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a blog by Ann Althouse

"Audiences have different orientations toward humor and political talk. Those orientations have some underlying psychological needs."

"And styles of comedy have political and cultural histories. Bluntly, scholars who study political communication and humor often find that liberals are ironic smart alecks and conservatives are outraged moralists. Some of us are a bit of both, but most of us have a psychological need to be one over the other.... Unfortunately, outrage makes more money, and today’s conservative media is much better at outrage."

Writes Tressie McMillan Cottom in "In the Political Talk Show Race, Outrage Is Winning" (NYT).

Dannagal Goldthwaite Young, a communication professor at the University of Delaware... pulls together a lot of research on psychology, history and media to explain why we find funny what we do. The need for closure is a big one. If you have a high need for clear-cut moral rules, then satire, which asks us to skewer our own beliefs, is going to make you pretty anxious....

Conservative media seems to be doing quite well. Joe Rogan and Ben Shapiro are two of the most popular podcast hosts in the nation. There is no liberal counterpart to either.

Huh? What about Rachel Maddow? Last I looked, hers is the most popular podcast. Two sentences later, we're told that "MSNBC looks for its footing after Rachel Maddow’s exit." 

When you look across media platforms, it is easier to see how conservative psychological preference for outrage bodes better for their growth in satellite radio, lifestyle media and, of course, social media.

Wait. I am not accepting that liberals don't go for outrage. Rachel Maddow is all about liberal outrage. There's no skewering of one's own beliefs! Liberals aren't satirizing themselves. There's no subtlety or self-deprecation. There's mocking of the other side — mocking based on outrage — and rectitude about oneself.

"Maybe [Evan Peters] decided to watch my show to counterbalance the heaviness of playing Jeffrey Dahmer, and something stuck."

Said Joe Pera, quoted in "A BRIEF INTERVIEW WITH JOE PERA ABOUT NETFLIX’S ‘DAHMER’/What does the mild-mannered comedian think about being compared with the Evan Peters version of the serial killer?" (Gawker).

That was published last month. I ran across it because I was looking for things about Joe Pera, whose show we've been catching up on, watching and rewatching, these last couple weeks. I was not looking for anything about Jeffrey Dahmer, and I'm not watching that series, even if it's supposed to be good.

Joe doesn't want to watch it either:

I don’t wanna watch it. The past week I’ve been getting a lot of texts and emails from old friends that I haven’t heard from in years, and I’m excited to open them because I think they’re gonna say something like, “I heard you’re on tour this fall, wanna get beers when you’re in Ithaca?” Or something like that. Then I open them and they’re just like, “The actor on Dahmer sounds like you.”

I did watch the short clip from "Dahmer" — at that link — and I thought the actor had more of a Wisconsin accent. Maybe non-Wisconsinites think all Midwest accents sound alike. I can't easily distinguish between southern accents. Pera says his accent is from Buffalo, and: "people say the Buffalo accent is like Midwest mixed with Canadian."

That is, Pera's accent isn't even a Midwest accent. Buffalo is New York, and people debating what counts as the Midwest may argue about some marginal inclusions — Ohio? Kansas? the Dakotas? — but I've never heard New York in the mix, perhaps because Upstate New York is hard to see next to its attention-getting brother "Downstate New York." I put that in quotes because no one says "Downstate New York" — and Upstate New York is either too modest to complain or too inconspicuous to be heard complaining. 

Joe closes the interview with: "I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to speak on this, so I don’t have to respond to all those texts from friends. And no pressure, but I’m doing a tour, so if anybody wanted to come check out what a decent version of somebody with that accent sounds like...."

"YouTube really rewards straightforward, untrammeled, and unscripted discussion, and it's really what people expect on the platform."

Says Jordan Peterson, talking to Piers Morgan about how to conduct an inteview. He's distinguishing YouTube from "legacy TV." He's responding to Morgan, who has just acknowledged that Peterson is phenomenally successful on YouTube:


They're right about the constraints of television, but I want to show you this amazing segment of television from October 9, 1970, when the host, Dick Cavett — and guests Jeanne Moreau and Lee Marvin — kept almost entirely quiet for minutes on end while Truman Capote stumbled and mumbled his way to the most important question in the world:

Was Capote straightforward? He was untrammeled and unscripted! But straightforward may seem like the opposite of what he was. And yet, his struggle to find his point is real, and isn't that a form of straightforwardness? I don't think he's holding anything back, and I don't think he's using more words than he needs. He's just very, very needy.

I don't watch movies very often anymore for some reason.

I prefer short things, not necessarily TikTok short, but "How to with John Wilson" short...


When I do watch a movie, sometimes it's something new that I've been reading about — I saw "Elvis" and "Blonde" — but sometimes it's something quite random. Last night, I watch the 1921 Swedish silent movie "The Phantom Carriage." 

I like to keep blog posts short, though sometimes I go long. Right now, I can go short, because the Criterion Channel made this minute-a-half presentation of 3 reasons to watch the movie (with an especially interesting image at the very end):

ADDED: YouTube, quite appropriately, has the entire 101-year-old movie available on line.

Showtime has a new documentary series about the Lincoln Project...

... which Variety calls "the fastest-growing super PAC in America made up of a veteran group of former GOP operatives and strategists, accepted the duty of 'saving democracy' in their plot to defeat their own party’s sitting president."

Variety quotes the press release: "There has never been a super PAC that has captured the imagination of the general public like the Lincoln Project. They showed us that you could use storytelling and the power of the internet to punch back, and that you could fight a bully by bringing the fight right to their doorstep."

