddenly sunk. Not just because of his reality-challenged remarks, but also because of his unmistakable vocal resemblance to Jack McBrayer. No offense to the 30 Rock star (see video below), but America is not going to elect someone who sounds like Kenneth the NBC Page. Still, you have to love how the Republicans are apparently letting Lorne Michaels cast their young hopefuls — first, veep nominee Tina Fey, and now Louisiana Governor Kenneth. Can’t wait to see who the GOP equivalent of Tracy Morgan is.

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They Got Nothin’

The political satire on Saturday Night Live has been pretty spotty of late, now that they don’t have Sarah Palin to kick around anymore, but sometimes, they get it spot on, as with last night’s take on the Republicans’ opposition to the stimulus bill, the Obama presidency in general, and anything else that Democrats put forth. They have no policy ideas of their own, no solution to the problems they created over the last decade, and no recognition of the fact that they’ve been soundly rejected in both the court of public opinion and the voting booth. When will the rest of the media take notice and stop taking these people’s opinions seriously? And when will the White House stop treating them as if their objections matter?

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Podcast: A Look Back at 2008, A Look Forward to 2009

My Friday chats with Mark Reardon of KMOX-AM in St. Louis continue with this look back at the top entertainment stories of 2008 and a preview of the likely highlights of 2009.

Gary Susman talks to KMOX’s Mark Reardon, 1/2/09

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Filed under 2008 Election, Books, Comics, Movies, Music, Podcasts, Saturday Night Live, TV

A Mission Statement

All art is political. To make art is to remake the world, either as you envision the world to be, as you wish it to be, or as you wish it not to be — so making art is always a political act. The artist’s political statement may not be intentional or even conscious, but nonetheless, by making art, he or she is initiating a political conversation. And by interacting with and interpreting the art, the viewer is adding to the political conversation. That’s why the discourse over culture — between artist and viewer, between artist and critic and viewer, or among artists or critics or viewers — is so important to me.

How we talk to each other about culture — which ususally means, how we talk to each other about popular culture — is how we talk to each other about the world we live in, or the world we would like to live in. At this time of hyperpartisanship, we have few other ways of talking about such matters in a way that gives us all common ground. We can barely speak to each other directly about issues of criminal justice or torture or authoritarianism, but we can all talk about The Dark Knight, thereby addressing these issues without throttling each other. 

This blog will explore the intersection of politics and popular culture. This crossroads has always fascinated me, but it also seems to be of interest to many at a moment when conservatives gripe about positive portrayal of Barack Obama in a Spider-Man comic book,  or when Tina Fey’s lampooning of Sarah Palin may have helped decide the election. I’ll be writing about what our popular culture is really saying about us (however unwittingly), how partisans read (or misread) the culture and try to use it to their own ends, and how, in this age of niche politics and niche pop culture, we may yet find a measure of unity through the movies, TV shows, music, and books that speak to us of the world that is and the world that could be.

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Filed under 2008 Election, Books, Comics, Movies, Saturday Night Live, TV