Tuesday, June 28, 2022

TV: Self-love doesn't help the vain get honest

Comedy is tricky. Or, we should say, good comedy is tricky. We keep getting reminded of that thanks to NETFLIX.



It's a taped program. It's not live. In addition, it's billed wrongly as "an iconic celebration of women in comedy with stand-up sets from Cristela Alonzo, Margaret Cho, Michelle Buteau and more."

And more? What does that mean? "The professor and Mary Ann"?

Heather McMahan, Tracey Ashley, Brooklyn Decker, Iliza Shlesinger, Angelah Johnson-Reyes, Eliot Glazer, Rachel Bloom and June Diane Raphael are the "and more." It was too much for NETFLIX to list them?

That's a lot of talent, -- and much more comedic talent than the hosts had.

The comics are funny, it's Jane and Lily that are tragically out of step.

First off, we didn't need their garbage about Ukraine or anything else. This was not supposed to be a political special. Certainly not a war mongerer conference.

Did someone forget to inform Jane that she's supposed to be a radical -- not a conservative -- at this late stage in her life? She and Lily were pathetic. They decides to cite some 'heroes' and, strangely enough, for a comedy special, they couldn't seem to think of any comedians.  As an after thought, Jane appeared to remember Wanda Sykes (her co-star in MONSTER-IN-LAW).  Now, we know Jane's not ever going to cite Joan Rivers -- the two couldn't stand each other. But Jane was happy to name the late actress  Katharine Hepburn -- who loathed Jane. Lily and Joan got along so why didn't Lily cite Joan? It was a women's comedy special but both women seemed averse to female comics.

We really wish that these women who preach all the time and are forever patting themselves on the back could do a real self-inventory and get honest.  

For example, singer-songwriter Tori Amos.  Kat's "Kat's Korner: Jack Johnson finds his way back" addressed a lot of issues including that Tori's put partisanship above her art -- which is just sad.

But here's what sadder about these back patters who don't grasp that they are the problem.  That's Jane and Lily and it's Tori as well.

Let's focus on Tori.  How many times have we suffered through those women-in-rock and women-who-rock pieces?  We remember Tori forever complaining about those pieces.  

But Tori is responsible for those pieces.

She's been recording successfully since the early 90s.  So where are the women, Tori?

And don't bring up your daughter -- it's pathetic when nepotism is passed off as feminism.

Tour after tour, album after album, Tori keeps surrounding herself with men.  On stage, in the studio.

Maybe if the bitch would stop being such a Queen Bee and work with other women, it wouldn't seem so strange to sheltered journalists that a woman could rock.  Tori could have expanded the landscape long ago.

She's forever praising herself for being a feminist but just as Jane's never made a film that a woman directed, Tori won't go on stage with other women musicians.  

It's as though these women who are so entranced with their own reflection don't own an actual working mirror because they never see themselves as the rest of us do.

We were groaning when we saw Lily rush to cite her 'shero' Christiane Amanpour -- the woman who's always screaming for war -- be it on Libya or Sudan or Ukraine or what have you. Lily, you're a long, long way from peace, aren't you?

Listening to the women they listed -- which included Nancy Pelosi -- was to grasp just how out of touch they truly are today.

It was pathetic and it was appalling.

They offered no sense of history or perspective and we had to wonder about the omission of Cindy Sheehan since both women had praised Cindy in the '00s. Did Cindy's refusal to play in the duopoly game get her dropped from the list of admirable women?

If so, that may actually be more pathetic than Jane Fonda's promise in 2007 to keep speaking out against US forces on the ground in Iraq -- a promise she immediately broke.

And since the special was recently recorded, we were bothered that Sarah Weddington wasn't mentioned in the heroes list. Not a comic, but as we pointed out, none of the women were. Sarah should have been mentioned because the special was taped recently and Sarah is the one who successfully argued ROE V WADE before the Supreme Court. Apparently, as with Cindy, it was more important for Jane and Lily to note war hawks like Christiane Amanpour instead of women who actually took actions that mattered.

Watching the nonsense from Lily and Jane, we were reminded of Jane's film CAT BALLOU, specifically when Cat comes face to face with her former heroes, "Some gang of cutthroats and murderers. We used to whisper your names when we were kids - scared to say them out loud. How sad - you got old."


Gloria Steinem  posited decades ago that, unlike men, women get more radical with age. Are Lily and Jane not really women?

Lily's a lesbian so it was surprising that she didn't name any lesbians as a hero.

She was mainly attempting to act addle-brained. That was her comic bit.

