Friday, June 19, 2015

Friday Questions

Get your Friday Questions answered here!

VincentS is up first.

Was it ever on the radar to make Bebe Neuwirth a regular on FRASIER?

Since I’m not really qualified to answer that, I got one of the shows creators, David Lee to graciously respond for me.

One always considers such things if for no other reason than trying to find areas that will open up stories. The problem with making the character of Lilith a regular on Frasier was both creative and pragmatic. We liked the focus on Frasier's extended family and it felt like if she were around things would shift too much to Freddie the kid and plots about the ex-wife. Those seemed to serve us well when we did do them--indeed gave us some great moments--Frasier faking an orgasm jumping on a bed for one--but it didn't seem like material we wanted to visit too much. It was special when she did appear every year, usually in sweeps, and very promotable. We wanted to keep it that way. Then there is the fact that Bebe Neuwirth, a creature of the theater, loved living in NYC and was not interested in moving to LA for extended periods. Now that I think about it, that sorta makes all the creative concerns moot, doesn't it? Bottom line: it worked out great for everyone.

Thanks so much, David. And thanks for letting me and David Isaacs write most of those Lilith episodes. They were great fun to do.

From Gregg B:

I'd like to know your opinion on the whole Seinfeld flap going on. He says he won't play college campuses because they are too politically correct. Some say his jokes are no longer funny, he is a hack and that he is just doesn't get the modern generation's humor like Louis CK and Amy Schumer. Others say that he is right and they are too PC. What is your take on this?
First of all, I don’t know Jerry personally so what I’m writing here is pure speculation (as opposed to what I normally write, which is pure heresy).

Jerry Seinfeld has nothing to prove. Nor does he have to do anything he doesn’t want to do. I’m thrilled that he still does stand-up – in any venue.

I saw him recently on Seth Meyers and he was still very funny. He probably reached more college-aged kids with that national TV appearance than any college tour.

To his point that college audiences are too PC and are quick to accuse comics of being racist or sexist based on material, this charge obviously comes from his experience. And I guess it’s happened enough that he feels it’s not worth it. That said, I’m a little surprised. Current hot comedians like Louis C.K. and the divine Amy Schumer don’t just push the envelope, they shred it. Maybe Jerry has been playing Oral Roberts University.

But in fairness, Chris Rock will no longer play college campuses for the same reason. So it’s not just one comedian’s perception.

MikeK.Pa. has left a follow-up to last week when I partially blamed network development departments for the dearth of good sitcoms.

If approached would you ever consider working for /heading up a network development dept.? Do any of those development execs have any writing background?

I have no desire to do that. I’m not the executive type. I own only two suits. The big problem is that development people have no real power. Unless you’re the one deciding what shows get on the air and where they’re scheduled you can’t really have an impact.

I think that’s one of the reasons why development executives give so many notes. They can. (Although, in the spirit of fairness, some of their notes are good and helpful.)

There have been development executives along the way who have had some experience writing and producing, but they usually return to the trenches where there’s more money and fewer staff meetings.

For years now in comedy, once a pilot is in production the showrunner usually brings in top flight writer friends to help punch up and rewrite. I always thought networks would be wise to adopt the same policy. Put together a list of proven writers who know how to spot and solve problems and let them give notes after network run-throughs. Pay them a nice per-night fee. Showrunners would much rather get notes from people they trust. To me it’s a win-win. Networks get the benefit of experienced writers and executives would never feel threatened because the writers clearly would not want to take their jobs. And the pilots would come out way better.

And finally, YEKIMI asks:

On the issue of Jay Thomas dissing Rhea Perlman: If you had another sitcom in which he would be a good fit.....would you use him again or do you consider him "persona non grata" as far as you are concerned?

I’d definitely use him again. Jay is a very talented and funny guy. I still feel bad I had to kill him.

What’s your Friday Question?

55 comments:

C. A. Bridges said...

The reason Louis CK and Amy Schumer can talk about controversial subjects is because they are both brilliant at using their jokes to point out the prejudice, the racism, the sexism, the small-mindedness.

Every generation is different. Each wave of comedians plays to a new audience. And the college generation has very little patience for people making fun of a minority anymore. Can they get overly sensitive and read -isms into jokes that weren't written that way? Certainly. But there's a reason Louis and Amy are getting the credit they are right now.

