PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Kathy Griffin’s not sorry. You know it, I know it, and so does she. In fact, to know her act is to know she’s built a career attempting to getting noticed in any way she can. Her shtick is as a “D-list” celebrity who covets the notoriety of her more famous showbiz colleagues.
Frankly, I always thought it was kind of funny. But it’s hard to laugh at anger and vengeance.
You’ve seen the picture by now – Griffin holding what is supposed to look like the bloody, severed head of President Trump. The photo was not a one-off. It was planned, staged, scripted, and discussed well ahead of its release. I suspect her subsequent “apology” was as well. She ultimately scored what she openly craves. Clicks, follows, and more media coverage than her career has likely ever received.
Many have since told me they never found Kathy Griffin funny. That’s fine. I’m not one to debate with people over comedy and what is or isn’t funny any more than I’m prone to debate fashion. That said – I still found her mildly entertaining from time to time. I felt that way about Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert (occasionally), Amy Schumer, Sarah Silverman, and Chelsea Handler, too.
Then President Trump won an election.
Taking offense and being shocked at liberals just isn’t where I live these days. My energy and time is precious. I won’t give it away. I know plenty of liberals who hate Trump’s guts. I’m related to some. But I refuse to give their rage a shred of influence over my day. I don’t war on Facebook and I seldom battle on Twitter. Perhaps I’m spoiled this way since I have a three-hour radio show to get things off my chest. That and I pray to a Lord bigger than it all. My point is, anger and shock at Kathy Griffin or the others I mentioned isn’t what I feel.
What I feel today is grief…for the death of comedy.
Perhaps this is just another piece on the same concept I’ve written about since 2009. We’re living through an unfortunate evolution in comedy. It started as liberal comedians unable to joke about President Obama. He was “too smart, too historic, and too important” to mock. His power wasn’t something to be kept in check. He stood for justice and peace and goodness and decency and unicorns, said the American left.
Phase two of the comedy evolution led most comics to not only “stand down” when it came to President Obama, but to become his unofficial surrogates. I called it “Court Jester Journalism.” Jon Stewart often consulted with the White House. Zach Galifianakis helped sell Obamacare. Not only did leading comedians lay off the most powerful man in the world – they actively assisted him.
The third and final phase of this depressing comedy evolution is the one we find ourselves in today. Weaponizing comedy to take out anyone who disagrees with or dares to vote against liberals’ pet candidates or issues.
Some dope on Twitter recently chided me for the observation. “You think comics live in one dimension where they just tell jokes and don’t think or feel or worry like the rest of us?” In other words, this liberal is so disturbed by President Trump that these professional comedians are duty-bound to use the fame they built telling jokes to shame not only Donald Trump, but also everyone who voted for him.
When exactly did we start caring about a comic’s feelings? I don’t ask my mailman about his election feelings before he hands me my electric bill.
Further, in this new era of “comedy” it’s not enough to simply avoid hyper-partisanship. You can’t just entertain and stay out of it. Not only will Trump
support not be tolerated, the left won’t tolerate sideline sitters. Ask Jimmy Fallon.
Sheer disbelief washed over me reading the mid-May profile of the ‘Tonight Show’ host who’s trailing in the late night TV ratings for the first time since the election. Fallon literally apologized for what is now deemed the moment he lost his ratings lead. That monstrous moment during the campaign of 2016 when he… (gasp) tussled Donald Trump’s hair!
David Itzkoff authored a May 17th ‘New York Times’ column titled “Jimmy Fallon Was on Top of the World. Then Came Trump.” It was a maudlin mix of Itzkoff “tisk-tisking” and Fallon’s self-flagellation leaving the reader to conclude Fallon had committed a near criminal act for not attacking Trump when he had the chance.
Mr. Fallon acknowledges now that the Trump interview was a setback, if not quite a mistake, and he has absorbed at least a portion of the anger that was directed at him by critics and online detractors.
“They have a right to be mad,” a chastened Mr. Fallon said in an interview this month. “If I let anyone down, it hurt my feelings that they didn’t like it. I got it.”
What in the hell is this?! Jimmy Fallon is a guy who plays games with puppies and does lip-sync battles. He doesn’t do partisan politics. He’s not the late Tim Russert. Not to mention he might have had a couple of viewers at home who planned to vote for the future president. Nevertheless, Fallon received the message loud and clear. From now on, he’s to savage Trump like the rest of the “comedy” shows out there, or they’ll come after him, too.
The marching orders are out. The feelings outweigh the funny. Leading names in comedy today deem Donald Trump a bad guy and by extension, his voters. Fall in line and attack him, or pay the price. It’s sad, disturbing, and more than a little chilling.
But it’s sure as hell not funny.