Monday, August 23, 2021

"Do not try this at home."

Needless to say I received lots of comments on my weekend post about Mike Richards.  The cancel culture will actually be the recurring theme in these next few posts.  

Yes, the things Richards said in those podcast episodes were offensive.  But I have a theory I’ve yet to see mentioned anywhere else.  

People say stupid things when they try to be funny and they’re inherently not funny.  And that includes racist remarks and sexist remarks.  

They hear Howard Stern pull it off, or Don Rickles, or Richard Pryor and they think they can too.   But they can’t.  

And let’s be honest, sexist, racist jokes are easy.  Instead of displaying real wit they go after easy targets.  

We all know these people.  They’re the insufferable ones we run from at parties, usually after a few drinks (post 9:00 PM).  Women must get this a lot; nimrods trying to impress them with their dazzling sense of humor.  Inappropriate lines just spew out.  

But at least they’re not broadcasting.

When you go on a podcast you are not only broadcasting, you’re broadcasting to the entire world.  And unlike radio where you say something once and it’s gone in the ether, podcast content remains, sometimes forever.   

Same is true for posting on Facebook or Twitter or any social media site.  You may think just three of your friends are seeing your Tweet but that’s always the case.  It’s a form of broadcasting.  

Especially now, that we’re all so hyper sensitive, we all have to be careful and exhibit good judgement, and that could be a problem for unfunny people who think they’re funny because their judgement is already cloudy.   Leave the comedy to the pros.  

Reminder: No comments by anonymous or unknown readers will be posted. Leave a name.


Jeff said...

Longtime fans of Howard Stern have pointed out quite correctly over the past few years that he seems to be trying to sanitize his history by not replaying any segment that may not pass muster with today's cancel culture warriors. The stupid things Richard said sounded just like someone trying to be Howard....and look what happened!

Malcolm Burns said...


Kevin In Choconut Center said...

Ken, this is so true. One of my former college professors says in classes to younger students that "The internet is forever". As proof of that, he would sometimes ask me to pull up a web site that I joined over twenty years ago, and then show posts that at the time were at least ten years old but still active and accessible.

When I was on-air at a college radio station, I did bits that some people thought were very funny (Barney the dinosaur taking his group of kids to see a pornographic movie being one of them). Other people were very offended by that kind of material. But, as you say, either way, in traditional radio, it's there and then it's gone.

Podcasts are forever.

Curt Alliaume said...

I once read that, when writing an email, I should always ask myself, "Would I be comfortable if this appeared on the front page of The New York Times?" If not, don't send it. That's been a pretty good rule of thumb.

William Jansen said...

Your job as the host of Jeopardy is to be likeable to everybody. Just like a judge is supposed to remain neutral and thus there is a lot of things he or she cannot say or do, the Jeopardy-host also has to be and remain likeable.

Cancelling him as an executive producer, auto-mechanic or comic book-writer over this would be wildly excessive, but to me it is obvious that Jeopardy-host is not the job for him, if he also lets his opinions hang out there like that.

There are plenty of examples of Cancel Culture having gone nuts, but this is not one of them.

William Jansen said...

...and Friday Question: Have you ever worked on a show where outsiders - the media, angry fan-letters etc. - tried to cancel one of your stars?

404 said...

Question for you, Ken, based on this: obviously we won't see Howard Stern tapped to be the new host anytime soon, but if he was, I think it's safe to say that all of his past inappropriate comments wouldn't really matter at that point, and would be overlooked by just about everyone. They certainly wouldn't be enough to stop him from getting the job if he wanted it.

Why do you think certain people can get away with that sort of thing, and others (Al Franken springs to mind) are basically ostracized at the slightest hint of anything like that, even if it's not warranted (as it certainly wasn't for Franken).

Covarr said...

This weekend I saw a show that warned that it was risqué, bawdy, and definitely not for kids. Before it began, I was very much concerned that it might be what you describe here, a show that uses "offensive" as a substitute for real comedy. Thankfully I was proven wrong, and it was very much offensive and funny, but heaven knows that's never a safe bet when it comes to these things. And perhaps because it's fairly uncommon to see raunchy shows that are actually funny, it made me laugh harder than it otherwise would have.

Or maybe it was just the beer. Either way.

But boy-oh-boy, when someone who truly isn't funny tries to use raunchiness to mask their lack of comedic talent, don't you dare call them on it or they'll call you a prude. It's their greatest defense mechanism.

