Borowitz Tells Upper West Side Liberals That We Are a Cross-Section of America
and We Believe Him
Well, not quite. But we wanted to, and we did enjoy being made fun of. Even more so, we enjoyed the now-classic Borowitz quips, the ones that he says people believed are real, such as this one from June 18, 2015, when he told us:
TRUMP SAYS HE HEROICALLY AVOIDED CAPTURE IN VIETNAM BY STAYING IN U.S.
Most of us can’t help but laugh at a Borowitz line, even if it makes us somewhat uncomfortable. There was that diversity thing last night. Borowitz asked by a show of hands who had voted for Hillary, and when we proved ourselves a 100% majority, he declared us an accurate representation of the American public. But there was more, of course, because he actually called us a cross-section of the American public, and last night, we weren’t. Not so much. We happened to be pretty homogeneous.
This is nothing new for Borowitz. He's been calling it as he sees it for years. Remember his 2013 report:
PEOPLE WHO CAN STILL AFFORD TO LIVE IN NEW YORK PRAISE BLOOMBERG
Borowitz is a white liberal making fun of other white liberals who have paid to hear him making fun of us.
It’s okay. We need this.
Borowitz as Paradigm Buster
So today’s paradigm buster is Andy Borowitz for the way that he uses fake news to help us think about the real news in a different light. He provides a different point of entry, or relief from straight news.
He is also so funny while doing this that he has busted certain journalism paradigms. tested the New Yorker writer profile , and won the first ever National Press Club Award for humor.
He may also be so irreverent as to have challenged the Selected Shorts paradigm at Symphony Space last night while serving as host for the evening's Selected Shorts program.
Selected Shorts Gone Wild
The program was titled “Behaving Badly with Andy Borowitz” and that it did. The four stories of political and professional misbehavior, each handpicked by Borowitz, were:
Yeltsin Dancing by Padgett Powell; performed by Arian Moayed
State Facts for the New Age by Amy Sauber; performed by Amy Ryan
Tough as Bob War and Other Stuff by Molly Ivins; performed by Judith Ivey
Invasion of the Martians by Robert Coover; performed by Richard Kind
Whether it’s a fictional Boris Yeltsin having a blast with the nuclear suitcase he kept from Putin, or a southern school teacher suffering a breakdown after a breakup with her boyfriend and unable to maintain a façade of decorum in the classroom, these people are behaving really badly, quite counter to what society would expect of them. Yet, we’re somehow amused as Powell’s Yeltsin shares his disgust with “the delicacy of Putin’s finger’s”and and fantasizes about a TV show about bad weather featuring himself, a dog, and the suitcase. Likewise, we’re shocked as Sauber’s school teacher’s breakdown plays out and her interior dialogue ranges from failed masturbation to a diatribe against even the best student in her class, referring to her as the “Bitch Queen.”
It’s satire, we have to remind ourselves when the stories are over. Just like when you finish reading a Borowitz headline.
In Tough as Bob War and Other Stuff, we’re treated to the ultimate satire on political campaigning, except at some points it starts to feel very real. Sure, it starts out extreme enough, with the lines:
We’ve just survived another political season largely unscathed. I voted for Bobby Locke for governor: he’s the one who challenged Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi to hand-to-hand combat. In the Gulf of us. On the Line of Death. At high noon. Next Fourth of July.
But then it becomes increasingly believable, and the lines between truth and fiction seem to blur. A politician afraid of getting AIDS through his feet? Not so far fetched. The false profundity of campaign stumping. Nerd vs. Jock stereotyping of candidates. It's the telling of it that is so captivating, beautifully parsed out by Ivers in the way the words flow one moment and then bounce off one another the next.
Invasion of the Martians may have pushed the most buttons, based as it is on the premise of a self-adoring senator from Texas, who loses his . . . member . . . to an invasion from Mars, and an attempted diplomatic mission gone wrong. The senator is already behaving badly when the story opens, in bed with both the Secretary of the Interior, whom he refers to as the Secretary of the Posterior, and an intern. It’s a story of loss without redemption, and reveals just how far we go in politics and how badly this senator will behave to regain his reputation (in the name of returning stability to the nation).
We hear way too much from this blowhard of a politician, about his missing member, and then his prosthesis throughout the story. We’ve become quite familiar with politicians talking about their, okay I'll say it, penises. Or about their penises being featured in the news. Maybe that’s what’s so exhausting about this character. He hits too close to home. We are tired of hearing about all of this. Of course, there is the possibility that the penis is a metaphor.
But still. Please. Stop.
Three of the most ridiculous pieces, funnier perhaps than even Borowitz himself could write were inserted into the program just before the final story was presented. Borowitz selected three apologies from political and prominent personalities. The excellently curated selection, performed by Arian Moayad consisted of:
Senator Larry Craig’s apology for “the cloud he placed over Idaho” after pleading guilty to sexual misconduct in an airport restroom
Mel Gibson’s apology after his 2006 arrest for drinking and driving in which he admitted to attempting to suppress inexplicable inner rage all his life, saying “I can murder inanimate objects. You should see me chocking the toaster in the morning.”
South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford’s 2009 apology about his extra-marital affair euphemistically referred to as “hiking the Appalachian Trail.”
Selected Shorts is always such a special evening because the stories are performed rather than simply read, and in this segment neither Moayad nor Borowitz could contain themselves, with Moayad having to calm himself every few lines, particularly when reading through Sanford’s apology, because of the sheer absurdity of it.
No apology needed there, Arian. All the actors did a fantastic job last night. It was a joy to see them and Borowitz in action. Clearly, they all shared a love of the written word and had the talent to bring these stories to life in the very nuanced way required of satire.
The Power of Words to Unite Us
There's so much to disappoint us these days, so much to fight against and work for, that it was refreshing to spend an evening focusing on the power of well-written words. Selected Shorts brings people together around well-told stories. This was true when Isaiah Sheffer was hosting and is true to this day. I'd say Borowitz shook things up a bit last night with some of his story choices and with his own freewheeling f-bombs, which still stand out but like satire are an effective tool for communication.
The audience would seem to agree, as laughter was constant throughout the evening; and Borowitz's Upper West Side fan base appears to cross age groups, old guard and emerging guard alike, consisting of young white people, middle-aged white people, and elderly white people. We were all glad to be there to rrepresent our cross-section of America and support the Roy Moore defense fund, as Borowitz had told us we would be at the beginning of the evening.