Cheap Seats 2020
Na? Hah! - 01/29
By Rich Trzupek
Welcome to America in the 21st century folks: The land of humorless, self-important jerks whose ability to process competing arguments in due proportion is slightly greater than the ability of Red Sox and Yankees fans to co-exist. This is the Twitter era and it’s 99.4 percent composed of twits.
When I describe us as the land of humorless, self-important jerks, do not for a moment believe that I’m suggesting that description should only be applied to those Americans who – in whole or in part – disagree with my personal positions on the great issues of the day. The modifier “humorless, self-important jerks” pretty much describes all of us, whatever our political persuasion. We’ve become so hyper-sensitive and righteous that nobody can presume to tolerate a bit of fun poked toward us by someone with a different view without scaling up their reaction by at least two orders of magnitude on the Mel Brooks/ Blazing Saddles “harrumph scale.” (If you don’t understand that cultural reference, I submit that you are part of the problem, not the solution.)
There was a time, not so long ago, when American culture was full of clever, entertaining political pundits who did not necessarily, or at least openly, subscribe to a particular philosophy of governance as espoused by this party or that party. H.L. Mencken, Dorothy Parker and Will Rogers are just a few examples of brilliant, hilarious observers from our past whose writings managed to keep politics, or at least politicians, in perspective.
Today? Not so much. America’s educators – a humorless bunch – increasingly believe that humor is a dangerous weapon that needs to be closely managed by those of superior cultural and political understanding, a perspective that recognizes the power of the punch-line without them having the slightest clue of how offensive personal and identity politics can be to the average American. Any joke outside of “why did the chicken cross the road?” is terribly offensive to this crowd, or at least to its non-vegan elements.
There are a few, a blessedly few, American humorists who are able to detach themselves from whatever personal prejudices they may or may not have in order to focus on the mountain of absurdities that define our political system. The very best contemporary of this increasingly rare breed is Miami Herald columnist Dave Barry.
Barry’s “Year in Review,” published at the end of each calendar year, is a national treasure. (Google it, RIGHT NOW!) Not only is that re-occurring column hilarious, as is all of Barry’s work, it’s also purposely and completely non-partisan. Our forefathers not only would have approved, I’m morally certain we would have gotten a spit-take out of more than a few..
Consider but a couple of examples of Barry’s take on 2019 in review. These are examples of how non-biased commentary should be done, though I personally have no expectations of how that will be done by the next, oh-so-sensitive generation. That said, here’s the incomparable Messr. Barry mocking the current chief executive as the Donald obsesses about hurricane predictions:
“September begins with President Trump facing a major crisis involving the crucial issue of whether Alabama was, or was not, ever actually threatened by Hurricane Dorian. The crisis erupts on September 1, when, with Dorian moving toward the U.S. mainland, the president tweets that Alabama is among the states “most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated.” Minutes later the National Weather Service responds with a statement that “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian.”
At this point the president acknowledges that he made a minor mistake, thus laying the issue to rest and freeing everyone to focus on more important matters.
Ha ha! That would never happen. Donald Trump did not get where he is by allowing himself to be corrected about the weather by any so-called “National Weather Service.” The president mounts an intensive, multi-day, multi-tweet offensive on the Alabama issue, highlighted by an Oval Office meeting with reporters during which he displays a week-old National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration map proving conclusively that Alabama was in fact threatened by a black line that was obviously added to the map by an inept amateur with a Sharpie.”
Does the above expose Barry as anti or pro Trump? Are his delightedly sophomoric attempts geared toward curry favor among Democrats or Republicans? The answer is nether. Barry, like the legends who proceeded him, is an equal-opportunity satirist. Here’s Barry’s comeback to himself:
“Speaking of dire threats: CNN’s special seven-hour “town hall” broadcast on the global climate crisis attracts a nationwide audience estimated at nearly 30 viewers, counting household pets. Ten Democratic presidential candidates present their plans for saving the planet, which include strictly regulating or banning fossil fuels, nuclear power, red meat, plastic straws, fracking, white meat, cars, light bulbs, barbecues, capitalism, farting, greyish meat, babies and airplane flights that are not transporting Democratic presidential candidates. The highlight of the night comes when Joe Biden develops a weird red eyeball as result of being hit by a tranquilizer dart fired by his staff to prevent him from suddenly hugging a CNN moderator. This debate is followed by another debate later in the month. Or maybe it was the same debate, and we all fell asleep for a while in the middle. There is no way to tell.
“Bill de Blasio drops out of the Democratic presidential race, bitterly disappointing the citizens of New York when they learn that Bill plans to resume mayoring them.”
If I was in charge, nobody would be allowed to cast a vote unless they read a Barry “Year in Review” column and was observed to laugh both honestly and heartily throughout. Either that, or potential voters will be required to pass a scratch-and-sniff test involving some or all portions of actress Gwenyth Paltrow.
We’re working on it.