May 4, 2014

How bad was Joel McHale, the (official) comedian at last night's White House Correspondents Dinner?

At last night's White House Correspondents Dinner, the official comedian — insert typical joke about how they're all comedians — was Joel McHale, whose comic gimmick seemed to be reading bad jokes off cards and then ad-libbing about how that was a poor joke. For example:
I am a big fan of President Obama. I think he’s one of the all-time great presidents, definitely in the top 50. Please explain that to Jessica Simpson. You’re right, that was low.
That came early on and was followed by what might have been his only rough treatment of Obama:
All right, how about the president’s performance tonight, everyone? Sir, it’s amazing that you can still bring it with fresh, hilarious material. My favorite bit of yours was when you said you would close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. That was a classic. That was hilarious, hilarious. Still going.
Detainee Obamedy. Obama laughed and laughed. I think he mouthed something like "I'm still workin' on it."
He moved on to Chris-Christie-is-fat material, again with the trope: These jokes are bad and I know it. It was almost a Neil Hamburger approach. I wanted to link to something I'd already written about Neil Hamburger so you'd understand what I mean, but the first thing I ran into was this:
"Is it just me, or is George Bush the worst President in the history of the United States?.... Which makes it all the harder to understand why his son, George W. Bush, is in fact the best president we’ve ever had."
Here's an old post that explains the Neil Hamburger approach. Oh, how I'd love to watch a White House Correspondents Dinner with Neil Hamburger as the comedian! But back to Joel McHale. McHale mostly took shots at Republicans:
To Republicans in attendance, E! is the channel that your deeply closeted gay son likes to watch. Democrats, it’s the same channel that your happy, openly gay son likes to watch. E! is also home to the Kardashians, who believe it or not, are Republicans. And I know that because they are always trying to screw black people. Now just the men!
This is funnier to me now than it seemed last night because I'm picturing it as Neil Hamburger humor, intentionally bad, with the comedian almost arguing with the audience.
I hope you all enjoyed your dinner. The filet tonight was grass-fed beef, freshly dragged off the Cliven Bundy ranch. The steaks are very tasty once you pull off the tiny white hoods. Oh see, you like Cliven Bundy? Okay I get it, all right great, all right let it be known, let the record show, all right.
Hmm. I'm seeing this in a new light. This would be great material if it were told by an irascible, repulsive old man. Unfortunately, McHale is a reasonably cute young guy who seemingly wants to be liked, and worse, the audience was liking him because he was taking shots at targets they don't like. If this show belongs on TV and not hidden away like a meeting of the Trilateral Commission, the shots should be taken at the powerful people who are sitting in the room. Don't make those complacent jerks comfortable. Entertain Us, The People, by making them squirm (at least).

Scrolling down in the text, there's this:
Hillary’s daughter Chelsea is pregnant which means in nine months we will officially have a sequel to “Bad Grandpa.” It also raises the question, when the baby is born do you give Bill Clinton a cigar? You guys sound like you’re on a roller coaster right now.
The last sentence is the seemingly ad-libbed reaction to the audience reacting to his offensive jokes. The part about "Bad Grandpa" assumes we know enough about a movie to know that he's not making a pedophilia joke about Bill Clinton. The part about the cigar — which assumes we know something too — is a genuinely inventive, genuinely offensive joke that hits someone the crowd in the room has been coddling over the last decade.
Jeb Bush says he’s thinking about running. Wow, another Bush might be in the White House. Is it already time for our every 10 years surprise party for Iraq? As it stands right now, the Republican presidential nominee will either be Jeb Bush, Rand Paul or a bag of flour with Ronald Reagan’s face drawn on it. Bag of flour! All right.
"Bag of flour! All right." was the acknowledgment that a joke had actually worked on the audience (and I laughed out loud at the bag-of-flour joke (come on, the GOP really does have a terrible problem coming up with a 2016 candidate)).
... Chris Christie is here. He is actually here, tonight. Wow, sir, you are a glutton … for punishment. 
That too is a good joke. Not because Christie is fat, but because: Why is Chris Christie there? Why would any governor attend? I see that Christie — along with Rick Perry — is there as a guest of CNN. (Blecch.) McHale says:
So, here we go. Chris Christie, his administration canceled the train tunnel to Manhattan, they’re closing the Pulaski Skyway and they blocked the George Washington Bridge. Finally, a politician willing to stand up to America’s commuters. Governor, do you want bridge jokes or size jokes? ’Cause I’ve got a bunch of both. I could go half and half. I know you like a combo platter. Now, I know, I get that. I am sorry for that joke, Governor Christie. I did not know I was going to tell it, but I take full responsibility for it. Whoever wrote it will be fired. But the buck stops here. So I will be a man and own up to it just as soon as I get to the bottom of how it happened because I was unaware it happened until just now. I am appointing a blue-ribbon commission of me to investigate the joke I just told. And if I find any wrongdoing on my part, I assure you I will be dealt with. I just looked into it. It turns out I am not responsible for it. Justice has been served. He is going to kill me.
That was McHale's most extended routine, and it was pretty good. Not good if your observation is that McHale is only going after Republicans, but what could you expect?