VincentS said...

Thanks Ken for putting up my question and thank you Mr. Lee for answering it. Yes, the Lilith episodes were a rare treat and I guess it was wise to use her the way a finesse pitcher uses a fastball. One of my favorites is A LILITH THANKSGIVING.

McAlvie said...

Hmmm. I wonder if the college campus market just doesn't get Seinfeld's brand of humor? I've never thought any of his material was exactly cutting edge stuff. There are plenty of comedians who define controversial - some who can do it brilliantly, and some who mistakenly think controversial is a substitute for talent. But Seinfeld?

Granting that part of his brand is picking on people, but he doesn't limit himself to minorities and basically makes fun of everyone. Everybody is a target, including himself, and I've never had the sense that his comedy is especially mean-spirited, and I would classify myself as being somewhat critical of a lot of what passes for comedy these days.

Of course his comedy isn't to everyone's taste any more than Chris Rock is to mine. And that's okay. He might be right about college crowds. At that age group, you tend to feel things more intensely and be more thin-skinned (I know, I was that age group once); but there's an irony in the fact that they might object to poking fun at people but not to blatant crudity and foul language. So all in all, they aren't a barometer I would take too seriously, and he's probably better off giving that crowd a pass.

Pat Reeder said...

My best friend is the creator of an all-comedy radio format, so he spends a lot of time with stand-up comedians, both established and up-and-comers. According to him, anyone who claims the self-appointed social justice warriors aren't killing comedy isn't out there doing it.

One big problem is the combination of cell phone video and Twitter. Comics used to try out jokes to find out what works and what doesn't and where the line of acceptability is. Now, if they go too far, they can't just dial it back the next night because some idiot will have already gotten offended, posted it on Twitter and started howling that the comic never be allowed to work again. These self-appointed comedy police graciously allow that comics can still do offensive material if they do it the "proper" way (i.e., using it as a critique of racism or sexism or to advance some other progressive agenda). To which I would respond, "Who the hell died and made you the dictators of what didactic message comedy is required to convey?" It reminds me of old Soviet-era "entertainment" that had to include Kremlin-approved propaganda. I read something the other day that summed it up well: Liberals used to laugh at the Church Lady. Now, they ARE the Church Lady.

It's a straw man argument to imply that any "offensive" joke that doesn't include an After-School Special "what lesson did we learn?" message must be outdated and racist. I don't know any comics who are still doing "Sambo" jokes. I think their problem with Jerry Seinfeld is that his humor is based on pointing out idiocy, and they've been raised from the cradle to be delicate snowflakes who believe that everyone is special, that "words hurt" (I actually heard that phrase on a PSA), and criticism of any kind is equivalent to assault. When I was in college, I heard countless comedy bits that a lot of people found offensive, from Carlin to Kinison to the National Lampoon. I just laughed at them instead. Somehow, I survived, despite the internal bleeding I must've suffered from all those micro-aggressions.

BTW, one other thing my pal says he hears all the time from comics is that college students today don't laugh at jokes. Wordplay, observational humor, etc., don't go over. They say that what college students think is funny is uncomfortable situations. I don't know if that's from growing up watching nothing but mockumentary sitcoms like "The Office," "Parks & Recreation," etc. or what. Personally, I used to laugh at it, but now, I'm just bored with it, even if a lot of young people still like it. Pretty much the same attitude I have about Miley Cyrus.

Markus said...

"(as opposed to what I normally write, which is pure heresay)"

Would that be "hearsay" or "heresy" ... ?

Anonymous said...

And my response to the point that Louis CK and Amy Schumer point out the racism, etc...

Norman Lear, Mel Brooks, and the like relied on the viewer to recognize the racism (and all other ...isms) on their own. I guess they felt their audiences were smart enough to figure it out.

I've never been a huge Seinfeld fan, but he has his moments. He just comes across a cranky old man. That's according to my daughter, lol.

Pam, St. Louis

cd1515 said...

do you have any examples of a suit giving a note that actually improved the product?

Igor said...

Please, anyone who thinks Amy Schumer shreds the PC envelope, please give an example or two...?