Jim said...

Isn't he also an archetype: the suit who thinks he's better than the talent whether that is writing, directing, performing, hosting, &c.?

brian t said...

John Cleese has also been subjected to some "cancellation" over an episode of Fawlty Towers that includes some racist language. Never mind that the point of the language was to show up the speaker (the Major) as a doddering old casual racist type. Cleese is going to present a documentary series on the topic of "cancel culture": not for the BBC, of course.

Brian Phillips said...

Who can deliver what joke can even extend to fellow performers. Tommy Cooper was a beloved magician/comedian who told some decidedly groan-worthy jokes, but people laughed because of who said it and how it was said. During a documentary about Cooper, another comic said that Cooper's timing was so difficult to master and Cooper was regarded so fondly, he said he could tell the exact same joke as Cooper and not get a laugh, but if he prefaced it with, "As Tommy Cooper once said..." the joke would get a laugh, most likely because the audience could then visualize Cooper telling it or feel the nostalgia of having Cooper around.

As to the scandal, access to information has increased knowledge, but has not seen a comparative uptick in wisdom. This trend is nothing new. Before the internet, there were tabloids, such as The National Enquirer and Confidential, neither of which, it can be argued, made anyone smarter or got them closer to heaven.

The difference, of course, nowadays, is speed. If I trip and fall and someone films it and uploads it, I could be the laughingstock of Hungary within days as "Fall down guy". Alex Trebek and Art Fleming seemed to have lived fairly scandal-free lives, but neither man had to worry about the speed at which something they said or did reaching a worldwide audience so very quickly.

Having said that, if one is a public figure or is to be a more prominent one, it's foolish not to think that with so many having the ability to film/photograph each other without having to wait for said material to be developed, that someone isn't going to notice you. Things can be said and one can still be misquoted or misunderstood, up to and included the non-subtle forum that is electronic communication. Also, let us not forget that the current world situation has only exacerbated what we choose to get exercised about. I'm not saying that online backlash started with the pandemic, but it has undeniably changed it.

Michael said...

I read a piece in which, apparently, people (possibly including the Jeopardy staff) are saying, if Richards lacks the character to be the host, how can he stay as producer? They're right, and he never should have gotten the job--not after what happened at The Price Is Right.

I certainly have said and done things over the years that may have been funny or acceptable then and would get me in trouble now. And that's normal, frankly. The other day, someone asked me how students have changed in my--gasp--35 years of teaching. I said the internet and iPhones have affected them, but it's important to remember: When I was a student, my teachers were talking about how screwed up WE were, and this generation will say it about the next generation.

Elf said...

@Kevin In Choconut Center, I've told my kids from the first day they began using the internet that whatever they post will be there forever. Every stupid little thing they post will still be there when they're adults and looking for jobs. Fortunately they've heeded my advice and not broadcast their entire social lives to the world as some of their friends have done, plus my daughter asked some of her friend not to do things like tag her in photos without asking first. In my son's case, the worst that'll happen during a job interview is that the interviewer will say "So, you were REALLY into Lord of the Rings for a while there."

Brian Fies said...

Always assume every microphone is live and every camera is on.

As Curt said above, treat everything you put out into the world as if it'll appear in the New York Times. I learned painfully not to say or write something about someone you wouldn't say to their face. I thought I was being funny until it got back to the target who essentially said "What's the joke?" and I couldn't answer him.

If you're going to be a bomb-throwing provocateur, at least have the courage of your convictions. There's a principled argument for letting it fly and taking the consequences. Gilbert Gottfried lost his lucrative gig as the Aflec duck because of some ill-timed attempted humor, and had the grace to accept that as part of the price of doing his job as he saw it.

But, as many have said, I'm really glad the Internet and cellphone videos weren't around when I was a kid, because I did some pretty stupid stuff that, today, I don't understand and couldn't explain myself. (Not Richards's excuse: he was an adult broadcasting to the world.)

Dan Sachs said...

This is not a case of someone being judged for something that is not acceptable now but was acceptable (or let's say common) when he did it. After his Price Is Right tenure he was told his behavior was inappropriate, he claimed that behavior was not who he was and that he learned that it was inappropriate, and yet he continued that behavior in his podcast.

Call Me Mike said...

