Kazzy and Russell take on Tinseltown

In comments to my Oscar prediction post from last week, League chum, sports aficionado and Academy Award neophyte Kazzy came up with a space awesome idea.  In lieu of a viewing party, we’d watch the show “together” and exchange thoughts about it from the contrasting viewpoints of First-time Viewer and Dedicated Fan.  I loved the idea, and what follows is our exchange.

Russell:  Well, Kazzy, it looks like we’re going to try to make our Oscar viewing experience happen.  I must admit I’m kind of excited.  As I’ve alluded in previous Academy Awards posts, I’ve discovered that it’s not as much fun to watch on my own.  I’m hoping this might rejuvenate my enjoyment a bit.  And of course, I’m excited by the prospect of introducing a friend to my favorite annual viewing date.

So you’ve really never seen the show before?  What are you expecting it will be like?  Are you looking forward to watching it at all, or is this more an anthropological experience than a prospective pleasure?  I’m so curious how it will stack up against your expectations.

Kazzy:  Hey, Russell.  We are indeed going to make this happen.  And I couldn’t be more excited.

It is true that I haven’t seen the show before, aside from a few bits and pieces here.  I have vague recollections of interpretive dances, montages of people passed, and Roberto Benigni climbing over chairs to get to the stage.  Otherwise, I am sailing into uncharted waters.  For whatever reasons, award shows never really appealed to me.  I remember watching MTV’s movie and video award shows growing up, but that was before they got needlessly outlandish and while I was in their target demographic.  I suspect part of it is that I feel I lack the ability to adjudicate the results of the show.  I don’t know enough about filmmaking or acting to have a meaningful idea of what makes things excellent in those realms.  So while I am generally a junkie for competition (even getting sucked into a favored shows of yours “Project Runway” at times because of the unique drama that competition can generate), awards shows have been a blind spot.

I am curious whether and hopeful that watching with a more seasoned viewing partner might change that.  I’m sure there are things I might look askew at if I were to view them on my own but with you serving as a guide, I might be able to make sense of them in a way that make them resonate.  Needless to say, I come in with eyes wide open, wholly open to the idea of loving the entire enterprise.  I guess we’ll know in just a few hours, yes?

Russell:   ‘I don’t know enough about filmmaking or acting to have a meaningful idea of what makes things excellent in those realms.’

Oh, well, you’re in luck them.  Excellence in filmmaking and the films that get rewarded at the Oscars are not always related as strongly as you’d think.  While many winners are arguably among the best within their field, the quality of the work is only one factor among many that led to their win.  Knowing what a sports fan you are, I wonder how this strikes you.  In sports, one team scores more points than the other and thus wins.  With the Academy Awards, one sufficiently famous person turns in a sufficiently good performance and has sufficiently impressed her peers that she deserves an Oscar because she’s paid her dues and thus beats the others.  And everyone knows that’s how it goes.  Do you think that aspect of things will impair your ability to enjoy the show, or can you clap along at home with the rest of us?

Kazzy:  Ya know, I thought about that very thing.  In sports, the saying goes that the scoreboard don’t lie.  But even the sports I follow most have elements of subjectivity, namely in the form of officiating.  And there are awards within those sports, such as the MVP, which suffer from some of the same incongruencies that I imagine award shows like the Oscars do, and possibly even worse ones given current ideological battles within certain electorates, like the BBWAA.  I don’t know that it will impact my viewing, though.  It wouldn’t surprise me if we see a person awarded that makes everyone stand up and utter a collective, “WTF!”  The same thing happens in sports everyday, whether it be Ryan Howard winning an MVP or Dwayne Wade receiving phantom foul calls in the ’06 Finals.

And I imagine that folks tune into the Oscars for more than just seeing who wins… there is the pageantry, the outfits, the hosting, the speeches, the unpredictable.  At least, I know that is part of what interested me in doing this little project: I want to try to understand why the announcement of 24 awards compels people to watch a 2 hour award show (it WILL be over in 2 hours… right?).  And determine if all those aspects can turn something I’m only quasi-interested in (the awards themselves) into an experience I would seek out on my own.

What are you most excited about?  What compels you to watch?  How did you get interested in the Oscars in the first place?  I imagine you are a bigger fan than most, given what I’ve seen you write on the subject.

Russell:  My impression of the Super Bowl is that the quarterback always seems to win MVP.  Is that generally right, or am I just remembering incompletely?