She's certainly "edgy". But, except for the fact that she's a female comic mocking/talking openly about sex- and gender- related topics, what's non-PC about her material?

(While Louis CK is a shredder.)

Eric J said...

Seinfeld the sitcom about nothing was brilliant and memorable. Seinfeld the stand-up is not.

Twenty years from now, people will be saying, "No soup for you". "I was in the pool!","Festivus for the rest of us".

But they'll also be saying, "Seinfeld did stand-up? Really?"

Igor said...

IOW, unless you're someone who just doesn't like a female comic directly taking on issues of sex and gender, what sort of audience member is Amy Schumer possibly >offending<?

Anonymous said...

Louie doesn't play colleges anymore either. He stopped around the same time as Chris Rock, and for the same reason. Unfortunately I can't find the article where I read that, or I'd link to it. Nevertheless, I'm 97%, maybe 98% sure I'm right.

When an anonymous guy in a comment thread claims he read something once but can't find the link, you can take that info to the bank.

Tonya said...

Thanks for posting pic of Beverly and Carol. It is a tough world behind the scenes of a comedy show!!!

Hamid said...

Ken, you said a while back no one does songs about guys called Ken. But there's this awesome ditty all about a dude called Ken Lee!

http://youtube.com/watch?v=FQt-h753jHI

Jeff Maxwell said...

Many years ago, I performed in nightclubs and colleges as the goofy half of a comedy team. My partner and I dressed in Las Vegas style clothing: suits, butterfly bow ties and cool shirts. Much of our act was slapstick shtick; the cool singer and the goofball, patterned after our heroes Martin and Lewis and Rowan and Martin. Fact is, we were very funny and were graciously rewarded with wonderful laughs.

Cheech and Chong showed up on the scene and almost overnight made what we did obsolete both in comedic style and wardrobe. Well, we had "wardrobe," they had what they had. Older nightclub audiences continued to identify and laugh, but college folks suddenly looked at us like we were their weird uncles. Though lacking some life experience, college kids are smart and often arrogant about being smart. That's okay; it comes with the territory.

Jerry Seinfield is one of the best, but why is his or Chis Rock's decision to stop performing for college audiences newsworthy to anyone other than folks in the biz? Does it herald a new dawn in American culture? Not really. Does it point to a shift in what young Americans find funny? Maybe a little. The reality is, neither my life nor the lives of those who are in college will change one bit. There will be others to take their place.

Good for college students if they've found a new understanding and a different comedic voice for themselves about race, religion and sexual equality. Isn't that what they're supposed to do? I didn't much like it when it happened to me, but I now understand its wisdom and inevitability.

But I do think Cheech and Chong would have looked better in butterfly bow ties.

Mark said...

Friday question:

I enjoyed listening to you do the Mariners games. But I've always wondered how the broadcasters knew what pitch was being thrown while sitting five stories in the air and fifty feet behind home plate. I know you could see the difference between a curve and fastball but how in the world do you see the difference between a fastball and a split finger, or a two seam vs. a four seam fastball.

I'd love an answer to this!

GS in SF said...

@Mark... My guess is that as long as they say it with authority, they are always right. Like they told me before my Bar Mitzvah, if you screw up a few times reading the Torah just keep going like you didn't... know one will ever know the difference (even the Rabbi is probably zoning out).

Announcer: "1-2 pitch... fastball, just misses the corner. The radar gun says 79 mph. The gun must not be calibrated correctly folks."

Diane D. said...

The humor of young adults (college age and 10 years beyond) is a fascinating topic. Pat Reader's pal is right; they don't laugh at jokes they perceive to be offensive to a favored group or person, especially if told by someone over 50. It appears to me that Thoreau is currently hands off…no making fun of Thoreau. Don't misunderstand me, I like Thoreau, but one of the funniest jokes I have ever heard is this one from Cheers: Diane: "As Thoreau said, 'Life is frittered away with details. Simplify…simplify."
Coach: 'Why didn't he just say simplify once?" Reaction from 30 year olds: "Such a beautiful thought to make fun of."
Oh good grief….and you ended that sentence with a preposition, btw.

Mike Barer said...