Okay, here's a real jab at Obama:
[Y]ou are healthy, which is great. Every year the White House doctor checks the president’s colon for polyps and George Clooney’s head. Yeah.
And there was:
And what’s our biggest concern as Americans? TV show spoilers. In other countries, a spoiler consists of, “Hey, I haven’t been back to the village yet, so don’t tell me who survived the drone strike. No spoilers!” Sorry about that one.
Bottom line: George Clooney's head. I mean: Chris Christie's ass. I mean: McHale was not that bad, and he did take 3 painful shots at Obama: 1. Guantanamo, 2. Hollywood's sucking up, 3. Drones.

I was complaining about it while watching it last night, however. I think that's because the smarmy, complacent faces of the media people in the audience were just so disgusting to me. I didn't want them to have any pleasure at all, so I was perversely rooting for McHale to be bad, and part of the way he was being good was with this (somewhat tired) gimmick of enacting the part of a bad comedian. In the clear light of morning, with just text and a fading memory, I'm seeing the good.

56 comments:

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

I think something like the White House Correspondents Dinner is what the shocked animals witnessed as they peered in the window at the end of Animal Farm.

St. George said...

Hard to imagine George Washington attending such a thing.

paminwi said...

Joel was fair to middling. The paper rattling was really annoying (maybe it was part of his stick) but after a few minutes I gave up on him.

He did a pre-show interview with Jake Tapper and said he was going to be 50/50 in his joke selection. Don't think that happened, I don't think I will live to see that day.

I just know I kept flipping back and forth from other things I was watching because I know I did not want to watch Obama and whatever crap he was going to spout.

betamax3000 said...

Belligerent Drunk Stand-up Comic says:

These young comics today, young comics (sips drink)... you know what my problem with young comics today? They can't even own up to their own jokes. If you're going to make a joke, own it, that's what I'm saying. Now -- if I make a joke about three hundred people dying in a plane crash I'm telling it because I think it's funny, I'm not gonna backtrack with a weasel smile and act like I'm shocked the words came out of my mouth. For instance: plane crash. 299 innocent people and one jackass who turned on his cellphone after being told not to -- zzzzzzzzzzBoom. Hey, look -- still three bars: I love this phone. Stop groaning, stop with the groaning...

(sips drink)

And the pop culture references, always pop culture. I don't give a damn about any Kardashian, don't give a damn. Unless I am banging her. (sips drink) Or him. Or them. Whatever -- I'm not really sure what a Kardashian actually is, I though it was a kind of sweater (sips drink), the kind that gives you herpes after you wear it once...

(sips drink)

And racism. Young comics today, heaven forbid they tell a racist joke that they don't blame on Republicans. You want a racist joke? Here's one: know why the black man crossed the road? (sips drink). To get away from the lynch mob, you f**king racists...

Thank you, you've been a peach, truly...