"I understand that Mr. Simpson. But according to the computer, your credit history is not good. It says here you've been pre-declined for every major credit card. It also says you grabbed a dog by the hind legs and pushed him around like a vacuum cleaner."

"That was in the third grade!"

"Well, it all goes into your permanent record."

Cowboy Surfer said...

I identify as funny...

scottmc said...

Not being heavily invested in the Jeopardy host search, I have found Ken’s postings and the comments to be very instructive. My daughter was drawn in from nearly the start. She has her preferences and dislikes, and texted me the moment she read that Richards was out. I often think the best hosts, moderators or announcers are like the best umpires. The bad ones get noticed. The good ones fly under the radar,( Ask 100 baseball fans to name an umpire and Angel Hernandez and Joe West would be at, or near, the top.)
My interest in the show has eroded over the years. I didn’t like that contestants who didn’t win weren’t able to take home the amount of money they’d accumulated. I didn’t like it that someone could total $5,000-10,000 but only take home $1,000 or $2,000. I also didn’t like when they began to spell-check Final Jeopardy or come up with off the wall categories. (They’d have categories where you’d have to join two answers into one, for example; a 1950’s Billy Wilder comedy and a TV Land sit com; response: Some Like It Hot in Cleveland.)
There is a site where the writer posts the Final Jeopardy answer just around the time the program is broadcast. I have found myself visiting that site on regular basis.
I will keep an eye on the Jeopardy host saga as long as my daughter is interested.

maxdebryn said...

Remember Rock & Roll Jeopardy! on VH1 ?

It was easy. and the host Jeff Probst was okay.

Maybe give him a shot to host Jeopardy!

Liggie said...

When read on paper, Don Rickles jokes are horrifically offensive. Yet his genius was delivering them in such a style that you knew he meant not a single ounce of venom, and they became downright hilarious. Context is key, and that's something that trips up a lot of other comedians (let alone regular people). The only modern comparison to Rickle's pretend nastiness is the "joke swap" on SNL's "Weekly Update"; Colin Jost's expressions after blindly reading a "racist" joke written by Michael Che are priceless.

As for the host selection process, "Jeopardy!"'s hurt by the lack of other game shows nowadays, because there are very few full-time, professional game show hosts who could pinch hit in an emergency. (Not counting the retro shows on summer ABC here.) Had this vacancy happened in the 1980s, "Jeopardy!" could've tabbed one of Jim Perry, Jack Clark, Jim Lange, Wink Martindale, Chuck Woolery, Bill Cullen et al. as a temporary host until they hired a permanent one. Nowadays, there are very few network or syndicated game shows, and Pat Sajak, Drew Carey and Wayne Brady are either too busy or not good fits for a general knowledge show. There are capable hosts on GSN original game shows like Marc Summers, Alphonso Ribiero and Brooke Burke, and I think they could fit with "Jeopardy!"'s pacing and intellectual demands, but I think their lack of name recognition might count against them for the producers.

Andy said...

I mentioned Saturday I disagree with some (many?) of the things Mayim Bialik has said but have no problems with her hosting the show. Was she perfect? No... but I thought she was pretty darn good for being new. And she clearly loves ths show, which is more than I think we can say for Mike Richards. Going after her is, in my view, a legit example of "cancel culture" run amok.

I see she's up first as the emergency guest host. I'm sure the Twitterati are going crazy already. Sigh.

DBenson said...

I keep coming back to the idea of the Straw That Broke The Camel's Back. Is there a wagonload of straw that isn't quite visible? When somebody's fall is presumably because of a few ancient incidents, it's telling whether people in a position to know rally to defend, join the pile-up, or run and hide.

The term "cancel culture" makes me think of "the blame game", a phrase invoked by the last Bush administration when they disastrously bungled hurricane response. In both cases the underlying argument was "It really doesn't matter if I was responsible or not, so let's move on and not discuss whether I might do it again".

iamr4man said...

>> If I trip and fall and someone films it and uploads it, I could be the laughingstock of Hungary within days as "Fall down guy".<<

I believe in some places that would be considered a “Frasier”. If you flop around a bit it would be a full “Frasier Crane”.

Brian said...

I'd love to see Howard Stern guest host. Not so he could shock everybody with comments, but just to see how he would do. I think he would be more than OK. And it would fun.

Philly Cinephile said...

Just read that Mayim Bialik will step in temporarily. I wonder if this is why she was named as a co-host -- if there was a sense that Richards would have to step down and they wanted her to be available to fill in for him.