Speaking of Fraser, I remember when it did it's one on location show in Seattle, I was working Downtown and got to watch one of the scenes that they show (the Westlake center scene where Fraser hails a limo). David Hyde Pierce was kind enough to sign an autograph for me.
I remember, the show was not one of the best, perhaps because they had to put to much outside scenery in the show.

Johnny Walker said...

Some great comments here on the Seinfeld thing. Ken gave the best answer I've heard to this "issue", and Pat Reeder's friend helped clarify it -- comments echoed by Chris Rock himself. (And Jeff Maxwell added a lot.)

What's weird is seeing a lot of people leap forward and herald Seinfeld as being pro-offensive jokes, like some sort of hero to them. This is a guy who doesn't even swear on stage. Chris Rock, for example, has never argued that there's no such thing as going too far, he's actually said that his problem with PC is that comedians can't make MISTAKES anymore. As Pat Reeder's friend said: They can't go too far one night, and dial it back the next.

I think that's a mixture of PC and technology, myself, and I might even go so far as to say technology is more to blame than political correctness. Without technology, a comedian would just have to find new material. With technology, their career could be over.

Allan V said...

I did not realize that Chris Rock stopped doing the college thing. I did a search just to see for myself and discovered that, not only was it true, but Rock also said that George Carlin made a similar comment to him before he died.

MikeN said...

Wait, are you saying the networks DON'T have writers on hand to work on shows?

Canda said...

If you're watching comedies written by millennials and those a few years older, you already know "jokes" are out. Wordplay and cultural references are in. Pat Reeder is correct that the way current young people are raised, and how schools have elevated self-esteem, diversity and acceptance as the key components of education, doesn't leave much room for "being unorthodox".

Young people are leading the culture toward a more European model on morality and in wanting a social system that offers security above all else, but interestingly the Europeans are moving away from diversity and becoming less tolerant of others not like them.

MikeN said...

Tell a joke to a liberal. Between your punchline and his laughter, there is a Progressive Comedy Pause. In this second or two, the liberal will process the joke to make sure he is allowed to laugh.

Is that joke racist? He mentioned Obama, but didn’t make light of him, so to speak. He also mentioned Michelle, but I didn’t notice sexism. Is it dismissive of the LGBTQIA community? Latinos? Muslims? Vegans? Will this joke hurt progressive causes? Will my laughter trivialize oppressed communities? Will I appear intolerant? I think it’s okay if I laugh. Yes, I’ll laugh now to signal my appreciation and to indicate that I’m not a joyless liberal scold.

“Ha ha.”

https://ricochet.com/jerry-seinfeld-and-the-progressive-comedy-pause/

Diane D. said...

That was so hilarious that I went to the link you shared to read the whole thing. Very funny article! But then I noticed it was a conservative web site and immediately felt very guilty. My children are both millennials and if they do a history search, I am in trouble.

Greg said...

To MikeN, try telling a joke to a conservative. He will not laugh at all, because he was busy fantasizing about the USA getting into another war.

Michaleen said...

It surprises me that Jerry has this attitude, because he made a contradictory observation during the Conan/Jay fiasco. Most of the comedy community seemed to take Conan's side because NBC undercut him by putting Jay on.

However, Jerry made a trenchant remark along the lines that NBC's only true obligation to Conan was to make sure the cameras worked. After that, it was his job to get people to watch, and the ratings showed that he wasn't.

I guess it's harder to be clinical about yourself, but I think Jeff Maxwell got it right. The world changes and comedy changes even more than that. Jerry and others hit it big when their observational humor made old-fashioned "gag" guys look hacky. Surely, Jerry can still draw massive audiences among people his age, but no 18-22 year old can remember "Seinfeld" as anything but a rerun.

I guarantee that you can still college students to laugh at some horribly non-PC content, but just not in Jerry's style, and maybe not among those who can afford his tickets.

Mike said...

Hey Greg - don't quit your day job. And you prove the point - very thin skinned with no ability to laugh at yourself.

D. McEwan said...

My late mother would only watch Cheers if Lilith was on. Lilith just killed her.

MikeK.Pa. said...

