strange bedfellows-russell l. peterson

“how late-night comedy turns democracy into a joke”

“Speaking truth to power sounds like a noble calling; but Americans do not live in a society in which simple truth-telling is in itself a revolutionary act. Our problem, in this age of chatter and spin, is not a shortage of truth but an overabundance ofcompeting “truths” and truth-tellers, all clamoring to be believed. With so many pundits and think-tank experts pressing their points-not to mention a passel of Holden Caulfield know-it-alls and Hans Christian Andersen naifs shouting to be heard above the din-“truth” is much less a meaningful concept than we would like to think. Even a “true” truth is unlikely to make much of a dent when it is merely hurled in the general direction of power. The difference between mere truth-telling and the contemplation of truthiness lies in the distinction between merely pointing out the fact that the emperor wears no clothes and leading us to understand how we could have been led to ignore his nudity in the first place.” (145)


2 thoughts on “strange bedfellows-russell l. peterson

  1. “(Chevy) Chase’s technique-or lack thereof-also lent SNL’s depiction of Ford a particularly devastating edge. If imitation is, as the old saw has it, the sincerest form of flattery, there was no sign of flattery in this portrayal. Carvey’s Bush, Hammond’s Clinton, and even Dan Ackroyd’s Nixon, are-because of the care and study that have obviously gone into them-in some measure tributes to their originals. Chase’s non-impersonation, on the other hand, suggests that Ford was not worth the trouble. Moreover, freed of the technical demands of portraiture, Chase’s performance is directed entirely toward defining its target as an addle-brained klutz, with no residual effect of making him seem endearing.” (37)

  2. “(Lenny) Bruce’s contemporary and rival Mort Sahl, though not profiled in Kaufman’s book, fits the Irony Fatigue diagnosis to a tee. Never was a comedian’s career so obviously undone by his refusal to “just” be funny. Though he paved the way for The Daily Show, appearing as a commentator for NBC during the 1960 political conventions, Sahl was never able to gain a toehold in TV. This failure was a source of frustration for Sahl, but it was as much the result of his own stubborn (perhaps the better word is “perverse”) integrity as anything else. He just couldn’t pass up an opportunity to say something provocative.” (130)

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