From Unfunny to Unfunnier

by Cara Lentz
File under: Fake Culture04 Apr 2013 8:46 EDT

We in 'Murica have always been 'specially challenged' when it comes to comedy TV, and unfortunately that isn't going to change anytime soon: 'Comedian' Jimmy Fallon will replace Jay Leno as the new host of the Tonight Show.

As if Jay Leno wasn't unfunny enough.  Leno was a major practitioner of 'comedy without object' — or of telling jokes that try not to actually make fun of anyone or anything (a hopeless contradiction). 

If his 'monologues' weren't deadened by a strange vagueness, there was his 'balanced' approach.  For every joke about Republicans, there had to be one about Democrats too, so that he didn't appear to 'take a position' or 'upset anyone.'  Trouble is, when you don't take a position, you remove yourself from everyday life — and become an alien.  TV is full of difficult compromises: I guess appearing inhuman is better than appearing offensive.

I can't completely blame him, though, because he didn't write his own jokes, and he didn't have much control over the production of his show.  He was basically a high-priced ventriolquist dummy.  The producers and writers pushed his buttons, and he moved around and spoke like a very lifelike entertainer.  It looks like comedy, so it must be.

Jimmy Fallon is, in a sense, progress: he actually looks like a ventriloquist dummy, possibly a relative of Jerry Mahoney.  So maybe now, with less ego in the host's chair, the writers and producers of the Tonight Show will be able to more purely express their wonderful vision.

But maybe that's too harsh.  Fallon isn't a wooden dummy.  He looks more like a Canadian kindergarten teacher.  That might explain the utter mediocrity demonstrated in his initial audition for Saturday Night Live, his first 'big break':

As you can see, certainly an exceptionally funny person.  And he proved this on his prior TV show by doing things like taking Justin Timberlake and Justin Bieber at face value, shamelessly helping Michelle Obama promote her dubious fitness campaign, including exploitation acts like Black Simon and Garfunkel, and repeatedly schlepping through his incredibly boring 'Pros & Cons' routine:

But in a culture where Rob Schneider and Adam Sandler still somehow have careers, he fits right in.  And the competition — from Jimmy Kimmel's show — will certainly be pretty tough.  Kimmel has all the charm of a Las Vegas bookmaker currently going through a bitter divorce.  But don't decry this kind of competition — it's as American as canned laughter.

The 'saddest' part is that TV just isn't relevant anymore.  All the hoopla and high emotion surrounding this 'changing of the guard' ultimately comes at the end of a long ride down.  While TV producers are struggling to get one million people to watch any one of their episodes, videos like Supercats: Volume 1 have already received 37 million views (with a budget of $0).  You know things are bad when you're being upstaged by domesticated animals.  But trained cats vs. ventriloquist dummies is a difficult choice...


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