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Friday, June 12. 2009
The Letterman thing exposes something. Something other than what's being discussed.
It's difficult to write, and in turn, tell jokes. Really funny people rarely tell jokes. They outline a narrative in a humorous way. If you sprinkle in a funny turn of phrase here and there, those are jokes, but they're not the point. If you've ever seen a good comedian appear in a nightclub when they're working on new material, it's generally really disjointed and unfunny. There's no thread running through it yet, and the jokes bomb or get a laugh, but you can't get a wave to ride on.
A monologue done nightly is just watercooler chat. The day's happenings in a stream. But Letterman's DOA joke about Sarah Palin's daughter wasn't really topical, and it wasn't funny, and it stuck out like a sore thumb. It was an excuse to be vicious, and it showed that Letterman had been waiting for quite a while for any chance to say something unpleasant about someone he really doesn't like.That's why it seemed so jarring.
Letterman likes to trade on his midwestern homeliness, and likes the association people have always made between him and Johnny Carson. Carson was from the midwest, too, of course, and Carson liked Letterman and had a lot to do with his success. It always rankled Letterman that he didn't replace Carson. He's become bitter about it, and it shows.
But the impetus of the joke that bombed is exactly why Letterman never replaced Carson. Carson was talented, and funny, and wry, and light on his feet, and he was every bit the equal of every star that sat across from him. He knew what to talk to stars about, because he was a star. Letterman was always a kind of lame-o Lucifer to Carson's Archangel, and everybody knew it. Letterman made his name by being the king's fool. The king suffered someone aping him, to amuse him, but a fool is always a fool. You're allowed to say what you want, but there's no promotion ever in the offing. You get to hang around until you put your foot in it. And when you displease your sovereign, you get the ax, not the hook.
Letterman's congenital problem manifested itself in spades. He is a Beta male in an industry filled with Beta males. Even the industry's a Beta. He's not even an entertainer -- his job is to talk to and about entertainers. They say politics is show-business for ugly people, and the similarities are manifest. Politics is often home to Beta males that try to cut in front of the big men on life's campus by the side door. Same deal. That's why they get along famously.
That's why men like Letterman always end up groping the help. All the Beta males do this. Look at John Edwards, Bill Clinton, Bob Packwood, Newt Gingrich... this will grow monotonous. They're lame, and know it, and so they try to get themselves in a position of power over the men they used to resent, and the women they never had a shot at. But the men are all dorks of one sort or another, and the women they never had a shot at are still out of their range. They can lord it over whatever women are handy, but eventually find that they are in the thrall of someone as defective as they are.
So you're drunk and bitter, and you totter over and tell her how much you've always hated her; tell her she's not all that; tell her you've got a Camaro now. Then you ask her back to dance as she walks away. You'd probably murmur "You're not so tough" after her husband was out of earshot if he beat your beta ass as you so richly deserve, but neither of them could be bothered really, because a loser is a loser.
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SIMPLY magnificent analysis, probably the closest on the nail I can recall of any such shmeck.
"I was just trying to get a little validation for my life. I guess I came up a bit short!"
Poor Paul Letterman, perhaps he should hire Naomi Wolf for a consultation.
Interesting. I'm not sure if it's Beta male, so much as it's Peter Pan male, permanent angsty adolescence. Nothing makes them happy, the world sucks and it's out to get them, and so on. Snark is a poor substitute for wit, which is why Johnny Carson is still king, and Letterman, Conan, and Comedy Central's two sarcasm masters leave you with an empty feeling. Quiet and civil Bob Newhart sneezes funnier than David Letterman can joke.
Most of the things politicians, actors, pundits, and the blogocracy whinge about inspires only one thought in me: Grow the fuck up!
I thought Letterman was cool when I was 15. That was 27 years ago.
"...sarcasm masters leave you with an empty feeling."
Perfect. That sick, empty feeling is witnessing people laughing and feeling entertained by sociopathy.
Waking up every morning being David Letterman would seem to be punishment enough.
The article pretty well nails Lettermans character , at least as far as anyone can tell from the outside. However it would be be better without the alpha male , beta male nonsense. These are concepts that do not even completely describe wolf society, let alone the complexities of human interaction. Anyway they are misapplied all over the place. The beta wolf is the number two wolf in the pack. He is generally an alpha wolf in waiting, or an ex-alpha wolf. Not some entirely different sort of creature.
There is nothing in Lettermans character that could not be explained, just as well, by such old fashioned concepts as pride, envy, lust etc. Why not use moral concepts when we are expressing moral outrage. Are we ashamed of being moral creatures?
I like Jim's suggestion of arrested adolescence. Letterman's sort of behavior is much more common in teenagers, than in men who happen to be number two in a hierarchy.