Jeff Boice said...

The podcast dates from 2013-2014. The Brandi Cochran lawsuit was in the courts- a new trial had been ordered. You'd think Mr. Richards would have been more restrained in his comments about models and women, if only to avoid giving the plaintiff more ammunition.

Darwin's Ghost said...

Call Me Mike, that's one of my favorite Simpsons scenes. I love the voice Hank Azaria used for his character.

Roger Owen Green said...

scottmc -The second and third place contestants have NEVER taken home the amounts won, during this iteration (since 1984). For the longest time, people receives gifts. I came in 2nd my second day in 1998, and I got a trip to Barbados.

From Wikipedia: "The top scorer in each game is paid their winnings in cash and returns to play in the next match. Non-winners receive consolation prizes instead of their winnings in the game. As of May 16, 2002, consolation prizes have been $2,000 for the second-place contestant(s) and $1,000 for the third-place contestant. Since travel and lodging are generally not provided for contestants, cash consolation prizes offset these costs. Production covers the cost of travel for returning champions and players invited back because of errors who must make multiple trips to Los Angeles. Production also covers the cost of travel if a tournament travels (does not stay in Los Angeles) on the second week.

"During Art Fleming's hosting run, all three contestants received their winnings in cash where applicable. This was changed at the start of Trebek's hosting run to avoid the problem of contestants who stopped participating in the game, or avoided wagering in Final Jeopardy!, rather than risk losing the money they had already won. This also allowed the increase to clue values since only one contestant's score is paid instead of three."

They don't spellcheck Final J, but the response can't change the sound of the word.So if I wrote Mahalya Jackson for Mahalia Jackson, it'd be deemed correct. But I remember some wrote Crosby, Still, Nash, and Young and were (correctly) deemed incorrect.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

briant: I think John Cleese's bigger problem is that he himself has become extremely right-wing, and has made it plain to all and sundry via his Twitter feed. He openly voted for Brexit, and yet lives outside the UK as an expatriate. The BBC may not be showing his cancel culture documentary (which I hadn't heard about), but FAWLTY TOWERS is in no danger of disappearing. (Fairly sure the BBC holds the rights.) And really, how canceled is he if he's still getting to mastermind a documentary that is going to be broadcast?


JessyS said...

@ Call me Mike

I love the dirt they have on Homer. Imagine the dirt they have on Bart since he is the resident bad boy. There is one thing for sure, one of his lines would read "ruined a factory."

Mike Doran said...

With all due respect to Wendy M. Grossman:

Just back from a tour of John Cleese's Twitter, as well as his latest Wikipedia entry.

John Cleese is NOT 'extremely right wing', by British, American, or any other national standards that I'm aware of.

My exposure to Brit politics is, of course, limited, but the Liberal Democrats (Cleese's longtime affiliation) are the centrist party in GB; their coalition with the Tories (who aren't anywhere nearly as right-wing as the current American Republicans) came about because the Labourites made a hard-to-port turn that the LDs had a hard time with.

Anyway, if you'd ever heard or read anything Cleese has ever said about Mr. Trump, particularly during his appearances with Mr. Colbert, the issue wouldn't come up.

As to 'Cancel Culture', which is simply the 21st century update of blacklisting, everybody - left, right, and off-the-wall - is doing it.
And my guess would be that the Cleese documentary will reflect this.
But let's wait and see, shall we?

My friend Max Allan Collins once wrote:
I wish that the Left Wing and the Right Wing would both flap their wings and fly the hell away.
I'll sign that, I think ...

YEKIMI said...

But, as you say, either way, in traditional radio, it's there and then it's gone.

No. No, it's not at least among the big corporations [and probably some of the smaller ones] every show is recorded on a computer server and archived so you can go on their website and access stuff the morning yahoo clown buzz zoo team said or stuff any other DJ spouted off about. And don't think that somebody somewhere isn't recording it offline and keeping it so they can have it handy to listen to anytime they want in case it's removed from the station server. there's Nextgen, Prophet and who knows how many other broadcast recording/voicetracking systems are out there.

CarolMR said...

Didn't John Cleese also say something that was vaguely anti-immigrant? Something about London not being an English city any longer.

Necco said...

"Cancel culture" continues to be a favorite chant of the Far Right. I don't use the goes in hand with "woke" on Fox News.

