The other day, Sean Hayes was the guest host for Ellen Degeneres on her TV show. It's a nice monologue, some good jokes, some just okay, but personably done. But...stick with it. I shall say no more.
It's not often that drug companies get to take the high road and, as the expression goes, throw shade on someone in public eye. But -- well, Roseanne meet Sanofi, the maker of Ambien.
The other day, we had some video of Will Ferrell and Molly Shannon playing the characters Cord Hosenbeck and Tish Cattigan who served as hosts for the 2-hour Rose Parade broadcast that streamed on Amazon Prime. It turns out they were back at it a few weeks ago. That's when they hosted the live coverage of the Royal Wedding, which aired (as far as I can tell) on HBO.
Here's some footage of that where, the horses traipsing by cause some consternation for Cord.
And this is a fun appearance by the pair, as they show up on The Tonight Show to promote their upcoming telecast and discuss, among other things, their experiences in the past having traveled through Europe.
Back in 1990, I read that Roseanne Barr was going to be singing the National Anthem before a San Diego Padres baseball game. (Forgotten to history: the producer of her TV show, Tom Werner, was a co-owner of the team.) Now, I wasn't a fan of her TV series -- I'd hardly ever seen it -- but I was intrigued by this. And being in Los Angeles, I was able to pick up Padres game on the radio. The reception was poor, but I could get them, and occasionally would listen, especially when they played the Cubs. So, I tuned in ahead of time. And then came the Anthem. Now, mind you, I couldn't see anything -- I didn't see your spit and crotch-grab until much later. I only only heard the singing. And it was ghastly. Most people know that now, but they're listening after the fact, prepared for what they're about to hear. Me, had it on live, thought who knows, maybe she'll be okay, after all why else would she be doing this?? It seemed unlikely, but...well, let's give it a listen. So, knowing nothing what to expect, and getting screeching through the speaker, it was perhaps all the more ghastly.
So, with that, and all her offenses in the years that followed, it didn't come as a shock to me to read her racist tweet. The only shock was that ABC -- a major corporation, owned by Disney, a Fortune 500 company, actually cancelled a highly-rated TV series because of the latest racist comment made by its star. And did so within hours, not because of public pressure or a group-organized protest, but because the corporation said that this is "abhorrent, repulsive and inconsistent with our values."
That is huge, by the way. TV networks do not cancel top-rated shows because the star said something bad. Actually, TV networks pretty much do not cancel top-rated shows, period. A TV network would put on a series that was just a giraffe grazing for an hour if they thought it would get good ratings. They put on Pink Lady, a variety comedy show starring two Japanese singers who literally couldn't speak English, And Manimal. And My Mother, the Car. It takes A LOT for a network to cancel a top-rated series. (As in...A LOT!!!) So, any discussion on whether ABC was right to do this has to acknowledge that that is the starting point.
Indeed, there has been a lot of commentary about whether it was the right thing, or a network caving, or the only thing to do, or against her freedom of speech, or all manner of opinions in between. For me, there's one simple way to describe why it was absolutely proper. All the other explanations why so -- while spot-on and insightful -- leave open the door for debate and disagreement. The simple answer doesn't. And I'll get to that in a moment.
First though, the most insightful comment I heard was from an analyst who said that anyone who was outraged that the Roseanne show was cancelled because such an action was against her freedom of speech had to then explain why they were okay with criticism of NFL athletes kneeling to express their freedom of speech and Trump saying that the players maybe shouldn't have jobs.
For that matter, if someone was upset with Roseanne being fired for expressing her freedom of speech, no matter how virulently racist, then they have no right to have been upset at Michelle Wolf for telling some mean jokes at the White House Correspondents Dinner.
I also heard some excellent analysis from a social and societal perspective about what was so terrible culturally about Roseanne's racist tweet. And her history of racism and hate, under the umbrella of "they were just jokes." And so they probably were. The problem is that they were racist and hate-filled jokes.
