Althouse | category: comedy



a blog by Ann Althouse

"'El Polaco' is the second of Coetzee’s novels to appear in Spanish first, but he began privileging translations much earlier..."

"... in his career: in the past twenty years, he’s seen to it that many of his books be made available in Dutch before any other language. Fêted in Amsterdam in 2010, Coetzee expressed appreciation at being 'read in a language in which I feel myself to be a somewhat more humorous writer than in the original English.' 'Humorous' is far less commonly applied to his writing than adjectives like 'cold,' 'austere,' 'rigorous,' 'spare'; Martin Amis famously described his style as 'predicated on transmitting absolutely no pleasure.' But to his enthusiasts Coetzee transmits a great deal of pleasure—in his outwardly severe, circumscribed manner—and exhibits an abiding if vanishingly subtle sense of humor...."

Writes Colin Marshall in "J. M. Coetzee’s War Against Global English/What lies behind the celebrated South African writer’s decision to publish his latest novel in Spanish before making it available in English?" (The New Yorker).

But it's not all about humor. In fact, it seems more like that predication on absolutely no pleasure that Amis talked about: 

"'I do not like the way in which English is taking over the world,' [Coetzee said]... 'I do not like the way in which it crushes the minor languages that it finds in its path. I don’t like its universalist pretensions, by which I mean its uninterrogated belief that the world is as it seems to be in the mirror of the English language. I don’t like the arrogance that this situation breeds in its native speakers. Therefore, I do what little I can to resist the hegemony of the English language.'"

I've got 8 carefully curated TikToks for you this evening. Let me know which ones you like.

1. Christine McVie's voice — isolated — from "Songbird."

2. If you know this story about the lady in waiting, Lady Susan Husse, you'll understand this brilliant turnabout.

3. One reason I don't want a dog is that it can't be guaranteed that I won't turn into a person like this.

4. The Chinese immigrant explains what's happening in China.

5. A trippy street view.

6. It's not easy dressing green.

7. In case you wonder how to speak when they tell you to act your age.

8. This funny little hedgehog.

"Musk’s interest in electric cars or Ukraine comes and goes, but the richest man in the world is constantly joking."

"A shameless punchline thief, he doesn’t discriminate between dad jokes or insult humor. On Twitter, he’s Beavis and Butt-Head, chuckling at everything.... His stated reason for buying Twitter is to expand free speech, a cause he took up in part because it suspended the account of a conservative parody site, the Babylon Bee, after a post. Days after taking over Twitter, he tweeted: 'Comedy is legal again.' Then people started making fun of him and you’ll never believe what happened next. Elon Musk, comedy savior, transformed into the joke police.... The reason he’s found himself cast in this public drama as the humorless square, the Comstockian scold, is that while labeling something parody might be bad for comedy, it can be essential for credibility.... While he’s not especially good at comedy, Musk is a wonderful comic character: The boss who thinks he’s funny but isn’t. He’s Michael Scott from 'The Office,' whose terrible jokes everyone must if not laugh at, at least put up with.... Musk doesn’t need to own his haters in a tweet. They already work for him for free." 

From "Hey, Elon Musk, Comedy Doesn’t Want to Be Legal/He’s Twitter’s chief jokester, but as his free-speech impulses conflict with his push to label parodies, he shows a misunderstanding of how humor works" by Jason Zinoman, the NYT comedy critic.

Zinoman packs a lot into that column. It was hard to excerpt! As a reader, I felt flattered to be assumed to know what "Comstockian" means. If anyone needs to brush up on the story of Anthony Comstock, here's his Wikipedia article. Excerpt:

Anthony Comstock (March 7, 1844 – September 21, 1915) was an anti-vice activist, United States Postal Inspector, and secretary of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice (NYSSV), who was dedicated to upholding Christian morality....

Motivated by first-hand experience with what he saw as a constant barrage of debauchery among fellow Union soldiers during the Civil War, when he gained power it was not long before Comstock aroused intense loathing from early civil liberties groups.... Comstock, the self-styled "weeder in God's garden", arrested D. M. Bennett for publishing "An Open Letter to Jesus Christ" and later had the editor charged for mailing a free-love pamphlet....

Through his various campaigns, he destroyed 15 tons of books, 284,000 pounds of plates for printing "objectionable" books, and nearly 4,000,000 pictures.... According to one obituary, Comstock left behind a large collection of pictures, prints, and other literature that he had seized during his career, "which is said to contain a sufficient amount of real pornographic material."

I've got 5 TikToks to scare away the darkness on this first standard-time evening.

1. The nicest thing she's ever done for anyone is something she's going to do in the future.

2. You don't think — just because you're punk — I only want the cool people to like me.

3. Polar night is not depressing.

4. The kindergarten teacher tries to tell her class that she just got engaged.

5. A 1955 cake recipe calls for two 27-ounce cans of pinto beans.

"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.

"I have a dear friend who has been exploring and expanding her style. She will show up to dinner wearing a suit with a bow but without a shirt..."

"... and with a huge hat, which gets in other diners’ way. She also loves to wear things that make a lot of noise while walking. Everyone I know is uncomfortable with these new choices. Am I wrong to feel this way in 2022? How can we address this and also be sensitive to style and individuality? "

That's a question addressed to the NYT fashion writer Vanessa Friedman.

I don't care what the answer is. I just want to see a movie based on this question.

I especially love "things that make a lot of noise while walking." I feel as though I've seen many movie/TV bits about a huge hat that gets in someone's way, so this movie will have to create some other fashion aggression.

I love the theme of a lady deciding it's time for her to explore and expand. You know it's traditionally a problem for women that we've been socialized to make ourselves small and to always account for the needs of others and rein in our own urge to express. So I'd love to see a character go big with fashion — wild, invasive, annoying fashion. It's a comedy. With a serious message.

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