Whatever Happened To Commentary Magazine?

Comment: Commentary…at this point is just forum for justifying whatever the government of Israel is doing today, plus endless and thinly veiled ethnic cheerleading. I mean, the relatively small readership of Commentary (33 K per month) is almost certainly comprised of older Jewish folks who like to read articles that flatter them with how great Jews are. It’s the Jewish equivalent of Ebony or Jet.

This publication, like other similar pubs (e.g., New Republic) are tanking because the readership and the mentality just isn’t there. Thus Jewish Americans will follow German Americans, Irish Americans, and Italian Americans in the Self-Approbation sequence, to be followed (probably) by Asian Americans, South Asian Americans, and Latin Americans.

Comments to Steve Sailer:

* Bob Hope: “I’ve just flown in from California, where they’ve made homosexuality legal. I thought I’d get out before they make it mandatory.”

* This reminds of [Lawrence] Auster talking about the Jewish dilemma when faced with a gentile icon. It’s a giant hairy ball of “…how can this be? WE are the CHOSEN!”

Intelligent, assimilated types recognize that the gentiles produce giants and that is just the way it is in the real world. While the unassimilated bunker mentality Jews (type you find at Commentary) do not acknowledge that there have ever been any iconic gentiles. It just doesn’t compute.

* In any comedy competition, I’d pit WASPs against Jews any day. Just about any British comedy is vastly better than anything American, i.e., Jewish. In fact, probably a majority of the Comedy shows since WW2 in the United States are British derivative. A recent, blatant example is the British Office compared to the American Office. One is brilliant, the other rather not. One is unpredictable and riveting, the other is typical and yawn inspiring.

Monty Python of course is the ultimate in British comedy and nothing compared in the US. Even watching goofy BBC shows like Top Gear today gives you a hint at the glory of WASPish humor.

In terms of stand-up–nothing was funnier than the least Jewish comedian I can think of–Sam Kinison. And of course which Jew can touch Jackie Gleason?

The only good, Jewish comedy I can think of derive almost all of their humor from an honest introspective about how sad Jews are–I’m thinking Larry David or the Coen Brothers. These guys are a lot of things, but they don’t shirk from looking at Jews with an honest eye.

* Is Commentary TRYING to produce antisemitism?

I am not naturally inclined to what Derb calls “The Jew Thing,” but this is enough to make me want to buy the complete works of Kevin MacDonald.

* That Teachout article is amazingly offensive. Hope wasn’t a nice guy, but in addition to inventing stand up comedy, he was the first comedian to break the fourth wall, and long before Carson was making jokes about his jokes falling flat. And his verbal humor was exceptional, even if it was put to use in films that today are quite silly. Much of his humor only seems old hat because everyone copied and improved on the original–which they could only do because he did it first.

It’s like watching the 1933 movie 42nd Street, when the director tells Ruby Keeler that she’s going out as a chorus girl, but coming back a STAR. Yeah, it’s been done to death. AFTER. Not before.

* To be funny you have to be an outsider, but not too far out. You have to able to mock yourself so that you can mock others without seeming arrogant. British are brilliant at humor because of the class system. The best British humor often comes from the upper middle class who have to be both deferent to the aristocracy, but also loathe them. This creates that tension between mocking others and mocking yourself that works. Canadian WASPs have a similar advantage because they are permanent underdogs to the US. People who want to climb up the social ladder, like educated middle class Brits or Jewish immigrants, tend to notice things more because they spend time trying to figure out how the system works. Jewish humor had this in spades as long as Jews were underdogs. I think it is becoming increasingly difficult to be a funny Jew in modern America. While British right wing humor is generally hilarious, American right-wing humor tends to fail because American conservatives can’t grasp the concept of being self-deprecating, they often just come off as mean and arrogant. Steve Sailer, btw, gets this and is one of the most consistently entertaining writers on the political Right because he is able to strike just the right tone of underdog nostalgia and self awareness of his own shortcomings. Most continental humor, whether based in left or right wing, tends to be awful, because most Europeans take themselves too seriously. German humor, I have noticed, tends to just be very mean, whether it is left wing elites mocking Bavarian rustics, or right wingers mocking Turks. Italian and French humor is rooted in clowning around and slapstick, the humor of the peasant marketplace. Unlike a British or Jewish comedian who make you think he is really mocking himself, the Italian or French comedian puts a real or symbolic mask on before he plays the fool.