"Jay is a very talented and funny guy. I still feel bad I had to kill him."
If you felt bad, imagine how bad Jay felt. :(

Frasier and Lilith did a crossover on WINGS in which Frasier was running a self-help seminar that involved a wooden train whistle. It was hysterical. Kelsey Grammar played pompous and vain as well as anyone on TV since Ted Knight on MTM SHOW.

Liked your ideas about having writers independent of the production give notes. Maybe some network development execs will get the message.

Gramps said...

Kids these days . . . dad-blamed young-un's wouldn't know funny if it bit 'em on the ass. Now back in my day we knew what was funny. Our guys, they were funny. This namby pamby crap the kids are laughing at today, it's pathetic. Damn stupid kids don't have sense to know what they're laughing at isn't funny.

Pete said...

Hi, Ken. Here's my question:

There's a Mindy Project episode where a character has been looking at porn on his girlfriend's computer. She mentions finding it on her browser history, to which he responds, "What's a browser history?"

It's a really funny scene. But as I laughed, I thought there's just no way a NYC doctor--even a semi-Luddite--could be so clueless. As a sitcom writer, if you have to pick one, what's more important: Telling a good joke or not straining credulity in the process?

Doug said...

Just for the record I think Seinfeld and Chris Rosk are hilarious and I graduated from Oral Roberts University.....

Doug said...

...and Chris Rock, too.

Pat Reeder said...

Kudos to Pam in St. Louis for mentioning Norman Lear, Mel Brooks, etc. and the way they dealt with subjects like racism. They respected the audience's intelligence enough that they didn't think it necessary to underline the message of "bigotry bad" with a big yellow highlighter for us to get the point that they don't intend for us to emulate Archie Bunker or the townspeople in "Blazing Saddles." That said, I think Amy Schumer's TV show is great. She and her writers know how to use humor to make serious points in a funny way without being preachy about it.

Another note on cell phones/Twitter: a lot of comedy clubs now ban turning on cell phones during the show. They usually can't pry the phones out of students' hands in student lounges, auditoriums, etc., which is another reason comics avoid colleges.

As for whether liberals or conservatives get more upset over jokes, I think they both get offended, but in different ways. P.J. O'Rourke once wrote about "sick" jokes, like Helen Keller jokes, that "Conservatives will tell you there are certain things you shouldn't laugh at. Liberals will tell you there are certain things you're not allowed to laugh at." That was from a book he wrote nearly 30 years ago. I think both still hold true, only the liberal attitude has lately been taken to the Nth degree.

YEKIMI said...

Thanks for answering my question!

Anonymous said...

Seinfeld invented a best format-of-the-moment for himself with Comedians in Cars. It allows him to show something people underestimate as a hard skill to master, his keen timing and sense of what's going on in the discussion with a comedian, the humor, the wit, the construction methods - then he shows it or comments on it to extend the funny (important point, not to EXPLAIN dryly) and they manage an honest laughter. Almost all the episodes I've seen, save a few like Fallon, have enough funny in them. Not just the joke-types people seem to suggest Seinfeld is only capable of. If anything, it seems to me Seinfeld wants to talk about comedy, with people who know what they're talking about from experience, and it is funny observational but also funny ha ha laughing. His first documentary after Seinfeld, Comedian, was similarly showing him going through finding a stand-up voice again. After that it seemed he tried to fit into different development deals (movie scripts, that awful marriage show etc) and he figured out with this format, a best of all possible worlds. Whether on talk show set ups, or in his Comedians in Cars, the funniest bits are when you realize he's really watching the situation and comments precisely on it: Once on Steven Colbert, it was odd Seinfeld could not get a word in, Colbert was stepping on every sentence and not letting Jerry develop two lines of thought, so Jerry finally caught the right moment to say "No, please, don't let me interrupt you" and everyone in the audience roared and Colbert smiled. He's far enough not to care, and that makes him interesting. With comedians in the cars, he often mentions when they reached for a low fruit of a joke, rather than for more, and that puts them on their toes too. Seinfeld is necessary as a voice who has been through the system and is commenting on comedy, let others do the worries about what is hip on college campus (like that mattered to so many anyway).

Dean Minderman said...

Jerry Seinfeld is 61, technically old enough to be a grandfather to a college student, so maybe it shouldn't be a surprise that his humor may not resonate with the 18-22 age group.