It will be a miracle if the Oscars are over in less than three hours, amigo.  One of the running jokes of the show is that it always, always runs long.  Feel free to suggest things along the way that you think should have been cut to make it shorter.  Lord knows I always have plenty of ideas.

What makes me most excited?  It varies from year to year.  I was super excited the year Kate Winslet won since it seemed likely she was finally going to take the statuette home; she was long overdue and I’m a big fan.  This year I don’t have any I’m that devoted to, but I’m hoping Jennifer Lawrence wins.  And I watch year after year because I’m a sucker for glamor.  It’s the shiny object to the magpie of my soul, and I find myself hopelessly fascinated by the spectacle of the glamorous in their most rarefied circles.  Add in the patina of excellence (and really, that’s all it is) and I’m hooked.

Good Lord, look at all the talking we’ve done and the show hasn’t even begun.  I’ll leave you be until I’m able to tune in tonight.  Hopefully I’ll be able to wrangle the kids into bed early enough to catch at least a little of the red carpet.

Kazzy:  Okay, Russell, I’ve been checking in and out of the red carpet pre-show and the countdown clock now tells me we are less than 15 minutes away from the start of the main event.  Honestly, I can’t underestimate just how excited I am… even if most of that feeling is predicated on a strong desire for the little blonde Cryptkeeper lady to abandon my television set forever.

Some highlights for me of the pre-show:

1. Learning that Joseph Gordon-Levitt, an actor I am increasingly a fan of, wears funky socks, one of my favorite ways to jazz up the wardrobe.
2. Seeing Bradley Cooper, another actor whom I really enjoy, attend with his mom.  I have the feeling that Bradley Cooper could pull pretty much any woman in Hollywood, so that was a cool move.  Bonus points to her for responding to a question about her dress by revealing that she just pulled something out of the closet.
3. Halle Berry.  Sheesh.
4. Realizing that many of these folks are more intelligent and articulate than I tend to assume.  Either that, or they’re simply employing their skills to make me think that. Either way, a good move.

Anyway, I’m settled in with some fresh baked cookies and am readying and raring to go.  I hadn’t realized Seth McFarlane was hosting so at the very least, I’m in for some laughs. I’ll be checking in soon and look forward to sharing this viewing experience with you.

Russell:  I’m here with manhattan in hand right as the show is starting.  I’m so glad you’re excited, and I’m hopeful that it will be fun.  I’m hot and cold on Seth McFarlane, but he’s doing well so far.  Starting out with a couple of well-done laughs about Tommy Lee Jones and an early zinger about the Affleck snub.

Poor Kristen Chenoweth.  I’ve actually met her, and she’s a delightful person.  But she’s one more on my list of people who isn’t very good at red carpet interviews.  (I could do BETTER, Hollywood!)  And I love Joseph Gordon-Levitt on many levels, the socks being just one new charming facet.

OK, gotta start watching the show for serious now.  Let’s check back in when a few of the golden boys have been handed out.

Kazzy: Well… that was an interesting start! I really disliked the Shatner bit, especially as it dragged on past the 8 minute mark. Between that and the “Flying Nun” reference, I jotted down in my notes that the writers/producers/directors/whomever have officially punted the under-35 demographic.

McFarlane had some good jokes… I liked his comments on Gibson, but I’m wired that way. Overall, it felt like they didn’t trust him with the monologue and inserted Shatner in to exhibit some control. But what do I know? Is there usually an orchestrated sketch like that? The dance numbers also seemed out of place… seemed like they paired up some random celebrities and had them do some unrelated dances and that was that. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the gay humor… if you had any.

I didn’t look too closely into the nominees, but they’re not lying when they say that the Supporting Actor Nomination Field was really quite impressive. I only saw Arkin’s performance, so I can’t comment on who SHOULD have won, but Waltz has really impressed me in the work I have seen of his and in some interviews I’ve caught; he seems to really understand his craft and work at it. He also seemed to be both genuinely excited and honored to win and was very gracious in his speech. That was nice to see.

Animated short? That’s a real category? Okay. Congrats to that dude for that thing. I’m glad “Brave” won. HOLY CRAP! A kilt. Sweet move. As a ginger, Zazzy was excited to see a red-head featured in a film, even if it was a digital one for kids. I fell asleep during it, as I do during most movies.

What are your thoughts thus far? How “typical” a show is this to this point? Were any of the wins surprises?

Russell: Well, I’ve already been wrong in a major category. I would never have called Christoph Waltz. Which isn’t to say he didn’t deserve it. Just that I didn’t see it coming.