* The outstanding traits of the Jewish people (compared to other European groups), tend to be:

– Intelligent
– Neurotic
– Talkative / Attention Loving
– Success and Power Oriented

They’re also very urban, as a consequence of their personality.

Once you get into the idea of doing comedy as a thing – and there are some cultures where this is “not done, old boy, simply not done”, the English professional classes from the 1930s or even the 1960s, or a Chinese American recent immigrant background – to a certain degree I guess, if you are just fairly smart and willing to stand in the middle of a room full of people and talk and talk until you find what works and gives you the success and power you crave, you will succeed through persistance (and the sheer relative numbers of your group trying that sort of thing).

And if you do this in large urban centres where tastemakers gather (New York), then you’ll become more notable to society at large.

With the neuroses, I can think of comics, and people, who are very neurotic and irritable and funny and those who aren’t really neurotic or irritable at all and are very funny. So that’s not really a benefit or hindrance as such.

As a Brit, Americans often seem to vacillate a lot between sincere and venal, and between idealistic and cynical. Other countries don’t really get that super-wholesome “Mormon” type and the ultra-venal cynical success seeking individualist as often, nor do individuals move between each of these modes as often. I wonder if that affects the ability of Americans to produce comedy.

* I had a guy who worked for me in the 1980s that I got handed off to me because none of the other managers wanted him because if you were talking to him and he didn’t understand something, a look of total stupidity would wash over him. It took me awhile to figure out he was a solid 115 IQ problem-solver, he just had incredibly transparent facial expressions. Most people fake confidence for a few seconds when they’re trying to figure out what you are talking about but have lost the thread, but he couldn’t fake it.

Once I figured that out, we made an excellent team because I’d just immediately pick up that he’d lost track and back up and go over what I wanted him to do again, but slower. It’s really much more efficient for a boss-report relationship if the report doesn’t hide his incomprehension from the boss, but it’s rare.

* Nobody can be as funny as Eddie Murphy was in the 1980s (or Hope in the 1940s) for more than a decade or so because audiences start to pick up on the meta-joke. Humor depends a lot upon surprise, but there’s both specific surprise and meta-surprise. After awhile people start getting bored with any individual personality’s jokes. They can’t necessarily anticipate the punchlines, but they can, post hoc, see where the punchline was coming from: “I see what you did there” is not a promising reaction.

* I’ve met people who were involved in the ValuJet cleanup. (There wasn’t much to pick up after that one – the plane disintegrated on impact.) Those aboard suffered horribly before they died, all because some workers at an aircraft-maintenance company wanted to clean out the mail room.

(OT: A company called SabreTech was hired to renovate a few old planes that ValuJet had purchased from Europe. As part of the routine overhaul, the mechanics removed the old planes’ highly-flammable chemical oxygen generators. The generators sat around the warehouse for a while, and finally ended up in the mail room. One day, a supervisor ordered the guy on duty to “get rid of all this crap that’s lying around.” That guy put the generators in boxes and sent them to the airport. They were loaded onto a ValuJet DC-9 bound for the airline’s home base of Atlanta. At some point during takeoff or shortly thereafter, the generators fired and sparked a raging inferno that must have seemed like a literal incarnation of hell to the passengers and crew. The NTSB determined that the proximate cause of the crash was the unconscious – or dead – pilots’ slumping onto the control yokes, sending the plane into a nosedive.)

One of the guys who worked on the ValuJet disaster told me that the government disposed of hundreds if not thousands of bodies after Hurricane Andrew. Many such stories abound in the Miami area. (I’ve spent some time down there – lots of weird shit goes on.) It wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

Some of the salvaged components from Flight 401 were used in other Eastern L-1011s.

Over the next few years, there were numerous “ghost sightings” on planes that used those components. At one point, a flight attendant claimed to have seen the dead captain of Flight 401 telling her to check the oven in the galley – an oven that had been rescued from the wreckage in the Everglades. Supposedly the woman discovered that there was a short in the wiring and that the oven was about to burst into flames.

There was a book about the “ghosts” of 401.