Some comedy may be timeless, but styles and tastes do change. As a college student in the late 1970s, I particularly liked Carlin, Pryor, and Robert Klein, among the stand-ups of the day. Older comics like, say, Alan King, Henny Youngman or Jack Carter, as funny as they might have been in some contexts, just didn't have the same appeal. Could be something similar is happening with Seinfeld now.

Len said...

I've never been a huge Seinfeld fan, but he has his moments. He just comes across a cranky old man. That's according to my daughter, lol

Pam, what your daughter said is similar to what my college-aged son said about Jerry Seinfeld. Watching him do stand-up was too much like listening to his grandfather gripe endlessly about how stupid people are.

Some comedy may be timeless, but styles and tastes do change.

I still have an episode of Saturday Night Live, from some twenty years ago, hosted by Bob Newhart. Newhart opened the show with one of his classic telephone monologues from the 1960s. It's painful to watch, as the monologue didn't get one single laugh. Not one. Single. Laugh. The audience sat in stony silence all the way through it. Watching it at home, I thought it was funny, and lord knows Newhart sold a ton of albums back in the day, but it fascinated me that, for whatever reason, it completely failed to resonate with the audience that night.

Ed Dempsey said...

"I’d definitely use him again. Jay is a very talented and funny guy. I still feel bad I had to kill him."

But what a way to die. Killed by a Zamboni while skating in a Penguin suit in an Ice Show.

Charles H. Bryan said...

As a total heretic regarding almost everything, let me say that people who are too earnest - from either the left or the right - are humor impaired.

MikeN said...

when scrolling through names on their cell phones, people assume the imperious air of “a gay French king”; illustrating with an insouciant flick of an outstretched finger—he instantly felt the room go tense,

Diane D. said...

That's true, Charles Bryan, but aren't some of those people also the very best---the kind of people who courageously fight for justice and a better world. You said you are a heretic regarding almost everything, and I understand how a thinking person can easily become such a heretic. In the early 21st Century world, one has to search diligently to find courage and justice, but it's there. Unfortunately, there seems to be very little humor in those who, as you say, "are too earnest." Perhaps if they didn't lose their sense of humor, they could be more effective in achieving their goals. They might also find the world less bleak. Laughter does seem to be a real human need, only slightly less important than the basic needs of food, clothing and shelter.

There is a wonderful old movie entitled "QUEST FOR FIRE" which has a scene in it that demonstrates how prehistoric humans might have discovered laughter, or actually, how one more advanced tribe may have passed on this discovery to a less advanced tribe. It has always intrigued me, and I would love to know at what stage of human evolution laughter became a part of their lives.

Allan V said...

I was thumbing through your archives and came across your post on 12/13/11 about George Lazenby's only James Bond film ("The James Bond movie you probably never saw"). As we await the 25th Bond film, "Spectre", later this year, I have two related questions:

1) How would YOU rank the various Bond actors?
2) Is there any other actor who you really hope gets a shot at portraying 007 someday?

Johnny Walker said...

Amazing how every discussion on the internet can devolve into "left" vs "right" in America.

Every human being runs humour through a filter of what they find offensive or not. We ALL have lines we don't like being crossed.

Diane D. said...

Interesting comment, Johnny Walker, and very true. Is that only an American circumstance? I had thought it was just as prevalent in Great Britain and much of Europe. However, I think the point being made was that those who are very earnest and single minded in their beliefs become humorless---that line they don't want to see crossed becomes very rigid and narrow.

MikeN said...

Johnny Walker, PJ ORourke 30 years ago:
Talking about subjects that are horrible like Helen Keller jokes,
Conservatives think there are lines you should not cross.
Liberals think there are lines you cannot cross.

Brian said...

Ed, beat me to the Zamboni line.

Big3Fan said...

FRIDAY Question. I love your blog and read it all the time. My three favorite shows have always been Frasier, Cheers and Wings. I have wanted to ask a Friday question for a long time so I am jumping in.

At the end of season 6 of Frasier (Episode 6.23 - Shutout In Seattle) The three men drown their sorrows at a little bar after each being unlucky in love. It almost seemed as if they were setting up the bar to be the new regular spot, the new cafe nervosa. Was there ever a plan for that little bar that did not come to fruition?