The opening was a bit edgier than usual. But I think it was… maybe mostly successful? Amusing and surprising, but not totally insane? And I loved the dancing with Charlize Theron and Channing Tatum. I thought it was lovely. You, not so much?

Gay humor at the Oscars is like cleats at the Super Bowl. (Did I land the sport metaphor?) I take it in stride, and find it in good humor.

Are you finding it enjoyable thus far?

Kazzy: I didn’t dislike the Theron/Tatum dance… I just wasn’t sure if there was some connection between the two that I was missing that would have made it more meaningful.

I am quasi-enjoying it thus far. I think this last segment was a tough one for someone like myself. I fully recognize the immense importance of costumes, hair, and makeup to the movie-making process, but I have zero interest in who wins the awards. I think it is great that the folks who do that work, who are otherwise unknown, are recognized for their efforts. But it just didn’t have any interest for me. If they wanted more folks like me to watch it, they could cut out those types of awards and bring the thing down under the 2 1/2 hour mark. But that’d be playing to a low common denominator, something I think the Academy ought not do. If I stopped watching now, I wouldn’t feel cheated out of missing the end. But it hasn’t been torture, either.

I did like seeing “Life of Pi” win… I regrettably have not yet caught the film, but we both enjoyed the book and are holding out hope we can still find a theater playing it. My hunch was that the strength of the film was its visuals moreso than the story, which I thought would be hard to translate, so it makes sense that the visuals are what it ultimately won for.

I did enjoy the Bond singer, whose name I missed. I’m a sucker for singers with big pipes, which she brought. Zazzy and I thought Adele would come out given her recent Bond song, but that old gal carried it on her own. More performances like that will sucker me in, believe it or not.

What has stood out to you? We’re just passing the one hour mark… how does this production measure up to past ones. Do you have a favorite Oscars?

And, yes, you nailed the sports metaphor. Kudos.

Russell: The woman who sang was Shirley Bassey. She sang three Bond themes. I actually found her maybe… not entirely on key? But God knows nobody wants to hear me sing in front of a billion viewers, so maybe I shouldn’t criticize.

And yes, welcome to Minor Award Land. It’s the area we traverse between the bits when famous people win, the territory of Oscar pool tie-breakers. It’s only barely interesting to me, so I can’t even guess how it must feel to you.

What has stood out for me? I think most of the presenters have been weirdly flat, including really talented actors like Paul Rudd and Melissa McCarthy. I think the “Jaws” theme play-off was a little bit much. Honestly, I’ve got to say my favorite moment so far was Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron dancing so very beautifully. But now the ‘Chicago’ number is starting, so we’ll see how they do.

Kazzy: Are we still in Minor Award Land? Feels like it.

I loved Jennifer Hudson. Again… huge pipes. Zazzy pointed out the other performances were given sans microphones. Was everyone lip synching?

I feel like I’m losing steam. Are we really only halfway through? You do this every year?

Russell: Oh, my friend. We are indeed still in Minor Awards Land. This is why it’s best to watch with friends. You can just hang out while the boring stuff is handed out. Thankfully, I have booze on hand.

Hang in there, man. Famous people will eventually show up again.

Kazzy: A tie????? Can that happen? What is this… soccer?

Russell: It happens VERY rarely.

Kazzy: I’m no expert on singing… but I really enjoyed Adele. Yet again, sucker for big pipes. Do they normally have so many musical numbers? Or is this related to the “theme”? It adds to the length, but I’ve generally enjoyed them.

Right now Zazzy has the comment of the night, supposing that part of the judging for the Sound Editing award (the one that resulted in a tie) was hair length of the nominee. I almost spilled my Cheerios at that one.

How did you feel on Hathaway’s win? Excuse me for not remembering your various predictions. I didn’t see “Les Miz” and, in fact, didn’t even know she was in it until the red carpet. Somehow, I thought she was nominated for “Batman”.

It does seem to be picking up again with some more big awards. Good. They almost lost me. And THEN where would the Oscars have been?

Russell: The Big Awards tend to pile up at the end. Hang in there, you’re nearly done.

I was… fine with Hathaway’s win. I haven’t seen “Les Miz” either, but since I’d predicted her win I was rooting for her. Her speech (as has been the case all awards season) was totally blah.

I think the bummer of watching without friends is… damn, you just sit and WATCH the whole thing. Maybe that’s why it’s not as fun? Because really one is just watching for the famous people, and biding one’s time while the mere mortals collect their trophies. Without buddies to fill in the boring bits, it does seem to drag a bit.

