The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Air America needs oxygen

[As a hed, it's neither sharp nor funny. That's the point: Ed]

It's Week 2 of the brave new venture, and - let's just say, Week 1 lowered my expectations plenty.

Even so...

I don't get it: they're right there in the heart of New York City, where talk is talked at machine-gun pace, with a witty or obscene come-backer on the lips of everyone from 9 to 99; the horns are tooting, the arms are gesticulating - and the Battery is most assuredly never down!

Whereas - Air America is a little piece of Lake Wobegon transported in a bubble to Gotham.

Or, perhaps, it is Manhattan, but run at half-speed. (Hey, rev it up to 78 rpm, and we've got a Chipmunks revival!)

Al Franken kills the political material: there is so much good stuff (supportive of Kerry, that is) available for broadcast - a good deal fitting his Lying Liars motif - but getting at it is wading through molasses.

He's slow getting his gags off; his gags often need a long run-up; you think you know roughly where he's going, but the convoy principle applies: you move at the speed of the slowest, and Franken is the slowest.

Are they funny? I'm not sure I've ever hung around long enough to have heard the punchline.

I heard a bit of his two-way with the guy for the Center for Something or Other - some kind of liberal think-tank. And, instead of shutting up, and letting the Center Guy spill his anti-Bush talking-points (on Clarke/Condi, the phony stuff in the ads or whatever), he's holding him up to set up his gag. Whatever that turned out to be.

And, another time, he was talking to another guy and gagging about writing a fugue in the style of Hindemith [1] at college - at least, I assume it was a gag - perhaps, had I stayed, I'd have found out it was politics.

Franken is new to radio, so might, with a modicum of natural humility, have thought to take it easy for a while, learn on the job, let his sidekick - who is a broadcaster - take the strain.

Janeane Garofalo again suffers with the gagging problem: but at least her delivery is quicker, so we get the gag over sooner.

But still - it is not possible at the same time to put on a gagfest and explain to a public who, though sympathetic to the cause, are not news junkies, issues - like the bogus Kerry 350 votes for tax increases - which take some concentration to understand.

There's no point mentioning the issues at all if you can't get across to the listener what's important about them. (So they can spread the word. Or, at least, be made more likely to vote Kerry themselves in November.) You might just as well stick with the gags.

(Or you might, if the gags were actually funny.)

Randi Rhodes I've tried to listen to once or twice: she's an old hand. Unlike with Franken and Garofalo, you can relax: implosion is clearly not going to happen. But she has callers who - the ones I heard - were ever slower to get to any meaningful point than Franken.

Now, part of the problem is that, listening on a streamed broadcast from the Lost Land of Dialup, I can never forget that whoever's broadcasting is hogging my modem. The opportunity cost is the stuff I can ingest from text.

And text is so much quicker.

If I was being entertained, that wouldn't matter. But, from what I've heard of it, AA is anti-entertainment: it's a car-wreck. But without the compulsive, ghoulish fascination.

The problem, I suppose, is that, to launch the 'network', they needed names. And, apart from Rhodes and one or two others, there aren't any practising liberal jocks out there. None with the name-recognition of Franken and Garofalo, at least.

But the gags and the politics really don't mix - not the way they're doing it right now.

Perhaps, they think that the liberal politics is so worthy and dull, folks will only listen if there are added monkey-shines: I reckon their major problemis the unfunny comedy getting in the way of the politics.

(Not that this is anything of a review: as if one would review a two hour play of which one had seen three minutes! Just a personal impression.)

  1. Which he pronounced to rhyme with smith.


I've dipped into Garofalo's show. And her guests are Tim Robbins - and her Dad. Who is giving us his analysis of Richard Clarke's book.

Now, I know there's a lot of dead air to fill. But... Week 2?

STILL MORE (April 8)

An LA Weekly crit.

I've kept on dipping in: and the tech disasters are fewer. Even Franken's made me smile once or twice. But both he and Garofalo are still too slow on the political points (and why else would one be listening?) - and their sidekicks are a big problem: Franken's sounds as if she's waiting to be beamed back up to the Enterprise - that laugh! - and Garofalo's is always getting in the way, breaking up what rhythm there is. But, if Randi could just ditch those dumb callers of hers...

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