My response..."People just shut TFU." Stop saying everything on your mind - it's 2021, and for 25 years, everything you say, most likely WON'T go away.

Frankly, my 40th HS reunion was last year (didn't happen), and I got pissed off when they posted all of my contact info, without my approval, on a Facebook page. (An acquaintance provided it. I LOATHE Facebook.)

Value your GD privacy. Stop saying everything that pops into your head. And we don't need any more f-ing pics of your restaurant food. GOD.

Necco said...


"I wish that the Left Wing and the Right Wing would both flap their wings and fly the hell away."


MikeN said...

If you care about this issue, I suggest you watch Free Guy.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Mike Doran: I can't tell if you're British or American. YES, MINISTER taught me that in Britain "with all due respect" can be quite the insult. :) You are right, and I exaggerated, working from imperfect memory. CarolMR is correct that Cleese went through a phase of complaining that Britain wasn't Britain any more, apparently blaming immigrants, and, as I said, voted for Brexit (whose voters skew right-wing) before bliffing for a Caribbean island. In looking this up, I also found an incident where he apparently sued the Evening Standard for libel when it ran a column arguing he isn't funny any more; weirdly, the judge ruled in Cleese's favor because his feelings were hurt *while admitting* that Cleese's reputation was hardly likely to have been damaged by the piece (details: But it's clear Cleese has no love for the present government.

(btw, I saw part of Cleese's last foray into sitcommery as an actor; despite being paired with Alison Steadman it was DIRE.)

sanford said...

I had read about who Alex suggested for a replacement for him a year or so ago. I am not sure if he knew about having cancer at the time. I wonder why Sony didn't take him up on his suggestion. The only reason I can think is no one out knew who they were. Now Sony has a second chance now that they are looking for a new host. Personally I would like to see get it. I still thought Richards was a good choice, but cancel culture bit him in the ass. I thought Joe Buck was good, but he has a loud speaking voice. If you ever listen to his podcast with Oliver Hardy that is pretty much his regular speaking voice. By the way the podcast is pretty good. Sony kind of made a mistake by trying out different guest hosts. Maybe they were expecting Alex to make through the season. I am not sure when taping or a season ends, but they would have time to try some people out. Now they just look like dopes.

Norm said...

...........And unlike radio where you say something once and it’s gone in the ether........

Ken, as a former "radio personality," have you forgotten about airchecks! :]

There is still plenty of "analogue" evidence out there for those who choose to go wayyyyyyyyyyyyyy back!

Mike Barer said...

I mentioned the series of baseball announcers replacing Dave Niehaus after his passing. One thing that I should myself with is the difference. There was a rotation of three and each was a tried and true baseball announcer.

MikeN said...

Necco, even if someone hadn't posted it to Facebook, Facebook already had all this. They keep a secret profile of every user, and of people who don't have Facebook accounts.
Say you start an account and only list your e-mail and no phone number. If one of your Facebook friends has your number in their contact list, then Facebook puts it in your secret profile.

MikeN said...

People are saying they don't like cancel culture but what this said is unacceptable. That is cancel culture.

Plus it is not clear this guy was trying to do a Howard Stern podcast. There was more than 40 hours of podcasts, and these have been taken down so we can't know for sure. The author posted about a dozen instances from 40 hours. For Howard Stern 40 hours or even 4 hours gives you lots of material.
The few clips that were posted didn't seem so bad. For example the other person on the podcast was laughing off 'booth ho, booth slut'.
If Levar Burton had had the podcast saying the same things, I suspect this author would have left it out of the story. She just had it in for Mike Richards and likely preferred a different host.

Necco said...

I am aware of Facebook's secret #$@*. I was on it about ten years ago, for three months. Then, I found out how to check the manner in which they were tracking me. It was INSANE. They were keeping record of EVERY website that I visited. It's frightening.

I still can't believe what people post. Idiots. Back to ten years ago...a friend was posting "cute" (?) nude pics of his toddler. He had several pics of his house (you could see the house number), and his name was there. And, then, at some point, the family was "posting" for baby-sitters. I called him, and said, "WTF??????!!"

People can hack, and duplicate your accounts.

I have tried my best to keep "off the grid," as much as possible. People need to stop posting so much personal shit on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (for starts).

Breadbaker said...