You seem to be weathering the experience well, though. And comfort yourself with the notion that, at some time in the future, I will try to enjoy an entire professional basketball game in return.

Kazzy: I’m getting the impression that the Oscars are more of a group viewing experience, at least for you. Do I have that right? Watching it with Zazzy alongside me, the two of us doing a modest MS3K imitation, adds some pleasure, and I can see how this would be amplified by more partners-in-crime and/or booze.

Earlier, we discussed ways they could shorten the show. One easy fix? Don’t show highlights from OTHER awards shows. Either give those “honorary Oscars” out as real Oscars during this show or just leave them to their own shindig. That elicited an honest-to-God WTF from Zazzy, though she didn’t abbreviate it as such. Did I mention she’s pregnant and we’ve officially passed her bedtime?

Russell: I totally agree. The “honorary” and technical Oscars really could go. Really. Even those of us who love the show would be happy to see them go. Count your lucky stars they seem to have done away with the many, many, many montages they used to do. They were excruciating.

And as I type, WOW! Tony Kushner didn’t get the Oscar. Whew! Glad I didn’t post a prediction about that one.

I believe I may have a bit of a crush on Ms. Theron.

Kazzy: Seems like we’ve cracked into the Final Four, with Ang Lee bringing home the first of the biggies. My regret grows. For whatever reason, we’re cut to another commercial. This could be over by now.

In my running diary, I note that Charlize pulls off short hair quite majestically.

Do you think Lee’s win means “Life of Pi” has a shot at Best Picture? I sort of had the impression that it was a two-way battle between “Lincoln” and “Argo”, with “Silver Linings Playbook” possibly playing spoiler. Do I have that right?

MacFarlane continues to make jokes about the show running long. Which would be funny if it didn’t run long every year with nothing being done about that.

Kazzy: If everyone tripped going up the stage, the show would be at least 10% more enjoyable.

Russell: I’m going to type before they announce Best Picture. No way is it “Life of Pi.”

Dear God. Jack Nicholson. Dear God.

Michelle Obama!!! That is new.

I’m calling “Argo.” Do you even care anymore, or do you just want it over?

Kazzy: “Argo” is the one film I saw, which I liked, and thought was well done all around, but didn’t stand out as “great” to me. But what the F do I know? Let’s just name a winner so everyone can go get drunk/to sleep.

“Argo” it is.

Well, Russell, I should say that I did enjoy our little project here. I can’t say that I enjoyed the Oscars themselves, but this was fun to do. I learned a little, laughed a lot, griped even more, and all-in-all, had a really interesting experience.

I look forward to flipping the script during an upcoming basketball game. And I encourage everyone to try something similar, especially if you have someone as smart, as witty, and as fun as Russell as your guide.

Thanks, buddy.

Russell: My friend, doing this little project has infused my watching with more pleasure than I would otherwise have had. Knowing I have you on the other side, I’ll sit through any basketball game, since I’m sure to learn more than I’d imagine going in.

I’ll pen more of a conclusion tomorrow. For now, thanks for playing.

Looking back on last night with coffee in hand, I think MacFarlane actually ended up hitting his own reviews on the head in his overlong little bit with Shatner.  (Totally with you on that, Kazzy.)  He ended up being mediocre.  He was definitely better than the embalmed James Franco, but much of his humor feels sophomoric in retrospect (and without the help of a cocktail to soften the edges).  Add in the stilted patter of a lot of the presenters, and the whole production leaves me with a next-morning “meh.”  Not the worst I’ve seen, but nowhere nearly as good as, say, the first time Steve Martin hosted.

But Jennifer Lawrence won (and recovered pretty well from her embarrassing face-plant on the stairs) and I was mostly right in my predictions.  Nobody had me screaming at my TV set.  There were no montages (except the obligatory “In Memoriam” piece, during which people finally seemed to get the clue to hold their applause instead of making it a ghastly posthumous popularity contest).  So I’ll give it a C+.

Thanks again to Kazzy for playing along and sticking it out to the end.  Tell me when, my friend, and I’ll find the dusty corner of my cable guide that holds ESPN.

[Update:  Kazzy has provided an unedited glimpse of his (frequently hilarious) musings from last night.  If you share his consternation that Javier Bardem is considered “attractive” (I’ll totally give the man “talented”), you should check it out.]

[Update II: Return of Update]  For a pretty scathing (but hard to dispute) review of Mr. MacFarlane’s turn as host, I give you NPR.]