FleetUSA said...

This epitomizes why most of middle America does not like the MSM, D.C. and politicians.

Sam L. said...

Well, it IS the WHCD, and the WHCs are not known for much of anything these days. Spine, least of all.

Gahrie said...

Clearly Obama had better writers than McHale last night.

betamax3000 said...

Belligerent Drunk Stand-up Comic says:

I went to a baseball game the other day, exciting sport, exciting. The fans, they were into it. Every time the home pitcher threw a strike-out they hung a 'K' on a banner. Problem is, the pitcher only struck out three. Don't worry, I''ll wait for you to put it together (sips drink). Kind of embarrassing for the fans, sitting behind their 'KKK' banner for the remaining six innings. Black pitcher, too... (sips drink)

Now, the Ku Klux Klan: they have a bad rep, bad rep. Now I'm not defending them, but at least they are consistent. I mean, look at Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood: sounds like they kinda like babies, doesn't it? Then you realize that they are really the McDonald's of abortions, practically have a drive thru. Nope, no Happy Meals there, kids... stop groaning, you know it's true (sips drink)... The KKK, though: they hate black people, they don't hide it. Straightforward. They're pro-abortion, too -- for blacks, that is: common ground, common ground...

Thank you, you've been a peach, truly...

Bob Boyd said...

"I think that's because the smarmy, complacent faces of the media people in the audience were just so disgusting to me."

I love that line.
If you want to see what our meritocracy looks like, there it is.

Chance said...

I guess not everybody can be Colbert.

Heyooyeh said...

He was so bad that those famous Kings of Comedy -- right Wong conservatives -- didn't like him. Meaning he was probably pretty funny.

People who think Sarah Palin "lamestream media" zingers and Dennis Miller "hey babes" are exemplars of comedy shouldn't criticize comedy.

MPH said...

Here is a recent telling of the great Neil Hamburger George Bush joke in front of a rowdy crowd.

http://youtu.be/jZNHkmFDBfI?t=2m3s

MathMom said...

Well, from this post about the humor, I'd say it doesn't stand re-telling. I'd say the humor doesn't sound funny to me at all, and now that I've read this account, my urge (tiny) to watch this train wreck has been completely snuffed. It didn't sound funny, at all, and in fact it just sounded mean. To Republicans. It's ok to be mean to Republicans.

chillblaine said...

I would tune in to see him roasted by someone like Don Rickles. There is so much material! Start with his ears, then talk about the mom jeans and the dorky bicycle helmet. And then move on to the real funny stuff, like hundreds of thousands of dead Syrians, without so much as a single cruise missile dropped on one of Assad's palaces.

There's a reason that the dinner is on CSPAN. It would lose to Bob's Burger's reruns on any other network.

Saint Croix said...

I think he’s one of the all-time great presidents, definitely in the top 50.

I would put him in the top 44!

rhhardin said...

The campaign to dis-invite Condoleeza Rice from the Rutgers commencement and the pointless extravaganza of the White House Correspondent’s Dinner both underscore how, despite pretensions to being a society of youthful cool, the prevailing orthodoxy is really about as young as a roomful of NBA players owned by Donald Sterling. No it’s worse than that. What passes for elite youth culture today is simply [a] variety of Western Maoism.

Belmont Club

Saint Croix said...

I take full responsibility for it. Whoever wrote it will be fired.

I see this as an Obama joke, referencing Obamacare and the blame firing of Sebelius.

But the buck stops here. So I will be a man and own up to it just as soon as I get to the bottom of how it happened because I was unaware it happened until just now.

Obama had no idea of Obamacare website. Obama had no idea of Benghazi. Obama had no idea of the IRS targeting conservatives. "I just heard about it on the news."

I am appointing a blue-ribbon commission of me to investigate the joke I just told. And if I find any wrongdoing on my part, I assure you I will be dealt with.

Obama investigates the IRS scandal.

I just looked into it. It turns out I am not responsible for it.

