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Home » Archives » January 2006 » A Political Post!
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01/19/2006: A Political Post!

A few politically-oriented web sites run by friends of mine have kindly linked to this humble blog. As a result, I understand that I’m getting some new visitors, all a-staggering in and blinking around at the non-political content in confusion. So I’ve decided to address the issue of politics in the writers’ room.

The general assumption seems to be that the creative forces in Hollywood are uniformly liberal and liberally uniform. And certainly, I’ve met more writers who identify themselves as democrats than those who identify themselves as republicans. But it’s not a hundred percent. Not nearly. And on almost every show in my career, I’ve found myself in a political argument at some point with someone to the right of me. (To the political right I mean, although in half the cases they were also literally to the right of me.) Sometimes these writers self-identified as conservative. But usually they thought of themselves as liberal, but just felt that “some people” “took things” “too far.”

I think this is because comedy writers tend to see sensitivity to the feelings of others as anti-comedic. Political correctness is the enemy of funny, they declare. If we eliminate jokes at the expense of those who are different than us, we’ll be left shivering and naked in a comedy landscape made of nothing but self-deprecation and puns. This is nonsense, of course. Any joke that’s only funny after you’ve glanced around the room to check the demographics, is probably not a joke worth telling. And I don’t just say this because such jokes are mean-spirited. Although that would be reason enough. Here’s why I say this:

Racist/sexist/homophobic jokes in fact tend NOT to be funny not only because they cause pain, but because they are bombs instead of scalpels. A joke that pokes fun at a person is sharpest, funniest, when it finds that perfect detail, the most subtle observation of what sets that person apart. Someone’s race or gender is unlikely to be the most subtle thing about them, and certainly it’s not the most specific.

This is the same as the difference between the truly talented impersonator and some guy who just “does accents.” One trades in the specific and one in the general.

I mentioned Jane Austen in another post. She was a master at creating characters with tiny precise foibles which were observed and punctured by other characters, also created by her. Fantastic. You know who else did this well? Frasier. M*A*S*H. Mary Tyler Moore. Ellen. Buffy. Get precise! It's funny!

My lunch: Chicken noodle soup and a baked apple!


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January 2006

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