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. Regarding Shirley Bassey, she did seem a little off at first- maybe it was nerves, maybe it was insufficient warm up, maybe she couldn’t quite hear herself or the music properly. However, she pretty quickly righted it and gave a great performance.

    I’ll say that MacFarlane did well, and far better than I expected… of course, I assume hosts are going to suck.

    • It really was a blast… one of the funnest things I’ve done in a while. As I say at the end there, I really do encourage folks to try similar projects.

  2. MacFarlane did surprisingly well. I think Letterman earns the spot of worst host since I’ve been watching (was flying during Franco’s, so missed it).

    Very happy for Adele and Jennifer Lawrence. “Skyfall” was the best Bond themesong since the Shirley Bassey days – maybe the best thing about the movie. A little surprised about Waltz. He did a fine job, but his performance/character in Django wasn’t much different than his performance in Basterds. I was rooting for DeNiro.

    Overall, pleased with the show -and I actually liked the Shatner bit – it ran a little long, but hey, it’s the Oscars and at least it wasn’t boring

    • I didn’t see the Letterman, so I can’t comment, but didn’t Whoopi Goldberg host it? I seem to recall her doing an appalling job. Also, the resurrection of Billy Crystal didn’t work out so well.

      • She hosted a few times. As with the other multiple-time hosts I’ve seen, she had a good year or two then she went downhill.

        Letterman was the wrong personality for the room. His penchant for the absurd didn’t fit with an evening that takes itself so seriously.

        But nothing, absolutely NOTHING has compared with the unmitigated shitshow that was the Franco debacle.

        • The only regret I have is that we didn’t do this DURING the Franco debacle. Reading as your emails slowly descend into a drunken, frothing madness would have been far better than watching JLaw fall up the stairs.

          • They would have been increasingly unhinged variations on the themes “What the fish is wrong with you!??!?” (except in private communiques I would probably abandon the League euphemism) and “Are they seriously paying you for this? Are you this much of an asshole in everything you do??!??!”

          • Are you this much of an asshole in everything you do??!??!”

            How else do you get to be dictator?

    • Letterman hosted one of the few Oscar ceremonies that I saw start to finish.

      I laughed out loud a lot during his show. “Wanna see my Jack Nicholson impersonation?” “Would you like to buy a monkey?” “Uma. Oprah. Oprah. Uma.”

    • Your wish, good sir, etc etc etc.

      And I had a blast doing this. Thank you so much for suggesting it. I am… dare I say it, looking forward to watching… a basketball game now?

  3. Thanks guys! This was a fun read, much better than watching the actual show. If you ever do team up to watch a basketball game, I’ll definitely be reading.

  4. It’s hilarious to see all the frothing about Michelle Obama’s appearance from people either too dumb to Google or dishonest to acknowledge that Laura Bush did te same in 2002. (At some point that distinction just ceases to matter.)

    • Hey, that was the year Michael Moore did his thing!

      Heh. Awk-ward.

    • Was that recorded live? At first I thought it was pre-recorded, but her last interaction with Jack didn’t seem to be, and a pre-recording risks the news being leaked out.

      • The whole thing was live, as far as I could tell. It was impressively smooth.

    • Mrs. Bush didn’t further glorify the imperial military industrial complex in her appearance.

      • They were bombing Baghdad at the time, though. It balances out.

  5. So the problem with the little awards is that we’re awkwardly splitting the difference. I think if they spent more time focusing on the minor awards we’d be more entertained.

    I feel like we saw 2-second clips of each movie. Show us 30 seconds, and that’s enough to identify with the movies–enough to care who wins even if we didn’t know the award existed before today.

    It’s also a better way to reach out to the blockbuster movie audience. I remember being bored with the big awards as a kid, because they went to boring dramas I never saw. The effects awards are where big-budget action movies shine. And actually featuring those movies in the awards show is a far better way of appealing to your big-budget audience than by having the cast of the avengers do half-assed bits as they present awards.

  6. So I think Meron and Zadan were bad choices to produce. The whole “tribute to music” theme was a disaster. We got songs from Chicago, Dreamgirls, and Goldfinger but managed to skip performances of two actual “best song” nominees? really?

    • Not only that, but did anyone else think it was weird that they highlighted songs in movies… by choosing a large number of songs that had been written for the stage?

      • Any year that has movies that were adapted from Broadway musicals is likely to feature music that is far more catchy than years without.

        Only the best (for small values of “best”) musicals will make it past pre-production talks and so, already, you’re dealing with the cream of the crop. A song has to be Shirley Bassey levels of awesome to compete with that.

