The perils of comedy

Today’s NYT published an account of the quiet crisis at The Tonight Show, on a ratings decline since Donald Trump’s inauguration. The piece strongly suggests — and Fallon does not deny — that Trump’s appearance last fall, in which Fallon asked fawning questions and concluded with a hair rub, had stronger cultural power than expected.

Speaking in a quiet, tentative tone, Mr. Fallon seemed to be reliving the experience as he recounted it.

“I’m a people pleaser,” he said. “If there’s one bad thing on Twitter about me, it will make me upset. So, after this happened, I was devastated. I didn’t mean anything by it. I was just trying to have fun.”

But when the backlash did not subside, even after a few days, Mr. Fallon never addressed the controversy on air. “I didn’t talk about it, and I should have talked about it,” he said. “I regret that.”

As the most casual of late night comedy consumers — I’ve watched Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer exactly once and don’t often laugh at other things friends post — I don’t have much sympathy for Fallon, a comic whom I know for his Nick Lachey impersonation on Saturday Night Live and not much else. But he’s using the Jon Stewart Argument: a disingenuous whitewash, a path to retreat should the critics come for him (“Hey, man, I’m just a comedian”). Cracking jokes at a presidents expense is a political act — a mild one, acceptable when done in an ecumenical fashion, but a political act nonetheless. Comedians can no more control the times than artists. If the times require a ruthless skewering for which Fallon is unsuited, then he better stop skewering, period.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s