Mick Stevens in The New Yorker
Last week, I posted some current events gags I had written for a local radio personality back in 2014-15. I’d set up the premise with a true news story from the day, and then add a comment punchline. Here are a few more of those from that time:
You- Always-Hurt-the-One-You-Love Dept.
One hundred years ago this week, on Sept.1, 1914, the last Passenger pigeon died in a Cincinnati zoo, ending the reign of a species that numbered in the billions until American settlers wiped the birds out.
Comment: And to think we didn’t even need smallpox blankets to do it! Progress!
In what observers are calling a classic example of “bait and switch,” after months of promising to take executive action on immigration reform this summer, President Barack Obama is now further delaying legislation until after midterm elections.
Comment: In other news, Obama revealed that the five-bedroom Park Avenue luxury apartment for $700 a month he had offered was no longer available, but there was still room in a trailer under the wino bridge for rent.
General Mills Inc. has agreed to acquire Annie’s Inc., one of the largest producers of natural and organic branded food, in a deal worth $820 million.
Comment: And in related news, Annie’s Organic Green Kale Salad Dressing will be re-branded as Count Chocula’s Lucky Charm Bits Mayonnaise Syrup.
Ben Affleck is reportedly in negotiations to star in a new action thriller called The Accountant.
Comment: It’s Affleck’s first in a series of “ordinary people” thrillers including The Barista, The Gas Station Attendant, and The Guy Who Scrapes The Bubble Gum Off the Bottom of Third Graders’ School Desks.
Comedy in the Age of Terrorism Dept.
A comedy club in Barcelona has introduced a computer fitted to the back of each seat, which reads audience members’ facial expressions. It runs up a tab of smirks, chuckles and belly laughs. Each laugh is charged at €0.30 per laugh.
Comment: Does that mean you can watch Bill Maher for free?
DNA testing has raised questions about the nobility of some of the royal family. A spokesman said England’s current royal family should not be worried. “We are not in any way indicating that Her Majesty (Elizabeth II) shouldn’t be on the throne.”
Comment: Yes, because symbolic rule by one family over millions of people should never be challenged. Think of all the PBS television series that would have to be cancelled.
French magician Laurent Piron daringly conceives and executes a wonderfully surreal and visual magic scenario for the 2015 FISM international magic competition. Lots of clever misdirection; you’ll probably catch some moves if you repeat the video–but a live audience only gets one chance!
More at Laurent Piron
I had forgotten, but was recently reminded, that I had spent some of 2014 and 2015 writing little satirical one-liners a few times a week for a local radio personality. I would scan the day’s newspapers and websites in the morning, pick out the most absurd articles, and then affix a humorous comment for broadcast in the afternoon. It was a lot of fun to do. Four years later, I don’t know that the references (or humor) hold up anymore, but I thought you might enjoy reading some of them.
Yes, it’s almost like comedy!
“Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell indicated its continued desire to drill in the Arctic waters off the coast of Alaska by submitting new plans for exploratory operations to federal agencies. Despite previously failed attempts to perform such drilling the company appears committed to pushing forward.”
Comment: A spokesman for Royal Dutch Shell assured protestors that he promised to put it only part of the way in.
“A nightmarish cannabilistic cricket from Asia is apparently invading homes throughout the Eastern United States. The greenhouse camel cricket, which is known for its voracious — and sometimes cannibalistic — appetite, has been in the US for decades; however, the insect was believed to be quite rare outside of commercial greenhouses. Until now, that is.”
Comment: But the worst thing about it is the constant buzz of “Let your conscience be your guide.” (okay, obscure Jiminy Cricket reference, but I maintain there’s a joke in there somewhere, by God!)
“Researchers from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, estimate that there are at least five huge garbage patches polluting the world’s oceans, some as big as the state of Texas.”
Comment: On closer inspection, scientists have concluded that one of the garbage patches actually is Texas.
“Biden vows retribution against ISIS: ‘We will follow them to the Gates of Hell!’ Staking out a hard line against the vicious jihadist group ISIS, Vice President Biden vowed Wednesday that the U.S. “will follow them to the Gates of Hell!” “
Comment: A Biden spokesman clarified that in the event of a busy schedule, the Vice President would at least follow ISIS to that lousy Middle Eastern restaurant on Route 95.