* The Flying Circus (TV) is hit and miss, the hits being very funny and even the misses a bit unsettling, but I’ll grant that the misses far outweigh the hits. I’d say 25%/75% ration, which is ok for comedy. Some of the best skits from Flying Circus are redone nicely in the compilation movie Completely Different.

The movies? Still hold up wonderfully. Little dates them. The first time I saw them, I was laughing uncontrollably. To get into the specifics would be to write for pages. Even now I watch them and smile. And they hold up nicely. I’ve introduced kids who’ve grown up on South Park and John Stewart to Monty Python and almost all of them find the movies hilarious. There’s nothing small or smug about Monty Python.

In very broad strokes (ignoring the creative brilliance and collaboration of the Cambridge and Oxford educated members) two reasons why Monty Python is funny, why for that matter someone like George Frazier’s Flashman stuff is funny. They’re about something, beautiful fables of absurdity. There’s nothing navel gazing about it, the self-references are handled very deftly. Second, mechanics and execution. The British are fantastic impersonators, no one does it better, whether it’s accent, attitude, you name it. I think it has everything to do with traversing the stark class markers the British grow up with. It’s very important to know with whom you’re dealing and how to detect the genuine article from a fake. This capacity to be mentally quick on your feet–we Americans are hopeless. Just consider how awful our Congressional performances are compared to the British Parliament.

* Cavett and Allen. Wasp and Jewish.

Cavett was very funny, sharp, and witty.
But his waspy style of comedy was snip-snip. It worked like a pair of scissors. It kept things neat and trimmed.
Allen’s Jewish humor works more like a rope. It goes around and round ties different strands together and Allen puts himself in an impossible knot… and then he squirms out if it with zany-brilliant dexterity, like how Houdini roped or chained himself and then freed himself.

So, I think wasp humor tends to work in sparks and spurts whereas Jewish humor is more like a theory, worldview, or narrative. It’s fifty shades of humor than just a rib in the chest. So, the Jewish style of comedy tends to be memorable.

* The best British humor is ultra dry. Jewish humor can be very dry but it’s never quite as dry as British humor. Jews tend to be too expressive and extroverted in their comedy to be as dry as the Brits. They’ll be doing very dry stuff but there’s always a giveaway with loud exclamations, certain gestures and mannerism – it’s like a big wink to the audience. Larry David for example will be doing very dry comedy but will have that smart aleck look on his face the whole time acknowledging that it’s dry stuff. While the Brits seem to revel in maintaining the stiff upper lip.

German humor is not really humor as we understand it. Germans have no sense of irony and the idea of ordinary people or ordinary situations being funny is alien to them. To them, being funny means wearing a funny hat and saying silly things. It’s like you have to wear a funny hat or costume and behave and speak in exaggerated ways to be funny. That and screaming insults or falling down the stairs gives you an idea of what German humor is like.

* A measure of how funny Monty Python was is how much the guys from South Park copy them. A typical Monty Python sketch will start out “ordinary” (a meeting of a club … for putting things on top of other things, “This year we have put more things on top of other things than ever before!”) and then veer off into ridiculous stuff. “Gentlemen, I regret to inform you that we are surrounded by film!” Ending up with a ridiculous ending “If we are on film, someone must be filming us.”

The Njorl’s saga (where a commercial for business in North Malden keeps cropping up) and Tudor Jobs agency are classic, and form the basis for most South Park episodes, structurally. Something seems ordinary and just gets stupider and stupider in the most ridiculous fashion.

But comedy is hard work. It has basically, zero barriers to entry. It is the most darwninian of fields, and most Jews from the middle and upper class won’t go into Comedy unless they have basically failed at everything else or have a driving need to be funny. Comedy requires churning out joke after joke, or doing something weird (like the original South Park episode that took months to film and was a cult video tape passed around by Hollywood elites until the guys got their Comedy Central gig) and risky, or doing standup all around the country flying coach.

Compared to a nice safe, renumerative gig at some law firm or government office, comedy sucks. So as Jews move up to the Middle/Upper class, far fewer are going into comedy. Think, what was the last funny Jewish guy you ever saw? Seinfeld, maybe?

The meta joke about the Pythons is that they all turned into the characters they made fun of in their youth.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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