Originally published 22 August 2008.
I like my comedy. I like a good laugh as much as the next guy, and even fancy myself a bit of a card myself. Not that I’d expect that to manifest itself in this here blog in any way or anything…
I’m really quite particular with my comedians. One thing I hate is an unfunny stand-up comedian, and something I hate just as much is a slightly funny stand-up comedian. Anyone who seems at all tired or half-baked, and I’d sooner be watching nature documentaries about lions.
This obviously means I have no time for Saturday Night Live, and haven’t in fact seen a single episode in probably some fifteen years now. It’s become this strange testament to survival as a virtue. The most awe-inspiring thing about Saturday Night Live is that is has somehow managed to stay alive all of these years.
Well, of course, people have been saying that about SNL pretty much non-stop down the decades, and picking out an era to call SNL’s “Golden Age” based less on the relative merits of the show down the years and more on which years the commentator in question was a teenager.
I was a teenager during the era with Kevin Nealon, Chris Rock, Dana Carvey, Julia Sweeney and some other people I can’t remember. Older people back then were glorifying the previous years, with Chevy Chase and Bill Murray and whoever else. Thing is I knew a lot of what I was watching then was pretty lame (I mean, really, Pat?) but even in the middle of the worst episode, you knew you’d have five minutes of great comedy. The highlight for me was always “Weekend Update”, and that was all down to my favourite comedian, Dennis Miller.
Back then, Dennis Miller was a genius. People big up his so-called arcane references, but for me it’s not that they were arcane (hardly a virtue in and of itself) but that they were spot-on and incisive. And, okay, maybe a little elitist, but it’s rewarding to get a joke that flies over the heads of other people. Dennis Miller spoke not only with wit and humour but also with passion. When he was really committed to what he was saying, years before he seized on the word ‘rant’ as a promotional campaign, he would let fly with an invective that was cathartic.
A righteous invective, what’s more. He would take on politicians and other sacred cows and take them down, and my teenage iconoclastic self would cheer. And agree.
Over the years, I’ve changed. Everybody does. But many things about me are still the same. So when I listen to the bearded blowhard spouting right-wing rhetoric on baiting TV programs today, the once-proud independent working as the GOP’s spokesman, I’m forced to conclude that the one who’s changed more, and not for the better, is him.
Apparently, September 11 ‘woke Dennis Miller up’. Apparently that tragedy is what brought about his political change of heart. Clearly the death of 3000 innocents shook him enough to turn his searing questioning of, and contempt for, political double-talk and lies into an unquestioning support for our generation’s most objectionable elected regime. Somehow, this terrible tragedy has not merely led him to the conviction that the Republican Party is stronger on foreign policy than the Democrats but has somehow pushed him so far off centre into the reactionary right that you can now find him chumming with the likes of Ann Coulter and Bill O’Reilly, defending gas companies and condemning environmentalists.
People have the right to change. People have the right to progress on their policies and beliefs from one point to another. And people also have the right to be disappointed in their childhood heroes when those heroes become reactionary blowhards. Frankly, continuing to like and admire someone who’s gone so far to the right and become so partisan that he might as well seek office as a Republican would make no sense at all.