    • I actually sort of enjoyed the theme, at least in concept. Going into and out of most commercial breaks, they usually played an instrumental version of a famous movie song. Zazzy and I delighted in figuring them all out. Some were immediately identifiable, some were, “Oh, Oh, I know that… what is it!”, while others were complete mysteries.

      Overall execution was lacking but I don’t think the idea was a total bust.

  7. I’m guessing that was unintentional, because Russell’s not a fan and Kazzy’s too young.

  8. I am only amazed at how Seth McFarlane has managed to shield himself from all critique and criticism.

    A lot of my liberal blogs found is routine to be predictable and boring. I tend to concur. This has awoken the sleeping Dragon of the Internet and cries of “lighten up.” Plenty of encouragement and agreement as well.

    I dislike that McFarlane was brought in to attract guys. I dislike that guy=lowest common denominator in American parlance. And that his fans do not seem to understand the purpose of critique and are outraged the people might find him unfunny.

    • You’ve nicked on something that I’ve been thinking about. “Ironic Racism” has been bubbling up in more and more places and, ironically, in places where “no, it’s ironic!” is seen as a legitimate defense (see, for example, the creative team for the hit television show Girls).

      Mockery of stuff that much of society says “you shouldn’t make fun of *THIS*. *THIS* is too important to make fun of!” strikes me as a target-rich environment. Stuff Carlin made fun of in the 70’s is now part of our cultural subconscious (though we still can’t say five or six of the seven words on television). Now, if comedians wish to go sacred cow tipping, they’re going to have to find some sacred cows first.

      To everyone’s surprise, they seem to be finding them.

      • Holocaust’s still a fine sacred cow. So’s rape, and half a dozen other things.

        The bar goes up, but comedians are good at limbo anyhow…
        (*humms limbo of the lost*)

      • I think it is questionable whether “ironic racism” is a valid defense of Girls.

        There were a lot of comments at the time that said “ironic racism is still racism” and I concur.

        Yes comedy and comedians will always go after sacred cows but that does not mean they will succeed or even be remotely amusing.

        Seth McFarlane makes jokes at the expense of groups he is not a part of. There is a difference between Larry David, Mel Brooks, and Woody Allen telling Jewish jokes and McFarlane doing the same. Larry David had a sketch on Curb Your Enthusiasm where he found out his agent wasn’t Jewish despite said agent’s last name. That was funny. McFarlane’s Jews control Hollywood is just an old anti-Semitic troupe.

        McFarlane is a heterosexual white guy. His “lighten up” brigade of defenders are also largely heterosexual white guys. In other words, they are defending their right to be make fun of minorities and not examine the pain that undlies their jokes.

        • Yes comedy and comedians will always go after sacred cows but that does not mean they will succeed or even be remotely amusing.

          Dude, please understand that even as I agree with you, I’m weighing whether these words might have been said in complete earnestness about Lenny Bruce (whom, mind, I freakin’ adore).

          • They probably were but I would say Lenny Bruce had a level of talent that Seth McFarlane never reached. Didn’t he always have a much more of a counter-culture audience?

          • Yes, but the counter-culture became the culture. Give it a few decades to percolate.

            In an ocean of counter-culture, what would counter-counter-culture look like?

            Girls? Family Guy?

          • I should add that a big problem with the left is that we always talk about these things in unrepentent grad-school language. The kind of language that often just causes an eyeroll because it looks like a bunch of SAT words strung together.

          • Lenny Bruch appeared in nightclubs, playing to an audience of young adults who considered themselves smart and hip.

            Seth McFarlane’s stuff is on TV and aimed at 12-year-olds.

          • Along this line (not in response to any particular comment in this subthread) I wonder what everyone thinks of the Onion kerfuffle?

          • Kolohe,

            I actually understood exactly the type of humor they were going for, but thought their choice of language and target was wrong. Rose and I have spoken about how some people wrongly occupy “untouchable” status, which ultimately denies the fullness of their humanity. For instance (and this is completely hypothetical), if Q really was a spoiled little brat but everyone pretended she wasn’t because she’s just so cute… I’d have an issue with that. So I understood that they were attempting to draw attention to our tendency to fawn over people we really know nothing about, a point worth making. I just think they picked a really terrible way to go about it.

            I thought their apology was one of the better ones I’ve seen. A true apology, not the usual non-apology-apologies we see.

