Tag Archives: Saturday Night Live

Keeping fear alive

Over the last few days, we’ve seen more than enough of Stephen Colbert’s recent testimony before Congress, and read or heard volumes of commentary on his daring comedic prank. It’s Monday, so we need to lower the curtain on this farce.

And we will, after I’ve had my say.

But first, allow me to preface my own commentary with a few biases.

  1. I think Stephen Colbert is a talented, albeit outrageous, humorist.
  2. I appreciate good political satire. Those who know my family history know that political satire been berry berry good to me (as Chico Escuela, SNL’s Garrett Morris’ Dominican baseball player, would say).
  3. I was a lobbyist in Washington for 15 years and continue to have both a healthy respect and healthy cynicism for the political process.

So about Colbert’s appearance: I was appalled and here’s why.

There are far too many people in the United States who believe what they believe based solely on what they see on television. These are often the same people who want to vote their senators and representatives out the day after they’ve voted them in. The last sound bite they hear is what they believe; it’s upon which they base their political beliefs and voting behavior.

Many people already think Washington is a big joke. Stephen Colbert gave them every reason to keep laughing, and to go on believing our public servants are little more than monkeys flinging dung at one another. For what? Innocent playfulness? Ratings? To use his faux-conservative persona to further confuse television viewers on an issue that already has made dung-flinging an Olympic sport?

I have staffed many Congressional witnesses over the course of my career. I have written their testimonies, both the prepared statements and the oral remarks which, by the way, are supposed to match, except in length. I have prepared witnesses by helping them anticipate questions and criticism. I have gotten them involved in coalitions and congressional meetings, not only to help them advance their business agendas, but also to give them a better understanding of our nation’s governing process.

I watched these executives set their cynicism aside and approach their roles with dignity and respect. After having participated in the political process, they said they gained an appreciation for the hard work and integrity most of our elected officials take to their difficult jobs. I wish all Americans could have this vantage point.

Stephen Colbert is a funny guy who has only made matters worse for a system in serious need of confidence and trust, by making figurative armpit noises from the congressional witness chair.

Maybe when he comes back October 30 for his “March to Keep Fear Alive,” he’ll make apologetic visits to some Hill offices, sans the video of his colonoscopy.

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Filed under Rants and Raves, Uncategorized

Edwin Newman

It has been said one can find anything on YouTube. I beg to differ. That is, unless, I am not so adept at searching the ‘net as I thought.

Once the news broke this week of the passing of famed broadcaster, author and grammarian Edwin Newman, I wanted to do a personal tribute, if for no other reason than his devotion to the English language.

This has proven difficult because everything that can be said about Mr. Newman has already been said, by individuals far more knowledgeable and eloquent than I. (If you haven’t read the stories this week, or are too young to have seen him on the air, I encourage you to read about him. Or pick up one of several books he wrote about language.)

I even pulled out my yellowed copy of Strictly Speaking, but even that has already been mined for the best excerpts.

During the earlier half of Edwin Newman’s career as a television journalist, I was too young to appreciate his work. Still, in order to write a meaningful tribute, I wanted to acknowledge his later work as what one paper called him, “a prickly grammarian.”

In poring over volumes of obituaries and tributes, I did come across something I felt illustrated the blend of seriousness and humor for which he was known.

On February 25, 1984, Newman hosted Saturday Night Live. On this show he performed a skit with Julia Louis-Dreyfus in which he manned a suicide hotline; she was the desperate caller. As he heard her plea for help, he interrupted her repeatedly to correct her grammar.

I don’t recall seeing this particular skit, though I would have remembered because I too have been ridiculed for putting grammar ahead of substance, even in serious situations. So I’d really like to see the skit for myself.

For three hours yesterday, I looked for a video clip or transcript, so that I could share it with you. I came up empty.

So I issue this challenge. The first reader who can send in a link to a video clip of this skit—or can produce a transcript—wins a prize. Those of you who participated in and won my Aug. 14 Joint Marketing contest can attest that I make good on my promises.

In the meantime, let us bid farewell to Edwin Newman, a man who served his profession with excellence and integrity, who stood up against the decline and abuse of the English language as he saw it. And who didn’t take himself too seriously to appear on SNL.

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Movies, Television and Radio, News, Politics, Reading, Technology and Social Media