And indeed that's the thing about her "apology." When she wrote, "I should have known better," my first reaction was, yes, she should have. But the problem is that she's done this so often before that it was clear she doesn't know better. It's who she is. And "I'm sorry" doesn't change that. There was nothing said in her "apology" about why she was sorry, and what she planned to do to change what she should have known better. She absolutely should have known better. But she never does. And we have no expectation that she will.
I heard a very good comment about this by a fellow named Chuck Nice (yes, that's his name, and how fitting for this conversation...). He said that you can apologize for stepping on someone foot, because it was a mistake and you can then get out of the way. But you can't apologize for being a racist. That requires repenting.
Somewhat similarly, I heard someone -- I believe Jason Johnson, politics editor of TheRoot.com -- mention that the only thing Roseanne had to do to not get in trouble was not compare a black woman to an ape. Hardly a high standard to attain, you'd think. Which made me try to ponder why in the world she'd do such a thing, knowing how much she had at stake for herself -- losing a minimum of $30 million with next season being cancelled, but potentially a couple hundred million dollars depending on how long the series ran and with syndication -- but also knowing what the cast and crew had at stake. She apparently created difficult working conditions the first time her series was on, but there were no public racist jokes then. So, why now, why these days? My guess is that the racism was always there, but one knew you kept it private and didn't spew it in society. But when you see the president getting away with it, and see president saying that some neo-Nazis were "very fine people," and have the president calling you personally and praising you publicly -- you probably feel entitled. That you can say whatever you want now, and it's all okay, you can get away with it now. Alas, for her sake, though happily for ours, we've seen that that isn't true...
(By the way, as a bit of a side note, I must say that I find it bizarre, to the point of amusing how so much of the media coverage yesterday was how Trump would respond to this -- if he did at all. But my reaction to this curiosity about Trump's reaction, much as I understood the interest, is an odd bewilderment because -- when did we EVER care what in the world the president of the United States thought about a TV show being cancelled???!!)
All of which at last brings me around to the aforementioned, simple explanation why ABC cancelling the Roseanne show was proper and has absolutely nothing to do with "free speech."
Let's be clear: "free speech" is generally misinterpreted. The First Amendment is about how the government cannot make a law that abridges your right of speech. That's it. Period. It deals solely and specifically with the government. Roseanne was not thrown in jail for her words. She wasn't arrested. She said her words, she can say them again, she is free to say them all she wants. She has her freedom of speech.
And that's the point -- one has the Constitutional right to say whatever you want. One does not have the Constitutional right to have a job.
Imagine if this wasn't Roseanne and someone who was the star of a popular TV show. Imagine instead if this was someone who worked at a corporation who went around the office telling a racist joke about black people and apes. How many think that that person would not have been fired on the spot? And that it would have been considered the right thing to do? (And especially if that person who had a history of this, and at the office party had dressed up as Hitler carrying around a toy oven with baked cookies.)
Or imagine if an employee stood out front of their place of business and spent the lunch hour yelling about how terrible the company was and that people should shop at their competitors. Think that person wouldn't have been fired? And that "Free speech" and "the First Amendment" wouldn't have save the job?
Those people would have had the right to say what they did. And they could keep saying it. But they wouldn't have had the right to have their job.
Roseanne is -- sorry, was -- one of the leading public faces of the ABC television network and its entire schedule. Having that person be seen as a virulent racist is not a good look for a network. Or any business. Every actor on any ABC series who went on a talk show or did an interview would likely be asked about Roseanne's racism and what it was like to be on ABC where that was accepted. Roseanne had the right to say whatever she wanted. And she can keep saying it. But she doesn't have a right to have a TV series.
And now she doesn't.
A month ago, I posted a hilarious acceptance speech here by Julia Louis-Dreyfus when she was given the Charlie Chaplin Award by BAFTA. If you didn't see it before, by all means check it out. It's a master class in comic performance.
