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December 28, 2006

How Depressing

I'm a big fan of Robert Smigel. In particular I enjoy his extraordinarily strange and tasteless (and hence short-lived) Comedy Central version of TV Funhouse.

But...this cartoon of the "Abu Dhabi Kids Network" (produced for SNL) is depressingly stupid and unfunny. There must be some great comedy to be mined out of the mideast's nutjobs, as is the case with nutjobs everywhere. But this isn't it. Since comedy depends on accurate observation, I'd guess this hypothetical great comedy would have to be produced by people who actually watch television in Abu Dhabi—which I suspect leaves out Robert Smigel.


Fortunately, you can wash that bad taste out of your mouth with some of the Comedy Central TV Funhouse:

Posted at December 28, 2006 01:45 PM | TrackBack

To paraphrase that great American philosopher, Triumph the Insult Comic dog: "Jonathan, this is really great stuff....for me to poop on!!!"

Posted by: JLaR at December 29, 2006 07:42 AM

I think you missed the joke: It's a cartoon *American* view of the complexities of the middle east.

Posted by: at December 29, 2006 06:03 PM

I just came over from Red State Son blog, where Dennis mentions this post. I love the basic overall tone and feel of Smigel's work, if not all of the examples, the sensibility is very contemporary. This is a good example of the form - the same old cartoon references used, same templates, pacing and really mostly done before in other ways but still, "funny" gags.

What makes it uncomfortable to watch is that I don't get Smigel's position, and for real political satire or otherwise biting cultural commentary "adult" cartoon perspectives, that is necessary. And it isn't absurdist enough, because it claims to take on the tv network of a foreign country which as we are in war, is pretty much hard to place, because it should be our "allies" and so on, yet they are also "bad muslims" I guess?

As for the Israeli and U.S. flags above the White House, yeah...exactly. But Smigel can just say no "thats how Abu Dhabi and all ARABS see it, ha ha" Just like the old cliche that the Batman villains are all "Jews" and so on.

Just to point out: What if he did the same thing from the perspective of an Israeli TV, using the extreme right-wing members of their Knesset, and their military cracking down houses in Gaza as point of views as well as the usual cliches (jewish mothers ha ha HA! a laff riot). The REAL israel, not the tourist posters and american propaganda. You think he could have aired that? Even as satire? in the U.S.?

Finally, there is a point that humor has to be contextualized: it's hard to laugh at Palestinian kids and stones even if the mechanics of the "gag" are clear. It isn't funny. Go live life under occupation by tanks and the highly militarized machine of Israeli/US might, and just imagine why a child throws stones. It is never "funny", and only rich, self-satisfied Americans think that can be funny.

Getting laughs is not the same thing as comedy, and citing political figures and foreign countries is not the same thing as topical satire.

Otherwise, love the stuff he produces, but it's really time America grows up and faces the world rather than continues to laugh at the mess it has made of it.

Posted by: FW at December 30, 2006 12:58 PM

i thought he was making fun of the typical american's comic-book view of the world, not trying to create a literal example of arab tv.

Posted by: joe at December 31, 2006 07:45 PM

While I have no problem with the usual approach of Smigel, which would be essentially "making fun of the typical American's comic book (even cartoon) view of the world" my point is that it falls apart here. It exposes some problems to just treating subjects as if with balance and symmetry. There isn't any when it comes to presentation and discourse of the "Arab" in the "U.S."

Irony can work as a double-talk, you can say the opposite with the same sentence. But first you have to admit the situation in to show you as author know something of this problem at hand when presenting "arab" in the U.S.

Also, out of context, I did think it was odd how the image of Palestinian kids with stones against Israeli tanks still functions as an icon - that was started back in 1987, and I don't think the U.S. television has really utilzed those kinds of images since more than a decade.

Posted by: FW at January 2, 2007 04:18 PM