Saturday, January 20, 2007

If it bends, it's funny

Maybe it's a generational thing, nil nisi bonum and all that, but I never found Art Buchwald funny. Back in the high school days, when I was reading my way through the humor section of the library, I plowed through a collection of his columns because everyone said it was the last word in satire; I found platitudes, predictability and journalese, without the whimsy of Benchley, the cattishness of Parker, the dated but still sharp observations of Ade, or the mad verbal skills of Perelman. Maybe the problem is Washington itself, and the paralyzing fear of being banned from the best parties. Maybe the long-paved-over but still potent swamp vapors jumble the wits. Maybe Buchwald was funny once, but too many people told him so -- including Russell Baker, a much better writer -- and the pilot light went out. As for today, well, Maureen Dowd would rather be liked than funny, and Mark Russell is just drunk-uncle embarrassing.

And not surprisingly, the White House correspondents have selected funnyman Rich Little to be host of their annual frolic. (Mr. Little was not their first choice, but Sam Levinson was unavailable and Topo Gigio's name is on a watch list.) Last year's event was something of a debacle: the entertainment committee apparently thought Stephen Colbert really was the clueless hyperpatriotic blowhard he portrays on The Colbert Report, and he apparently thought the task of a satirist is to speak Truth to well-fed, gently belching Power. None of the imperial courtiers dared show their teeth, but America was still laughing on election day.

Calm down. Mr. Little has been ordered not to mention Iraq, Iran, FEMA, Jack Abramoff, the economy, Gitmo, Rumsfeld, Shiites, Sunnis, hangings, Barack Obama, Jack Murtha, Nancy Pelosi, Cindy Sheehan, the Chinese missile defense system, the Dixie Chicks, Kanye West, Valerie Plame, Kim Jong-il, Mark Foley, stem cells, evolution or Stephen Colbert. It should be much more tasteful this year. Ju-just wait a second, now, till ya he-hear his hilarious Jimmy Stewart. I'm peeing already.


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