In describing this to a friend, she asked if I'd seen Julia Louis-Dreyfus's acceptance speech in 2013 when she won the Emmy for Veep. I hadn't, and checked it out.
I hope the dear lady (and Northwestern grad...) keeps winning awards just on general principle because her acceptance speech make it all the more worth it.
Okay, it took a while for me to track down the source here, but it is Nick Wright who co-hosts a show "First Things First" on the Fox Sports channel, FS1. It begins a bit overly sanctimonious, but after getting that out of the way, he gets down to his point. And it is an eloquent, thoughtful 90-seconds looking at the "kneeling issue" in the NFL.
That said, I don't think it's the "argument that ends all arguments" on the issue that many people commenting on it do. It is a very thoughtful position, but I think that some or even many people would still be upset at the kneeling if they answered his question, although I also think it would give many others some pause if they fairly answered what he was asking.
I had no idea about this, though maybe some readers here did. But on New Year's Day, Will Ferrell and Molly Shannon created a couple of characters named Cord Hosenbeck and Tish Cattigan, and hosted the 2018 Rose Bowl Parade for two hours streaming on Amazon Prime.
The thing that makes this all the more bizarre and funny is that they never let on who they were. Now, certainly if you know Ferrell and Shannon, it's pretty clear that this was them. But there turns out to have been a LOT of people who didn't have any idea. And they watched the broadcast and were...well, bewildered. Tim Meadows also appeared on the show as himself, and a few other people assisted, as well.
Cord and Tish are super-upbeat people who just love the Rose Parade and have been hosting it for 25 years, so this is all very exciting for them.
Here are three videos, starting with some of the broadcast. The quality is a little off, since it comes from someone recording off their TV screen, but it's very watchable.
And this is from the very end of the broadcast, as Cord and Tish talk over the end credits, unaware that their mics are still on. (If viewers stuck around to this point and didn't know who they were watching, the credits clearly explain that.)
Finally, as a bonus, here's Molly Shannon as a guest on Stephen Colbert's show, and she talks about the Rose Parade for the first four minutes of her interview, including the reviews and rating they got on Amazon.
Best wishes on Memorial Day.
It hasn't gotten much attention, but we live to serve here at Elisberg Industries, and so I pass along that this year marks the 100th anniversary of the writing of the song, "God Bless America."
Here is its composer Irving Berlin performing the song on the occasion of its 50th anniversary, on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Three weeks ago, I wrote here about a wonderful opening number from the 1982 TV special fundraiser, Night of 100 Stars. It featured a wide-array of Broadway legends performing snippets from among their most-famous songs.
They did a sequel a few years later, in 1982, and this is that show's opening number. It's not nearly as special as the Broadway medley, but it's still very enjoyable for all the performers who participate. This is a medley of songs about New York City. Also, several of the entertainers get to sing much longer than the few lines in the previous video.
A slight "warning." Before the medley begins, there is quite an awful opening song. So, you might want to jump directly to 4:30 when the medley starts. But -- my recommendation is to not do that. A few stars show up in the opening number, and there is a really fun moment at 3:20 when one particular star appears. I suspect most people won't recognize her right away, but wait a bit, and they identify her on screen. (She also appears in the opening sketch, but it's among a group of people, so it might be even easier to miss.)
There's also a very clever combination of songs (from "West Side Story") with one performer, which comes at the 13:00 mark. Even though he's not a singer, who he is makes for a very smart and fun moment. Some people today might miss the joke, but I think most people who were around at the time will get it even 30 years later.
Robert J. Elisberg is a two-time recipient of the Lucille Ball Award for comedy screenwriting. He's written for film, TV, the stage, and two best-selling novels, is a regular columnist for the Writers Guild of America and was for the Huffington Post. Among his other writing, he has a long-time column on technology (which he sometimes understands), and co-wrote a book on world travel. As a lyricist, he is a member of ASCAP, and has contributed to numerous publications.
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