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"Saturday Night Live" writer Leslie Jones continued to be kicked around the Internet Tuesday morning in the wake of her performance on "Weekend Update" -- the "in-house image expert" who (umm) explained how "the way we view black beauty" has changed since slavery.
If the current standard for success on TV is defined by Twitter "conversations," retweets, online musings (aka blogs), and the resulting TV commentary, then Jones absolutely is the standout success of the 39th season to date.
Everyone has an opinion about her sketch, ranging from virulently-against to the positively-for, while the very sketch itself has even prompted a broad discussion on the Nature of Comedy, and What is Funny, and even the Too Soon question -- as in, is it too soon to joke about slavery, or will there ever be a time when it won't be too soon? (Jones herself has taken to Twitter to defend herself.)
In fact, a little bit lost in the whole debate seems to be that it's been done before -- comedy about slavery which sought the same sort of reaction that Jones' performance was clearly meant to elicit: Discomfort, anger, maybe even fury. Comedy, after all, isn't always about making people laugh.
Here's briefly the history -- both ancient and modern. Richard Pryor had a comedy series on NBC in 1977 that sprang from a hugely successful one-time special. The series didn't last, but thanks to the Internet, Pryor's famous opening "slave ship" sketch did.
Next, and much more recently, Key and Peele performed a slave skit; also posted below, and which has been cited as funnier take (by some) on the subject than the Jones skit..
Dave Chappelle, meanwhile, worked this material for years. ("Time-haters" is an example -- posted here, and which contains some language that many will find also offensive; but it was on his show and it also has had a long life on the Internet.)
There are a few ways certainly to think about this material, including Jones' skit, and one of them might be this way: Comedy is and almost certainly should be at times about prodding the complacent among us. It can do that by taking something that has been so completely anesthetized and compartmentalized -- in the case of slavery, by history books, and the sheer passage of time, and the sense among people that this towering evil happened long ago and far away and could never happen again -- and then turning it into a visceral gut-punch. Maybe that's not funny, or maybe it is, but it does get people talking and thinking. On that point alone, Jones wins by default.
One of the many reasons Letterman will be missed is this: He's late night TV's best interviewer (yes, Kimmel can be good too, but Dave's the one). He asks questions that can be difficult, or uncomfortable and still make them work, in part because he turns the inquisition either on himself, or finds a source of humor even when there is none. (Or sometimes not: The Robin Roberts interview was a full-bore exploration of medical facts and information.)
Case in point: Last night's encounter with Peyton Manning. How to ask about not just one of the worst Super Bowl's ever, but one of the most inexplicable -- because as anyone who knows anything about football, Peyton Manning, or the Denver Broncos fully realize, there have been fewer teams in the history of this sport more supremely qualified for the big game.
It was a baffling loss, and remains so. Dave, it seems to me, reflects that puzzlement exactly right.
"24" has been gone almost four years and while we may know what we've been doing over those years, no one knows what Jack Bauer has been up to. Monday night, some answers. Meanwhile, a review....
"24: Live Another Day," WNYW/5, 8
What it's about: The day begins at 11 a.m., London time. The C.I.A. is hunting a "high value target" - Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), on the run four years,...Read more »
Amusing encounter between "Mad Men's" Jessica Paré and Conan O'Brien on Thursday night's "Conan" -- but apparently, an even more amusing encounter between Paré and someone who recognized her on the street in NYC recently.
(App readers, watch here: http://nwsdy.li/1mlvOsJ)
The winner is ..."Law & Order: SVU." That is, the winner of USA Today's influential "Save our Shows" survey that collected 144,000 ballots in support of various series on the bubble. "L&O" was the leader. List follows, but here is the question: Will it be saved?
There have certainly been reports that "SVU" may be in trouble --- "SVU," the last man/woman standing of one of TV's...Read more »
As a friendly TV Zone reminder, the HIstory Channel's (pretty good) scripted series, "The Vikings," wraps its second season Thursday night, and if you head to the jump... we've got a few clips that should offer a flavor of what to expect.
And yes, "Vikings" - -a big departure and risk for THC -- has been a success for the network.. Quickly, here's the through-line, gratis THC:
“The Lord’s...Read more »
"Louie" is back Monday, after a TV eternity -- 19 months or so during which time the star and creator, Louis C.K., apparently figured things out. To that end, we offer our review ... and this guarantee, no spoilers. Meanwhile, check out the "Late Show with David Letterman" appearance from tonight's (Thursday) show. C.K. offers a reason why there has been such a long break...
"Louie,"...Read more »
Thursday morning, a "24" cornucopia (sort of, anyway) as we offer you a look at last night's Kiefer Sutherland interview on "Late Show with David Letterman," and, following that, 24 questions answered about the forthcoming "24: Live Another Day," which arrives a week from Sunday.
(App readers, watch the video here: http://nwsdy.li/1mhnom5)
"24:Live Another Day" starts May...Read more »
The Daytime Emmy Awards nominations were announced a little while ago -- for the June 22 ceremony -- and from the long list of nominees (350 out of some 1,400 submissions), this sober observation: The Emmys struggled to find actual daytime shows to honor.
Only four nods to soaps, and one them, "One Life to Live," is no longer in production. To bolster the category, the Emmys have added a "new...Read more »