I like Bill Whittaker's comment that there is nothing in Letterman's character that could not be explained by such old fashioned concepts as pride, envy, lust, etc." We've been defining evil for a long time -- many centuries, as a matter of fact. I think de Hauteville hit the nail on the head, and defining him as the court fool is right on. He's an enormously envious man -- envious of other men who are real men, and who win the hearts of real women, as he can never do. And the comment that Todd Palin could kick Letterman's ass "if he had swine flu and Letterman had a club," presents a wonderful picture for me. Todd Palin is a man who drove his snowmachine in a race for 500 miles with a broken arm.
That's one tough man, one rightfully angry man. Letterman better build a safe room in his house to hide in.
Bang! Zoom! And it's a long one... a long one... it's OUTTA HERE!
You guys and gals had better moderate, and quick!
Meanwhile Letterman is playing chess or something. You are just going to piss off the Letterman fans who should be voting Republican if it weren't for all the angry words on Maggies and other sites.
Come on folks, it's not the first dirty joke about raping kids ever told on TV. Put your strident convictions aside for a minute and think of the Party!
Dole/McCain 2012!! Viva La Republican Party de las Verdes y compasivo!
Now, now, Phil ... What's this "you better moderate" stuff? Are you suggesting that what's sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander? That vulgarians like Letterman can insult anyone they want to, but the insulted person, and his or her friends, can't respond, even in the tasteful way maggiesfarmers do?
Sounds like a threat to free speech to me.
You say tastefull, some say dangerous-extreme-hatred.... semantics really.
Just because Letterman is a total f*cking assh*le we shouldn't be tempted to point that out! That's just falling for the trap set by Obama.
Moderation, a virtue of all just and fair Republicans, should dictate the following response to Letterman:
I wouldn't say what a talk show host should say or not say, and I am sure some kind of mistake was made, and afterall people should lighten up and not give credence to the angry voices on the right, and not allow narrow extreme views to poison the discussion.
There- that's a nice, fair, un-extreme way of being really, really nice and yet critical. A very un-dishonorable approach, really. I am sure average Americans will agree and help return the right Republicans to legislative prominence!
Mrs. M, I fear you fell into Dr. Phil's sarcasm chasm. You see it's not enough that we object to DL's behavior and extract a half-hearted apology, we must at all times, without giving one ounce of the benefit of doubt, even on the sidelines (or even 57th row of section 313) go for the jugular. DL lost it many years ago for reasons beyond what has been discussed here, but I'd summarize it to say he's just been a pawn himself. Granted, his fault for being the dipshit he is, but "total f*cking assh*le" may be Barney Frank, may be Rahim Emmanuel (or whatever the f his name is), may be a lot of worthless leftys, but DL? I don't think so. Seriously. Get a grip.
Sorry K- all sarcasm aside here. I have a zero tolerance policy for jokes about raping 14 year olds. I don't think that unreasonable, and I do think DL is a TFA for being a TFA.
I don't care what his politics are. This is wrong, and I don't care who thinks it's almost sorta okay. If he said this about my daugter there would be blood.
I agree on the 14 yo, but (and forgive me for having a life and not digging deep enough into this marginal story...ok, that's snarky and sarcastic too...) as I understand it, DL thought it was Bristol who was in town with Palin. And if that's a load of BS, I'll agree with you. I expressed the same sentiment in regard to an earlier post about something Levon Helm of The Band was quoted as saying.
In general, my feeling is keep your powder dry and don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes.
Carson - and Leno - projected warmth and kindness. Letterman is cold and mean. The insecure Beta male thing may be correct. He never talks to guests before or after shows. Leno visits in the dressing room and makes friends. People sensed it and watched accordingly.
A long time ago I read something about dividing the causes for human laughter into Joy, Fun, the Joke Proper, and Flippancy, from highest to lowest. Since I'd always liked flippancy, it made me thoughtful. Ever since then I've paid attention to whether a joke had anything going for it but flippancy, a kind of cheap put-down without much real cleverness, designed to make the joke-teller seem above something without ever having to define what the something is.
Roger is right on poin: the real resentment is about the fact that Gov. Palin is a gorgeous woman married to an alpha male he can't touch in any department.
That's why men like Letterman always end up groping the help.
Strange you should say that, because I vividly remember back in the NBC days how Letterman did EXACTLY that on camera.
Dave used to do a bit in which he would call people at random from the White Pages from across the country (that's how he found Arnie Barnes, a "meat shaper" working at Omaha Steaks). Given the task of bringing the phone directories to his desk was Barbara Gaines, a production assistant. Gaines would enter from stage left and put the phone books on Dave's desk. As she would bend over and flip the pages and place her finger on a person selected to be called, a grinning Dave, while making idle chit-chat, would slowly reach behind her with his left hand. She would flinch and giggle and playfully say "C'mon!" or something.
At the time, Letterman was widely known to be dating writer Merrill Markoe, so it struck me as odd that he would be goosing a staff member on camera. Years later, Gaines, who eventually became Executive Producer, came out of the closet, making it more mysterious. Nevertheless, it happened that way, and wish I had video to prove it.