The Museum of Lame Excuses Dept.
“The city has dispensed a sweet settlement to three Brooklyn men who sued the NYPD after cops bizarrely mistook Jolly Rancher candies for crystal meth, the Daily News has learned. Despite the $33,000 settlement, the city admitted no wrongdoing on the part of the cops, arguing they couldn’t be sure whether the red and blue rocks were illicit drugs or candy.”
Comment: And in other news, the NYPD is still determining whether a confiscated jump rope is really a 13-foot man-eating Zorch Snake from the Planet Aroos.
“The police department for San Diego’s public schools recently revealed that they have acquired a large armored combat vehicle from the U.S. military which is designed to withstand blasts from improvised explosive devices and mines.”
Comment: Unnamed sources say a record amount of homework was turned in the next day.
In this radio interview broadcast yesterday on WBAI 99.5 FM, I talk with playwright Karen Malpede about her new cli-fi drama, Extreme Whether, a theatrical exploration of the climate change wars. It opens in March at LaMama in New York City. For more information about the play and tickets, go to http://theaterthreecollaborative.org/extreme-whether
Click on the grey triangle above to hear the interview.
The first line of Hamlet, like many first lines of Shakespeare, announces the theme: “Who’s there?” For Denmark, like the countries we inhabit, is a place where no one is sure who is watching whom, who the enemy is, or on a more metaphysical plane, who makes up the person one calls oneself. Identities are questioned from the outside and the inside. Who and what is real? Can we know others? Can others know us? Can we know ourselves?
Denmark is a prison says Hamlet. It’s a country that seems to be perpetually at War. In such a world, where the enemy can sneak upon you at any moment, nothing is private. The State dominates through surveillance of actions and thoughts. The dangerous one is the one who keeps to him or herself. The notion of privacy has disappeared.
In No Place to Hide, Glenn Greenwald’s book concerning the revelation of ongoing, illegal, mass warrantless surveillance by the American government, he makes a point that is often overlooked: it is not possible for human beings to grow and develop normally in a society where there is no privacy. Privacy is a necessary condition for being able to try out different versions of ourselves, to both invent and to find out just who we are. To keep sane.
But Denmark is a prison.
In a government where the will of the people is feared, the alarm must sound for Hamlet—Claudius warily declares that “madness in great ones must not unwatched go.” Hamlet feigns madness as protection, to save his true self from scrutiny. Madness acts as a protective shell, the soul’s attempt to keep from being “too much in the sun.” There is no place for Hamlet to feel his feelings without the glare of the court on him. Even his most intimate conversations with Ophelia are watched. Like the sacred ceremony being recorded by an anthropologist, sacredness evaporates. There is no room for the sacred under such conditions, even though humans must have such a place or go mad. The early Shakespeare commentators asked whether Hamlet was really mad or only feigning it. He is both: he feigns madness and is driven mad by his panopticon society.
Hamlet eludes. He puts on an antic disposition. He play acts. What is a human being that s/he can act? For centuries, actors were reviled and cursed, classified with beggars, thieves and prostitutes. They were shapeshifters, untrustworthy, not what they seemed. Worse, an actor seems to have no center. Indeed, Borges once wrote that that was Shakespeare’s glory and curse—Shakespeare was everything and nothing. Everything because he was nothing.
Denmark is a prison. It’s a prison because there is nowhere to hide. A place becomes a prison when there is nowhere to be alone, no way to find out who you are. You are constantly being defined by others, being told who you are, who you must be, what you must do.
But the actor escapes definition. The actor is subversive of the whole notion of fixed identity; subversive of the notion of control. It’s, paradoxically, in the act of acting that Hamlet finds the truth and frees himself.
When we wonder whether art can be revolutionary, an act of resistance, it serves well to remember that every government in the world throughout history has sought to control its art. Surely that must be a salve to those who are not certain whether their efforts are useful. We don’t always know what kind of art will be effective or not, but the possibility that art can be a strong weapon always exists, even when it may be in ways we don’t always fully understand. The actor on the stage is always the promise that we contain multitudes and have the capacity to transform ourselves and society.
The play’s the thing.