Saturday, August 27, 2005

Don't Hate Us Because We Are Self-Loathing Comics

Last week, the Washington Post's Stephen Hunter wrote a biting review of The Aristocrats, that oh-so-hip and supposedly funny movie made by comics for comics. I haven't seen it so that's the only reason I say "supposedly" but I have noticed that it is the hip movie of the moment and doing quite well at the local box office (lines were forming last weekend at E Street Cinema).

In case you haven't read the endless hype, the movie is about a dirty joke involving a show business family performing lewd (I hate that word lewd; obscene? fantastic?) acts on each other. Several thousand (ok, dozen) comics provide their own variations of it including allegedly funny people Bob Saget, Robin Williams and Andy Dick.

In his over-the-top review, Hunter psychoanalyzed all these comics as being "losers":
What you see here isn't so much sexual neurosis but career neurosis. You see the entertainer's fear and loathing of that regular place most of us would call the world. He hates the square ideas that are the foundation of such a place: the family structure of parents nurturing kids in healthy, loving relationships, the economic underpinning known as a job, attended regularly rain or shine, sickness or health, out of some wretched sense of obligation, the slow socialization of children so that they can ultimately survive in that same world.
Both producers (and comics in their own right) Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette have responded to Hunter's review in Today's Post:

He hurt us and publicly insulted people we love. Those of us involved in the movie were just trying to make people laugh. We may have failed to amuse your reviewer, but "hate" doesn't enter into it. (Penn Jillette)

He maligned artists who put aside their public images, audience expectations and the safety of a typical comedy context to engage in a creative exercise. They did so with enthusiasm and without fear of how they might be judged by anyone -- let alone by someone projecting his own twisted ideas of what they are like as people and professionals. (Provenza)
Um. Wahhhhh... They sound a bit too apologetic. Listen, Penn - Paul, you shoulda snarled back and said Stephen Hunter is the self-loathing toad not, um, Richard Lewis or Eddie Izzard. Maybe the next movie will be a lengthy retelling by hundreds of thousands of comics of what they would do to Stephen Hunter (and will no doubt reveal a deep-seated loathing of self-improvement adn concstructive criticism).


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