Unknown said...

As for style changes, I think of Bill Cosby (ignoring the current scandal, but hey, it's his word against 30...), I saw him do "stand up" 2 years ago. Great show. But he didn't tell 1 joke. Just his stories, picture painting, sounds. I wonder if he started today, could he make it as a comedian.
If you remember an old Laugh channel program (Laugh channel is now comedy central), there was a show called Short Attention Span Theater, where they showed 2 or 3 minutes of a comedian's best stuff. Cosby, Newhart and the likes of that wouldn't work on it. I think that show helped direct some of modern comedy where you need 3 jokes/min. Plus, that show gave us hosting abilities of Jon Stewart.

Johnny Walker said...

Diane, I've never encountered it in 37 years of living in Europe. It's such a fascinating oddity that it really sticks out to me (and probably other Europeans, once it's been pointed out). I'd like to dub it "Walker's Law" and then maybe smug bystanders can say it when discussions drift :)

Incidentally, as a 37 year old, I had the exact thought you described when you mentioned the Thoreau line from CHEERS: "It's a lovely line to make fun of!" It is a lovely line, but the joke they got from it is brilliant. Loved it! So clever and witty, you could imagine FRASIER would have been littered with gems like that if they were easier to come by. I can only imagine that it came from a writer who had that thought, bored at the back of an English lecture, long before they joined the show.

There's a similar literary joke in the pilot of CHEERS when Diane tells Sam what her fiance said when he proposed (a very flowery line about "creating pleasures new"). "That's Donne", her fiance informs Sam. "I should certainly hope so", he replies.

Diane D. said...

To: Johnny Walker
"A fascinating oddity" you call it---I am stunned to learn that this pervasive left vs right discussion is not a totally western tradition that includes all of Europe. In the US, it isn't only on the internet---any conversation anywhere among people who read (and even those who don't actually) will turn into a debate about left vs right in any of it's forms, Democrat vs Republican, Capitalism vs Socialism. I'm so accustomed to it I have a hard time imagining a life without it. It must be wonderful. "Walker's Law," so funny, now that will pop into my head every time a conversation I'm in takes that inevitable turn.

Regarding the Thoreau joke, I love your surmise about how the writer came up with it! The line is brilliant, and now I can't imagine how anyone could have come up with it in any other way. I remember the John Donne joke from the pilot as well. Loved it.

Johnny Walker said...

Don't get me wrong, we DO discuss politics here in Britain :) But it always grows from something directly related to politics. Despite the huge gulfs in political leaning in my office, for example, politics never arises in conversation unless we're talking about, well, political things (eg. the government and what it's up to). We all enjoy the same TV shows, talk about musical our taste, etc. A conversation like that would never veer into what "left" or "right" people enjoy or laugh at. Even a conversation about "political correctness" would never turn into a partisan issue, never mind something as neutral as the environment. It is an oddity from an outsider... but I really hope we don't start following suit.

David G. said...

Following up on the "Bebe Neuwirth as a regular on Fraiser" question: Was it ever on the ... uh ... radar to have Larry Linville come in as a regular on "AfterMASH"? (Actually, that's a serious question. There was a switchover in the hospital administrator character between seasons, and it would've made an interesting character dynamic for Frank Burns to show up as Potter's boss!)

Diane D. said...

To: Johnny Walker
I wouldn't imagine the phenomenon would jump the pond---lucky you! The more I think about it, the stranger it seems that knowledge of someone's political leanings gives automatic knowledge of their opinions on so many other things, along with the temptation to judge them (often unfairly). Small wonder there is still an element of the old wild west in some areas!

Andy Rose said...

From what I heard in his interview, Jerry Seinfeld specifically said he didn't have any experience of this sort on college campuses, nor that he his boycotting college campuses. He just doesn't play them, presumably because he couldn't make the same money he can make at an arena or Vegas. He was just explaining to an interviewer who asked about political correctness that he hadn't experienced it personally on campuses, but knew other comedians who had. And then went on to explain that his personal experience with it came not from college, but from his daughter. I think the headline writers misunderstood the specifics of what he was saying.