          • I basically agree with Kazzy. I can understand what they were going for with the humor, but it was executed in an utterly terrible way. Y0u don’t call a nine-year-old girl an unspeakably nasty word (one of the very few I literally pretty much never speak) and then hide behind the tissue of a defense that it’s just a joke. She’s too young to be expected to understand that kind of irony, and simply hoping she won’t come across it is a lousy contingency plan.

            I think it’s telling that The Onion, which published a picture of several deities/religious figures engaged in graphic sex without apology, would back off immediately and issue what seems like a very sincere mea culpa.

          • I think it’s a perfect example of one kind of sick joke — something that’s funny because it’s so awful that even the worst person in the world would never say it seriously. But, yeah, it’s completely unacceptable to aim it at a real person. Try substituting Madeleine or Olive Hoover.

            And, as Kazzy mentioned, that is a first-rate apology.

          • I did not watch the awards, nor do I care for Seth McFarlane (or at least, I loathe “Family Guy” with a white-hot fury that has prevented me from giving any of his other projects much attention).

            But I am a big Onion fan; and The Onion has been known, from time to time, to go where others fear to tread, which is (IMO) part of their greatness.

            I see what The Onion were going for – a slam on vapid TMZ-Bravo-type shallow gossipy cattiness; but as a matter of courtesy and taste I would have avoided using a real child for the joke. They went over the line; to their credit, I think they realized that & apologized pretty quickly.

            The joke required a child (or at least someone uncontroversially “innocent”/likable) for it to work; but still. Maybe they could have invented a fictional child star, though a tweet is too short for the setup (=fake background/bio/movie).

            RE: McFarlane, I have already made my bias against him clear, and did not see the show. But ND was referring above to “Jews/Hollywood” jokes. I can see such a joke theoretically riffing on:

            Jews in Hollywood
            Hollywood’s attitude towards Jews
            The perception that Jews run Hollywood
            The degree to which there is any basis in reality for that perception, and the historical reasons for that reality
            The kind of person (Mel) for whom “The Jews Run Hollywood” is a self-evident and nefarious conspiracy that keeps him up at night
            Etc., etc.

            This list is hardly exhaustive, and more than one riff can be incorporated into the joke(s). So my questions are these:

            To what extent is offense sometimes taken as a result of miscommunication/garbled signal regarding the true “target” (either the sender did not encode his joke artfully, and/or the receiver is not hearing what the sender intended)?

            Is it always the sender’s responsibility to tell a joke in such a way that there is never any ambiguity as to his target? Do the receivers bear some responsibility to give the sender the benefit of the doubt when the signal is ambiguous?

            Most crucially to me, to what extent is it a mistake for receivers to always assume that a given joke has any intended “target” at all? This is something about which Kazzy and I went back and forth on the Pistorius thread a bit, and it seems to me ND is also looking at these jokes through this lens, when he talks about jokes “at the expense of groups” (implying, to me, that there must *always* a be cost imputed to some party for each joke told; someone must always be the “butt” or object; someone is always “taking a loss”).

            I remain uncertain that it is wise to see a “target” or “expense” in every joke; some jokes are just stupid/bad jokes; they are not always weapons nor satire. Sometimes they are just dadaistic absurdities, no more meaningful than glossolalia; words and ideas recombined in surprising or novel configurations (or, in the case of McFarlane’s Family Guy, unsurprising – FG often tries to incite laughter through simple receiver recognition of the trope being referenced – this is supremely lazy & it offends me creatively).

            Unless the jokes are intended to incite violence, or to deceive, then they (IMO) are probably best considered as just words, not sticks and stones; the jokes and their tellers usually best ignored if their content is not pleasing (for it is the shocked/negative reaction that the sacred-cow-tippers and nose-tweakers crave above all).

            This is not to excuse jokes when they ARE being wielded as weapons to injure, nor to say that they *still* can’t be tasteless or insulting; merely to say that I sometimes think we are often too quick to view them through that lens, and look for “targets” on whose behalf we can take (or imagine) offense. And sometimes that’s as much about defining *ourselves* as [not like the joke-teller] as it is anything the joke-teller has actually said.

          • National Review does not disappoint. It considers apologizing for calling a 9-year-old girl a **** to be “PC”.

          • Lenny Bruch appeared in nightclubs, playing to an audience of young adults who considered themselves smart and hip.

            That was in the mid-60’s. By the mid-70’s, George Carlin was on the Midnight Special. The counter-culture was well on its way to becoming the culture.

            I’m still wondering what the counter-counter-culture would end up looking like (or even whether we’re in the counter-counter-counter-culture by now).

