Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Does Gallagher make any good points with Marc Maron?

I highly recommend the podcast WTF with Marc Maron, which is one of the best interview shows out there. Maron is a stand-up comedian and his guests are other comedians (stand-up, sketch, improv); and they get into some very personal issues, including sexual kinks, emotional hang-ups, and long-simmering feuds; but they also get into professional issues, like breaking in, career trajectory, and the process of developing material.

And sometimes (often), the interview can get into political issues, as it does when Marc met Gallagher (episode 145). This interview is somewhat notorious since Gallagher left halfway through; it's such a notorious interview that it's included on Gallagher's Wikipedia page. Long-story short: Marc asks Gallagher about his homophobic and racist jokes (about which, more here), Gallagher says they're just jokes and walks out.

It's strange to hear Gallagher get political ("Arabs are the enemy") when he occupies the same part of my brain as Double Dare. And I think it would be easy to dismiss Gallagher by saying that he's an old man and Fox News is the Nickelodeon of the dementia set; or maybe he's just bitter about how history is leaving him behind ("I have two stents in my heart, I could die during this interview").

And it would also be easy to point out the inconsistency of Gallagher's position: the "I'm a comedian, I'm not running for political office"/"it's a night club" defense doesn't fit with his bitterness about how people missed the "insightful satire" of the Sledge-O-Matic bit.

But I will say this for him: Gallagher is coming from an older school of comedy--go watch his non-prop work and it's like a time tunnel to an era of one-liners and bits, of vaudeville performers rather than POV work ("there's no show involved, they're slovenly"). It reminded me of the meeting between Louie C. K. and Joan Rivers in Louie: Louie has some trouble with his audience and Joan tells him to suck it up because you do the job--you play to the audience you have, not the audience you wish you had.

Even with that said, though, Gallagher presents the comedian's role as comforting the comfortable: if your audience has an issue with gays, a gay joke will make them laugh, and your job (says Gallagher) is to make them laugh--and anything that happens after that is not his business. (Which gives me another opportunity for this classic Foucault: "People know what they do; frequently they know why they do what they do; but what they don't know is what what they do does.")

By contrast, Maron and Louie seem more interested in afflicting the comfortable, including themselves, with their self-lacerating self-consciousness. Which seems like the more important type of comedian. Do you remember what George Carlin said about his job in Occupation: Foole?

"I'd spell it with the final 'e' just to piss them off."

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