It's an "all-American tale of redemption, power and betrayals," we're told.

I don't have Showtime, so I don't need to think about watching this. The press release is so off-putting, but I did enjoy the first few seconds of the "official teaser," which has Trump calling it "The Losers Project":

Here are 7 TikTok videos I've selected as right for just now. Let me know what you like best.

1. The "squirrel" is crazy about the trampoline.

2. Yeah, I'll back you up on that.

3. Joni Mitchell, in 1970, telling the audience they're "really a drag."

4. Orson Welles saying he puts loyalty to friends above art.

5. He just happened to find everything he was looking for at World Market.

6. The rigors of Chinese womanhood.

7. How to write about characters who are not autistic.

Here are 9 TikTokk videos I found to while away your next 10 minutes. Let me know what you like best.

1. The lizard's table manners.

2. The chef disapproves.

3.  A drawing of chaos and order.

4. Sidewalk chalk art.

5. Broadway Barbara can help you get a good night's sleep.

6. Nurse Melissa is back with her Nancy Pelosi lip-synching.

7. Infuse other exercise classes with religion the way yoga classes use Hinduism.

8. "I want to be the Bob Woodward of 'Family Feud' clips. I want to lead a ragtag group of journalists into the Steve Harvey reaction underworld, like that movie 'Spotlight.'"

9. Evel Knieval and all his friends.

"More people are cancelling their video subscriptions to save money in the face of the cost of living squeeze, with under-24s most likely to walk away...."

"Now, in a reversal of previous trends, the decline is being driven by younger audiences as they turn to free alternatives such as the BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub and TikTok. Household budgets are under intense pressure, with prices rising by 9.1 per cent a year, the highest inflation rate for 40 years, and with the Bank of England warning that inflation could reach 11 per cent within months.... According to Tom Harrington, of Enders Analysis, life is only going to get tougher for the platforms because 'it isn’t just their direct competitors but every other household expense they have to worry about...."

"Aware of the power of the potential public attention, the [January 6th] committee brought former ABC News president James Goldston on board to assist in the presentation."

"Did it help? It took nearly an hour into the cluttered hearing to show a clip of Trump son-in-law and close aide Jared Kushner’s testimony. A video of favorite offspring Ivanka Trump saying that she 'accepted what he (Barr) was saying' about the lack of validity of the former President’s election fraud claims was a ripple in the fact and data packed hearing when it could have been a tsunami.... What should have been John Dean moments revealing a cancer on the Presidency and the ravages of Trump’s desires right at the top of today’s presentation was instead too little, too late and, perhaps worse, likely inconsequential.... [T]he battle for hearts and minds was pretty much lost tonight before it began.... At least so far, the mixture of video segments and witness testimony unveiled no smoking gun. Leaning into history and not the immediacy, what the hearing did mainly show in its first vital hour was a stream of talking points and underwhelming clips.... [T]he audio rarely matched the video for impact, and TV is a mainly a visual medium, as any rookie reporter can tell you.... Over on Fox News... a lower third on the screen tonight read: 'Today’s Hearing Is Political Theater.' The Fox hosts were right in their assessment. What they failed to state is that the hearing wasn’t produced that well and may actually only harden the MAGA/GOP opposition in this year of midterm elections...."

Writes Dominic Patten, in "January 6 Primetime Hearing Proves An Anemic Made-For-TV Special, 2022 Style – Commentary" (Deadline).

The hearing wasn’t produced that well... It was on prime time, and they brought in former ABC News president James Goldston, so it was a show. And it wasn't a good enough show, Patten says. Fox News called it "political theater." Patten doesn't seem to have a problem with that. His problem is that it wasn't good theater. They barged into prime time, preempting scheduled broadcast TV, which said to the world: It's showtime! But then it wasn't an exciting, gripping show.

Do Americans still sit down in the evening and watch what's airing in real time on the networks? I don't think there's an automatic audience like that anymore. It seems like a picture of America in the 1960s or 70s.

"The shutdown is a stunning and ignominious end to an operation into which CNN had sunk tens of millions of dollars..."

"... from an aggressive nationwide marketing campaign to hiring hundreds of new employees to recruiting big, high-priced media stars, including the former 'Fox News Sunday' anchor Chris Wallace and the former NPR co-host Audie Cornish."

From "CNN+ Streaming Service Will Shut Down Weeks After Its Start/The new corporate owners of CNN are moving to end the new streaming service after a splashy debut" (NYT).

I don't think "tens of millions of dollars" sounds like such a big investment. It seems to me they didn't do enough. The biggest thing they did was entice Chris Wallace. That's a tiny thing to do. Let's not overdo what a failure it was. I wouldn't say "a stunning and ignominious end." I'd say a predictable and dumb fizzle.

What's tens of millions when Elon Musk is offering $45.5 billion to buy Twitter?

ADDED: Here's the top-rated comment: "Speaking as a retiree on a fixed income, how many streaming services is it possible to afford? Ordinary people with modest incomes are being shut out of good content due to affordability. For 40 years I paid for delivery of The Boston Globe and watched TV using an antenna. That was fine. Now everyone wants their money to read or watch anything. It is unsustainable."

"YouTube really rewards straightforward, untrammeled, and unscripted discussion, and it's really what people expect on the platform."I don't watch movies very often anymore for some reason.Showtime has a new documentary series about the Lincoln Project...

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