Maybe this is all Christie-humor, but it easily applies to Obama, too. It seems to me a largely non-partisan point about how any politician reacts to a scandal.

Saint Croix said...

Also, you can tell Christie jokes all day, he's not a Republican. RINO jokes, Obama jokes, and scandal jokes? Tea party for the win.

Michael said...

These things used to be semi-OK. I actually went to one back in the early Clinton (late GHWB?) when I worked for one of the networks and someone wanted to get on my good side. They were real nerd proms then - much lower key and really about the WH and the Press Corps. Now it's all about pre-parties and post-parties and celebrity invites. Yet another case of how power and money corrupt small-r republican virtue.

Hagar said...

Raunch is embarrassing, not funny, and has no place at an official function with the president in attendance.

Drago said...

Heyooyeh: " Meaning he was probably pretty funny."

LOL

"probably"

"pretty funny"

Now that's a powerful, unqualified endorsement right there.

In the same way that obama has been "probably" "pretty effective" in getting America on track!

Except for the record number of Americans out of the work force.

But hey, Sarah Palin and Dennis Miller or something.

betamax3000 said...

Belligerent Drunk Stand-up Comic says:

Fat jokes: can never have enough fat jokes. Add a Wal-Mart reference and you're two-thirds of the way to comedy gold, people. Only problem is that today everyone is fat -- I've found through experience on many a comedy stage that fat jokes nowadays make for an uncomfortable audience -- the sound of one-hundred people, all sucking in their guts at once... (sips drink)

I had a friend who was incredibly thin once, like a twig, but then he kicked cancer. Stop groaning, just stop (sips drink). Now he is as fat as everyone else, probably can't pass the penis test. You know the penis test? You stand naked and look down: if you can't see your penis you're too fat. Me, I've got a gut as you can see, but I can still pass the test with flying colors: I'll let you figure that one out...

(sips drink)

Women, don't feel excluded, there's a test for you too. If you look down and can see your belly sticking out beneath your breasts you're too fat, too fat. Tough for the flat-chested girls though, tough on them... (sips drink)

Me, I like the flat-chested girls, love them: when you have one in bed it's like being sixteen again (sips drink), but now you can afford better beer...

Thank you, you've been a peach, truly...

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

They should hire Betamax for next year.

MayBee said...

I can't get on board the Republicans-are-having-a-hard-time-finding-2016-candidates train.
There are sooo many good GOP governors and other prospects. We just have to live in a media-created world where Hillary Clinton is superfantastic and the GOP sucks. But Hillary isn't that great. And who is there if she doesn't run? And the last candidate the GOP ran was an amazing man the media had to puncture.

Of course, we are only talking about this now, two years out, because Obama is such a disappointment to everyone.

MayBee said...

And it is gross to watch the media- the people who are supposed to play such an important role the founders put their amendment FIRST!- fawning in over the celebrities who are fawning over the politicians who are fawning over themselves, and who are all denigrating those with less power.

Ick Ick Ick.

alan markus said...

Heyooyeh said...
People who think Sarah Palin "lamestream media" zingers and Dennis Miller "hey babes" are exemplars of comedy shouldn't criticize comedy.

Provide examples, please, with links to support your deep,insightful,well-articulated comments? The part where you so profoundly opine that those who are critical of the comedy consider Dennis Miller & Sarah Palin to be exemplars of comedy. Start with the blog hostess, Ann, for your examples. FYI, in case you are a newbie troll-wannabe at this site, Ann could chew you up and spit you out faster than shit comes out of a goose.

And speaking of shit, an exemplar of comedy would be Obama shitting his pants if Sarah Palin had gotten up on stage to make a few zingers.

Curious George said...

"Chance said...
I guess not everybody can be Colbert."

Colbert is a fucking pig.

Bruce Hayden said...

I will say this about McHale - he has the one "comedy" show that I do on occasion watch -
The Soup, where he pokes fun at the week on TV. Reality shows, soap operas, and the Kardashians are esp. funny targets. The problem there, I think, are the gags, which really aren't usually that funny. Maybe I am too old. What is funny are the selection of video clips, and his commentary about them. Which means, I think, that he has found his comedic niche, and it isn't stand up.