While trying to avoid the whole "is cancel culture a thing or just another way for people to say they'd like to continue punching down on other people?" question, I'd assert that Mike Richards could not be "canceled". The reason is that what happened is simply that Mike Richards did many people do, he embarrassed his employers, and his employers therefore were willing to accept his resignation as host and then, one presumes, consider whether he should continue as executive producer.

As executive producer, if he had one job, it was not to embarrass the brand. Jeopardy, like any television show, is a fragile thing; it does not have to exist tomorrow. In Jeopardy's case, it's even more fragile because its main audience is aging rapidly. One imagines the suits who hired Richards as executive producer were hoping he'd make it more relevant and popular with younger viewers. But that would be by changes to the show, not his on-air presence.

Parenthetically, a prior comment listed a bunch of changes made to Jeopardy over the years--though I don't think he mentioned the first thing Alex Trebek insisted upon, which was that the players could not press the signaling device until the full question was read. That was instituted because Alex believed (it's in his autobiography, which I commend to anyone) that the viewers would like to hear the whole question. But it also turned the game into a reflex contest more than a test of knowledge. A returning champion (and another change of course was letting people play more than five games) has a huge advantage in familiarity with the signaling device. Two cases in point: (1) Ken Jennings once lost a tournament where he was given a bye to the finals; the other players had had practice on getting their timing down and he did not. And (2) Watson the computer beat the humans because Watson was programmed to wait exactly for the lights to go on (they are on either side of the game board and invisible to the television audience), while they had to use their reflexes. This rule change meant that the first player to know the answer as it is revealed and read loses any advantage to the other players; if they all know the answer, the one who will be called upon is the one with the best reflexes. And, yes, I was on Jeopardy and I totally sucked at the signaling device, so badly that they stopped the game (this is not on the broadcast either) to see if it was still working. It was; I wasn't.

But Richards embarrassed his employers because they did not know of any of the facts that were in the Ringer article by Claire McNear. And as executive producer, it was his responsibility to let them know of those facts while they were considering him for the job.

Now, the people who made the decision, whoever they are, also should wonder if their jobs are on the line. Vetting someone's online content in 2021 for a job that has a huge public dimension to it has to be part of the job. Hell, in 2007, a U.S. senator I know was considering running for president. I got an email from his staff asking for literally anything I knew about him that might be embarrassing, even if it wasn't public information. That was 14 years ago (he didn't run). The job of Jeopardy host, particularly after the nationwide grief that followed Alex Trebek's death, deserved to be vetted at least as well. Richards, much like Andrew Cuomo, really can't make the argument that it's totally new to him that issues like the ones raised in Ms. McNear's article were not something that matters to people.

I have a lot of trouble mustering sympathy.

Mike Doran said...

To Wendy M. Grossman (belatedly):
Am I British or American?
Actually I'm worse than those - I'm a Chicagoan.
Even worse than that - I'm South Side Irish.
My creed comes from the City News Bureau:
If Your Mother Says She Loves You - CHECK IT OUT!
I don't automatically accept the first negative story (even if I'd really like to).
So if you've got a Great Conspiracy Theory you'd like to sell me, get in line, wait your turn, and try to get some back-up, OK?

One way or another, we've always had "Cancel Culture".
As with so much in the world, the name keeps changing.
The most long-lasting forms of recent times have been the various blacklists, imposed by one side or the other - and there have been a whole gang of Others over the many years (I'm coming up on 71 years old, and I've long been aware that there are more Sides to things than a dodecahedron).
I learned long ago that it's actually possible to hold views that seem to contradict each other; this comes from the annoying tendency that human beings seem to have of being individuals - no two exactly alike.
It's all way more complicated than I'd like - or any of the rest of you, for that matter.
All I can do is try to make sense out of what happens as it happens.
The old rules of right and wrong seem to still apply, most of the time anyway; if it pleases you to tear something (or someone) apart, you'd better have a damn good reason, or I'll start asking questions - and lately, I'm getting stricter about what answers I'll buy.

gottacook said...

Breadbaker: The change to the buzzer operation didn't occur until Alex's second year. When I tried out in July 1985, Alex explained to us candidates, on tape (he was also a producer of the show then), that the ability to buzz in prematurely led too many players into negative territory too quickly. We were all surprised at the new emphasis on reflexes, contrary to the show as it was then being aired. Nothing was said about the viewers' experience as an impetus for the change, the Trebek book notwithstanding.

MikeN said...