It was a sad bit, a tired bit, but it was one more bit than Jane had.

Reality, Jane wants desperately to be seen as funny. She's wanted that for most of her adult life.

Why? When she truly was radical -- yes, as hard as it is to believe today, Jane was once radical -- some put her down by stating she was humorless.

That wasn't fair. Jane always had a sense of humor.

But she can't tell a joke. That is reality.

Give her a script and a character to hide behind and she can be delightful.

Let her play herself and . . .

Her most embarrassing industry moment remains the Academy Awards. She was delivering an intro about nominated scripts. She bore down on what she said were the two most scary words "Fade in."

She looked around at the somber audience quizzically, pondering where the laugh was?

She never found it.

She's just not funny. In fairness, this was the same night she chose to unveil ("sport," her detractors said) her breast implants and, for the woman who couldn't stop about telling people to make friends with their wrinkles, those huge fake boos were upstaging anything coming out of her mouth.

Except for the fake boobs, her hosting of the stand up program really called that former embarrassment to mind.

And it sort of put a damper on all that followed.

This is the second of NETFLIX's comedy events (third, if you count that HALL special) and we are left to wonder why they keep doing these?

Margaret Cho and Cristela Alonzo, for example, are two comics than can more than handle their own special, they don't need to be sharing the stage.

Margaret Cho acts in FIRE ISLAND -- a film streaming on PEACOCK.

Jane shouldn't do stand up. Stand up comedian Joel Kim Booster shouldn't try to write screenplays. He wrote the script for FIRE ISLAND -- an update on Jane Austen's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. The first forty minutes are excruciating. Once we get into Joel's character and the film's Mr. Darcy, it begins to work. You actually care about those two.


Too many movies -- and TV shows (think NAOMI) -- are just spitting out characters and confusing audiences.

The reason films used "types" -- Thelma Ritter and others for character roles -- was to help the audience follow. It's also why famous and semi-famous people are often cast in roles. Outside of Margaret Cho, most of the cast is unfamiliar to movie goers. Joel' screenplay starts with too many characters and they really needed to cast recognizable faces or at least distinct ones. CLUELESS, another update of Jane Austen, worked because it established characters and used 'types' -- the skateboarder, the preppie, etc.

Joel is fine as an actor but he front packs the script for FIRE ISLAND and it takes the film forever to recover. PSYCHOSEXUAL is the name of Joel's NETFLIX comedy special. It's often funny. Sounds like a qualifier is coming, doesn't it?

Because, of course, it is. His persona may just be saying things for humor. If that's the case, keep it up. But if he's serious about getting complaints from gay people about his jokes, he might try grasping that he's not The Voice for Gay America. His jokes come across as though they are. He doesn't say this is what he does, for example, he says it's what gay America does. And that may be why, for example, a gay man tells him that people like Joel Kim Booster are the reason his parents hate gay people.

Similarly, we present a feminist voice, not the feminist voice.

We tend to think we're right -- most people do. And sometimes we are. We think a lot of other feminists would be better off if they hadn't gone with the nonsense of "Believe all women." We were clear repeatedly that being a feminist does not mean that we walk along blindly or that we drop logic, reasoning or any other skills. Some readers were offended in 2016 when we began stressing that "believe all women" was a trap, not a feminist principal. But it seems many have now arrived at that belief.

NETFLIX is arriving at something. A reckoning?

We don't know. But just as it is not helpful to do a special for pride month focusing on gay rights when the big closer is a speech on abortion (again, not really an issue for the GBTs in the LGBTQ community), it's not really helpful to bring on hosts for stand up specials that think they can tell jokes when they actually can't. Just introduce the acts.

NETFLIX has recently (and thankfully) settled the lawsuit with Monique. That does not, however, mean that they've achieved representation. Joel Kim Booster's special was a strong addition to achieving diversity. We're still waiting on the trans special, however. If Dave Chappelle can deliver his jokes (and we support his right to do and NETFLIX's right to air it) then it's past time for the trans community to be on stage telling their own stories. That's what real representation is about -- authentic voices telling their own stories.

That's how we learn, how we expand and how we embrace. If NETFLIX really wants to help us with that heroic task and they want to make Lily Tomlin a host, might we proposed DEEP IN THE CLOSET WITH LILY Tomlin -- a 90 minute special where she dishes on how she spent a good chunk of 1978 pretending in public that she was in love with John Travolta. She could bring on others who felt they had to lie to American to have careers and we could all learn something from that. Sean Hayes could talk about how Cher accidentally outed him and Nathan Lane could talk about how Jason Alexander accidentally outed him.


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