          • Carlin was tame compared to Bruce and much smarter about what he could get away with, which is why he died old and beloved. Carlin was also a much more skilled comedian, of course; if he wanted to, he could avoid sex, politics, religion, and drugs, and still been hilarious. Try picturing Lenny Bruce narrating Thomas the Tank Engine stories.

          • Glyph,

            I am big on the ingroup/outgroup dichtomy rule when it comes to risque and ethnic humor. Generally it is safer for people in a certain group to make fun of that group over outsiders.

            I think McFarlane uses making fun of brooish guys as a shield for really making risque jokes about minorities. This way he gets to have his cake and eat it too.

          • Um. Okay.
            NewDealer, I know someone who just got some credit for writing gay jokes (you’ll like ’em, I promise!).

            … He’s not gay (although everyone seems to think he, um, “will be”?)

            But that’s not the thing… He’s going to be putting these jokes in the mouth of a guy who is clearly written to be a closeted homosexual.

            So, so, so… to what extent is it more okay to make jokes if you put them in the mouth of a character, and not yourself?

    • My main problem with MacFarlane is the same as with the “South Park” duo — his humor is cruel. I don’t really care all that much if he makes sophomoric jokes about breasts or even “Jews run Hollywood” cracks. (If you’ve got the stones to tell that knee-slapper in the same auditorium as Weinstein, well… okay then, I guess.)

      But tune into any given “Family Guy” and treat yourself to a reliable stream of jokes about how ugly some celebrity is, or fat, or dumb. Because I guess famous people no longer get treated with any basic human decency? I remember nasty, nasty little hahas about Sarah Jessica Parker’s looks, Ellen Barkin’s looks, Kelly McGillis’s looks. (Yes, this indicates that I tune in from time to time, which I will admit makes me a bit of a hypocrite doesn’t it?) Is the meanness really necessary?

      • I do not agree at all that Parker & Stone’s schtick is cruel. It can be overly full of itself at times, but never cruel.

        • Really? The “Edward James Olmos costume” joke wasn’t cruel? It struck me as unbelievably cruel. Admittedly, I watch it hardly at all, and maybe it’s not typically cruel. But the episodes I’ve caught included one about Al Gore and “man bear pig,” which if not cruel was certainly not very nice, and didn’t seem to have any particular connection to the real Al Gore.

          Anyhow, I don’t particularly care for their humor. But, y’know… different strokes for different folks and all that.

      • Actually I’d say the Parker&Stone humor is distinguished against MacFarlane in that their schtick isn’t so much cruel as it is at times overly self-conscious and perhaps smug. MacFarlane has a smug cruelty to his humor that’s off putting, he just seems to be putting people down for the sake of it, while even in their harshest pieces Parker&Stone seem more inclined to have a nugget of affection for whatever they’re roasting.

        • SP went after FG pretty hard in one episode, likening McFarlane/the writers to a pool of manatees batting around beachballs with words on them to come up with plots, if I remember correctly.

          • I wouldn’t say that it’s not cruel (see, for example, the Paris Hilton episode) as much as the cruelty is usually in service to a sermon that they want to give.

            As someone who agrees with 98% of their sermons, I’m usually more than happy to laugh when the cruelty is sufficiently funny. They have a fairly decent batting average for that part of it.

            Family Guy, on the other hand, doesn’t really have a point. I mean, sure, I’m willing to laugh when the jokes are sufficiently funny… and Seth has a decent batting average for that… but the jokes are never in service to anything except setting up the next joke.

          • Ugh. It’s not just the randomness (I saw that SP, and thought they nailed that); and it’s not just the lazy substitution of pop-culture references for actual jokes (though I hate that most of all); it’s that the only characters on the show that are even intermittently funny are blatant rip-offs of other, better cartoon characters.

            Peter = Homer
            Stewie = The Brain

            I really, really, really dislike FG. And I have tried more than once to get over it, but…nope.

          • In a nutshell, I think FG’s stupidity gets in the way of its brilliance. Well, maybe not brilliance, but intelligence…

          • stupidity gets in the way of its brilliance

            That’s goin’ on my tombstone.

  9. Was happy to see our hometown girl (Jennifer Lawrence) win. I hope she’s got a long career ahead of her.

      • Except for the fact that she didn’t really look anything like the character as described, which was a pretty big issue for a lot of people.

      • And was equally good as a completely different character in Silver Linings Playbook, which is what impresses the heck out of me.

        • I didn’t see those flicks; and I know I have repped it before, but I like to think of it as a delayed win for Winter’s Bone.

          She was phenomenal in that.

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