Breadbaker, that's a lot of words for someone should be fired if people look through their past and find something to complain about.

You are begging the question in calling it well he makes the brand look bad so he has to go.

PolyWogg said...

I think this is a great insight Ken that does tend to get missed. It is often ripped when offered as an excuse, i.e., "Can't you take a joke?", but it doesn't in my mind excuse the line. As you noted, you can be funny without punching down basically.

I often feel that there are four types of levels of "offensive joking":

a. One where the people being "mocked" are part of the joke. On the soft side it looks like a light "roasting" aka a Celebrity Roast without being insulting. Russell Peters gets away with a ton of stuff by directly interacting with the audience and openly mocking them. If it was Andrew Dice Clay doing the same schtick, it would just be offensive. But because RP includes the people in the joke, it generally works.

b. Lightly dark humour...I feel like Gilbert Gottfried falls into this category, and honestly, his being fired from Aflac for joking that a Japanese GF was floating by any day now, was indeed past the line on sensitivity. But it is the exact type of humour he does regularly, can't be too surprised if you hire him and he does something like that.

c. Throwback insensitive humour...I don't mean not "PC", I mean openly doing jokes that would have made it in the early 80s but most of us have grown up since then. We don't do blackface anymore, we don't call people retard or faggot as a punchline, we don't joke about people lying there and enjoying rape. We grew up a race and learned that words have weight and meaning. Most of the sitcoms you discuss regularly that hold up can do so because they never went for this type of humour too often. There were lots that joked men were light in the loafers, and MASH had the Klinger thing going on, but only when it was an open ploy to get S8 as opposed to any suggestion he was gay (good news for Soo Lin).

d. Offensive humour at any point...Andrew Dice Clay, Howard STern did their shock humour throughout their career, and it was offensive when they did it, and it's still offensive. Maclean and Maclean were a highly offensive duo for comedy, and some of their stuff, wow, it's hard to believe even with an R rating it was ever produced. Other stuff was amazing and holds up.

FWIW, I think the comments we frequently see showing up are the b and c categories, or even light d. Someone saw someone else get a laugh with something raunchy and offensive, and they try it too forgetting context, timing, situation are everything. Any 12yo knows this when he tried to do Eddie Murphy routines in front of his mother. But lots of comments like Richards' show up years later, and the only defense they have is, "I was trying to be funny in the moment". But like you said, it was never funny to begin with. It was just absurdly dark. I have a friend who has a dozen or so jokes about Michael Jackson that are wildly inappropriate, yet on occasion, he might pull off darkly / mildly amusing for the juxtaposition, similar to the popular "That's what she said" phrasing. Rarely though. But like Richards, he never grew up. He thinks those lines are funny with little context for potential "harm" if someone hears them and thinks he is making light of child abuse. He's not, he's openly mocking a suspected pedophile, but it doesn't always translate that way.

Thanks for talking about this...I've analysed this way too much over the years, partly as I wonder, "Why did they think that was funny?".


JS said...

And there goes him and his 10 million dollar job. I don't think Jeopardy could have done this any worse. And that show and the wheel are a pair. I just can't understand how this went so wrong. They didn't vet him?????

sanford said...

Great essay about cancel culture.

Sami said...

I don't really watch Jeopardy much, so I've mostly followed this out of pure curiosity and because I spent several years sitting hospital waiting rooms with a tv blaring either daytime tv--game shows, talk shows, and judge shows. Or else it was Fox news.

I grew to hate tv and hope the hospital wifi was decent.

But Mayim....oh gosh! She was really good as Amy Fowler even as the character went from shy and reserved prude to sex-starved possibly bisexual stuff with Penny. Whatever, it often worked at least as well as the rest of the show did as it aged and was running on bald, patched tires and the spare. But she does a commercial for some supplement trading on her neuroscience background which gives me the huckster heebee geebies vibe. Also, an arrogant know-it-all vibe like some kids I remember from school. Teacher's pet, "pick me" hand waving, sitting the front seat, always trying to "help" and be the center of attention.

I mute that commercial because her very voice/style/delivery on it annoys me.

I am thinking I may not enjoy her actual personality. And I'm just now thinking, I didn't care for Blossom either. Same reason.

Alex Trebek was really kind of low-key and somewhat detached, but polite. It made for okay background noise. But Mayim...hmmmm.

Well, I guess Jeopardy won't miss me anyway.