I never watched the Daily Show, or the Colbert Report. I don’t know why – it just didn’t really do anything for me, especially the latter. The cable blowhard style was too utterly annoying, even as parody, for me to get anything out of. One thing I did watch, a little at first and then voraciously, was Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on HBO. Right up until the week before the election.
I haven’t watched it since.
Part of it is simply the same reason I don’t watch television news anymore. I can’t stand this shit. I read just enough to keep me informed and don’t have to look at or listen to the actual bullshit as it happens on screen. So from that standpoint, it’s no worse than me taking BBC World Service off my car presets or relying on Quartz and Economist Espresso instead of using the Sky News app. But last night, with Late Show clips booming way too loud as I tried to exercise, something clicked in my head and I was able to articulate it to myself.
I don’t like these shows anymore because they blew it.
Like Sonny Dykes at Cal, they had a one-trick offense. All they had was ridicule. And that hurt, in the long run. Not because it ginned up the mental defectives to say “HURRRR DURRRR DEM LIBERALS MAKIN FUN OF US HURRRRRRR”, but because it convinced a lot of middling sort of people that this was so ridiculous that it couldn’t come to pass. There’s no way this guy can be President. This is such an unbelievable joke, this is a formality, this is absurd. And it let a lot of people just not vote, or waste a vote on a third party candidate, because there’s no way Donald Fucking Trump can fall ass backward into the White House, right?
What these shows did – what everything did – was functionally wanking. It was ridicule of the threat without taking it seriously. It was false bravado, overconfidence, this-could-never-happen – even Obama was guilty of it himself at the 2016 correspondents’ dinner – and then, holy shit, don’t look now but it actually came to pass. And just like Jeff Tedford’s I-will-do-just-what-we-did-in-August-regardless-of-circumstances approach or Sonny Dykes’ throw-throw-throw-what-is-defense solution, once it fails that spectacularly? I’m done with it.
You had your chance. You ran your offense. You did things your way. It failed. Your way didn’t work. Sauron has the Ring. Stanfurd has the Axe. Fucking actual Nazi sympathizers have the government. So forgive me if I’m not willing to go back to your playbook again for a while. It’s like watching the Astros last night: you hit four guys in two innings and you can’t put the ball over the plate? You’re coming out of the game. I don’t care if there’s a five run lead, we’re going to do something else because if we keep doing the same thing we’re gonna blow it. The night the nomination was clenched was the time to switch from “HA HA LOOK AT THIS FUCKER WITH AN ONION LOAF FOR HAIR” to “YOU HAVE TO VOTE FOR THIS GUY’S PRINCIPAL OPPONENT IF YOU DON’T WANT THE FUCKING WORLD TO BURN.”
And that didn’t happen. Maybe because people wanted to say “we’re just a comedy show,” maybe they wanted to take refuge in “both sides are funny,” maybe because nobody wanted to look like they were in the tank for one side even if it was Not A Nazi, maybe because nobody wanted to pledge themselves to Mean Old Granny Eat-Your-Vegetables after two decades of calling her that. So now here we are. Sorry boys (and once again, it’s always boys, hmm) – you can do your little monkey dance all you want on HBO or CBS or whatever. Enjoy it. God bless. My time is better spent on something else.
Fewer jesters, more jousters. Let’s go.