-Peder said...

Joel Mchale is very, very good on The Soup. The schtick there is to keep pointing out how awful the celebrity culture is. He does this with seeming glee and wickedness and I recommend tuning in to see it. This glee almost always fails though when there is a guest. I think Mchale has trouble keeping up nasty humor when the target is actually there. I wonder if he would have been better if he had pre-recorded his bit or preformed via satellite.

chillblaine said...

The drone joke displayed genuine pathos. But it can be described as criticism from the left, and as such will not earn Joel a fatwa from our progressive clerics. Heaven forbid they unleash the liberal jihadi on him and blow up his twitter timeline.

The future does not belong to those who insult the prophet.

richard mcenroe said...

I don't like the man, but Christie IS making it harder for New Yorkers to get to New Jersey. How is that a bad thing for his state?

richard mcenroe said...

Heyooyeh So you didn't watch it either, didn't check out the clips online, but your sheer native cool lets you judge our taste in comedy.

Spoken like a true Democrat.

Of 1924.

MadisonMan said...

WHCs are just soooo cool. Man, I really wish I could sit at their lunch table. But I'm stuck over here with the CompSci nerds who are actually doing something in High School.

Drago said...

alan markus: "Provide examples, please, with links to support your deep,insightful,well-articulated comments?"

Heyooyeh has not links which demonstrate his assertion.

He simply realizes it's important to take the focus off his earth-bound messiah: obama.

Drago said...

Sometimes I am tempted to take betamax3000's material to an open mike night somewhere where I know the folks haven't heard anything like it.

But then, how much would I owe Betamax3000?

Titus said...

I thought he was pretty good. I never heard of him before and I would do him.

I enjoyed the Fox New Old People piece, Nancy Pelosi Facelift part and Kardashian Republican Screwing Black People as well as the E gay republican/democrat piece.

Why aren't there any funny republicans? They always bitch about demos being humorless but come on-get a fucking comedian or something in the media, other then Fat Gasbag, who is hideous looking hypocrite-which is a major game changer-they need to be at least somewhat attractive.

You all think Jonah Fatberg and that Irish thing are the cats meow but they are just stupid and ugly and fat-natch.

tits.

Jupiter said...

Ummm, what's with the Jessica Simpson reference? Is she supposed to have difficulty understanding things? Someone toss me a clue.

Beldar said...

I disagree with Prof. Althouse's parenthetical assertion that "the GOP really does have a terrible problem coming up with a 2016 candidate." I can identify several entirely plausible GOP candidates, and the GOP has a deeper bench with credible and relevant experience (especially when it comes to those with experience in state government).

The Dems have Hillary, then Biden. And the quality and plausibility plummet after that. The best that can be said for either of them, in fact, is that they both lost convincingly to Obama in 2008.

richlb said...

I think Colbert killed it the year he hosted. He was downright brutal to the President in a "did that just happen?" kind of way. It's what EVERY comedian should do. Skewer. Roast. Stick it to the man. But nah, not with Obama. Even the ones that are told about Obama come with that "sorry" added at the end. Please, but a Republican back in office so we can get funnier jokes!

Bruce Hayden said...

Why aren't there any funny republicans?

I think that one reason is that they are not as mean spirited. I think that humor often needs a little bite to make it funny, and that requires maybe some mean spiritedness.

The other thing is that the people who determine, for the country, what is funny, and what is not, are almost all loyal Democrats. Reps. Pelosi and Blabbermouth-Shultz have long been a staple of humor on the right. The former, partially because she is a dumb as a rock, and the latter because she will say anything she can to defend her party as the DNC chair. And, not do it very well.

