(This Op-Ed by yours truly, appears in Florida Today newspaper this date.)
Some of us remember “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” the iconic Pete Seeger tune popularized in the 1960’s. How about substituting “comedians” for “flowers”?
Seems today’s audiences create successes for so-called comedians who really don’t know how to make people really laugh.
Where are the Jackie Gleasons, Robin Williamses, Carol Burnetts? The Red Skeltons, Bob Hopes, Joan Riverses and Johnny Carsons? Where are the comics who made audiences howl with a stare into the camera, a dumb flub or an ad-lib line not on the cue card? The funniest comics were loved by all audiences, not just right-wingers or left-wingers. For the most part, we had no idea what side of the political aisle they aligned with. Neither did we care.
Sure, they took jabs at politicians, but not borne of their own politics.
Comedians — and some actors — of the modern era have tarnished the profession to a low point from which they may never recover. The unfunny Samantha Bee recently stained show biz by espousing pure filth on national television to an equally disgusting audience, calling the daughter of our president a vulgar term. Bee was there not to be funny, but to extract cheers borne of hate. It doesn’t matter if Bee, or her audiences of feckless followers, are right or wrong about her political opinions. There’s a time and a place, and that was neither. Never mind the disregard to young people watching.
Imagine if any of the previously named comics ever did such a thing.
It’s getting catchy. Kathy Griffin, who did have comedic talent, showed her lack of dignity by photographing herself holding a mock decapitated head of Donald Trump. Griffin should seek another profession. I’m sure she has lost much of her fan base.
Michelle Wolf hosted the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and proceeded to denigrate, in unfunny terms, the press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who was seated in the room. Critics called her action “vulgar, mean-spirited and nasty,” according to USA Today.
Please don’t remind me about the infamous Dean Martin roasts of celebrities and suggest there are parallels. Those were the days when true jesters were funny and clever insults were welcomed as pure and harmless humor. Today’s so-called humor is not intended to be harmless.
This is not limited to comics. I’m still scratching my head over actor Johnny Depp’s outrageous, and perhaps illegal, public suggestion in 2017 that “It’s been a long time since an actor killed a president. Maybe it’s time.” If I were the president I would take that as a threat. So should the Secret Service.
Same goes with Snoop Dogg, who aims a gun at a clown dressed as Trump in a video. Classy, indeed. Another implied threat?
And in a public rant during the January 2017 Women’s March on Washington, Madonna exclaimed, “Yes, I’ve thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House.” Sounds like a threat of violence to me.
There are other examples of hypocritical celebrities taking vile liberties, using their fame to export hatred toward a duly elected president. But none so disappointing as actor Robert De Niro, one I would have thought would stand above the fray despite his personal leanings. Instead, he knew he had thousands of self-lovers in the room who would cheer in unison when he dropped a profanity bomb directed at the president, at the Tony Awards, for all America to hear and see, kids included. That was the pin in the balloon. My esteem for De Niro and others like him fizzled forever.
I am well aware that President Trump doesn’t always express himself in ways we would like, and I don’t agree with all his policies, but he is the elected president of this country who, by virtue of his status, must be shown respect and dignity. Millions of people disliked Barack Obama and his policies, but celebs never dared to cross the hate-line of utter disrespect with such revolting contempt.
Today’s comics couldn’t shine the shoes of those class acts of yore.