If it were politically acceptable, President Obama, Hillary!, et al., would be endlessly humorous as the targets of comedic attack. Obama is as thin skinned as it comes, and almost completely humor-impaired, esp. when it comes to himself. Moreover, he presides over the most corrupt Administration in our lifetimes. All, being too busy playing basketball and hanging around celebrities to be bothered with performing his duties running the vast federal government. And, Hillary! is an extremely corrupt old woman with elephant legs, who will do anything to keep and maintain power, or at least the revenue flowing from peddling her family's influence. But, of course, poking good clean humor at either is beyond the pale of civilized society.

There are plenty of other great Dem targets - many of the members of the CBC, Feinstein made a fool of by Sen. Cruz over gun control (and also, all the federal and state money going to her husband's company - which makes Harry Reid look like an amateur). Oh, I forgot Harry Reid, increasingly vindicative and rapidly approaching Slo Joe Biden territory when it comes to reality.

But, I can be vindicative, because I am not a comic trying to make it in an environment almost completely controlled by the left, or a Republican politician, who, apparently, has to be "nice" to be acceptable by society.

eric said...

I too thought the joke on Christie was meant for Obama.

I wonder if he wrote it for Obama and then thought it would be funny to pretend like it was about Christie. It's hard to hear him saying all that and not think he's talking about Obama.

AJ Lynch said...

"No funny Republicans?"

That is B.S.

How about Dennis Miller or any regular guest on Greg Gutfeld's Red Eye or Gutfeld himself?

gk1 said...

They should have used Neil Hamburger. His delivery would have been 10 times better.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YrJ4VaEdAQ

Saint Croix said...

You know who would do an awesome roast of Obama? Dennis Miller.

I would buy a ticket to that.

Diamondhead said...

"He was so bad that those famous Kings of Comedy -- right Wong conservatives -- didn't like him. Meaning he was probably pretty funny."

Yes, the perennially outraged left, with its trigger warnings and microaggressions, has a finely developed sense of humor.

pupu platter said...

Clowns upstage comedians like Jack Hannah on Johnny Carson & Jay Leno.

Clowns upstage comedians hands down.

No comedian alive upstages a Clown hands down, thumbs up!

Do you believe in miracles...and I hope ya do! You'll always have Obama Clowns with a BIG Red nose and floppy Red shoes.

somefeller said...

"No funny Republicans?" That is B.S. How about Dennis Miller or any regular guest on Greg Gutfeld's Red Eye or Gutfeld himself?

And once again, AJ Lynch proves the point of an adversary. Another hardy perennial.

traditionalguy said...

I love that Stephen Colbert is under contract as the replacement for Letterman Late Night.

That coven of Correspondents and their political partners will not put up with Colbert's wit.

Titus said...

Dennis Miller....sigh.

vicari valdez said...

user: St. George said...
Hard to imagine George Washington attending such a thing.

me too. especially if he were to arrive in a limousine or airplane.

victoria said...

I thought he was horrible. I think, from other things i've seen, that he is very funny. Just not there.

Greg Gutfield funny? Please, i have watched both "Red eye" and "the five" and I think he is the most un-funny person on the show. He is smug, arrogant and thinks that everything that comes out of his mouth is hilarious, which it is not.

At least Dennis Miller was once a successful comedian.

Vicki from Pasadena

The Roller said...

Unlike this arse kisser, Don Imus and or Norm MacDonald were actually funny when they were headlining that insider din din.

Check Youtube for the replays.

AJ Lynch said...


The three far left libtards, Titus & Somefeller & Pasadena Vicky, disagree with my suggested funnier emcees. I am shocked.

Drago said...

victoria: " He is smug, arrogant and thinks that everything that comes out of his mouth is hilarious, which it is not.

Are you speaking about Gutfield or obama?

john marzan said...

althouse:(come on, the GOP really does have a terrible problem coming up with a 2016 candidate)

and scott walker is not a good GOP candidate against hillary.

if dems are willing to go back in time to select hillary, why not rudy giuliani for the GOP, if you are serious about foreign policy, wants lower taxes and regulations, and not that bothered by gay marriage.

Matthew Sablan said...

Speaking truth to power, but not the MOST powerful. You wouldn't want to make them angry.