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I would add, though, that all of the movies you cite put the hip and cool heros in the position of powerless underdog. Essentially, hip and cool and knowing more are the only weapons they have against a system that is aligned against them. When they do get brief chances, they are then revealed as better in the system than those who run the system. Winning the golf round in CADDYSHACK; kicking the ass of the Russian Army in STRIPES; and "Senator Bluto Blutarsky".

That said, there is also an Ivy League sense that even these "outcasts" are only outsiders from the limited communities presented in the film. In fact, the amount class consciousness can almost be prefectly tracked in reverse order to the connection of a Murray brother. ANINAL HOUSE had none -- and was primarily written by Chris Miller (who had been an Alpha Delta Phi at Dartmouth) so there was basically no sense of class, just hierarchy. CADDYSHACK had huge class issues, between the working class caddies and the upper class schmucks -- and the nouveau riche Rodney Dangerfield character. STRIPES was somewhere in the middle.

Which, to me, fits the ongoing weirdness of radical republicasn presenting themselves as underdogs and outsiders. Because if you were brought up to think that the world divided itself into groups of "cool guys" and "dicks", who would want to be a dick? And since the dicks are always in charge, if you think of yourself as cool, you have to adopt an outsider guise.

(See also: Ann Coulter writing about being a Deadhead.)


Mo, excellent points. But these guys do think of themselves as outsiders. According to them, the world is run by Liberals.

And one of these days I'm going to get around to writing up my Animal House is a Republican movie post. But, quickly, Dean Wormer is the Liberal in that movie.

The Heretik

Some day trackbacks will work again at Typepad sites. But yeah, what you said. Someone will be laughing soon enough. And it probably won't be Dennis Miller.

Exiled in New Jersey

You hit on something there, Lance. In the past couple of weeks I fell upon 'Ghostbusters' for the first time since I took my daughter to see it way back in 1984. All your ingredients are there: the Bill Murray wink to let us know he is cool, the portrait of authority in the form of Wm. Atherton as a prig and with tones of homesexuality about him, Rick Moranis as this stupid white-collar working slob who happens to be an accountant. It's all there in spades, and Murray gets the girl in the end. Remember the ad campaign? 'Coming to save the world this summer." I laughed along with my eight-year old back then. I barely cracked a smile now. The only really genuine laugh came when Ackroyd told of his fear of the Pillsbury doughboy.

A couple of days later I rewatched the real genius of Albert Brooks in Lost in America. It came out the year after the Ivan Reitman blockbuster, and never really found a niche, but this is comedy that does not hurt, where we laugh at Brooks and Julie Hagerty being funny without knowing it, especially in the scene where Brooks tries to convince casino manager Garry Marshall to return the money wife Hagerty lost.

Just for the record, I think Murray made amends with Groundhog Day nine years later, along with Harold Ramis who directed.


Lance, I've told you this before so bear with me... when I went through the 2nd City (in Chicago proper), they always stressed playing to the level of your intelligence. Don't go for the easy *dick joke*. Also, do not assume you are too hip for the room. Assume your audience is right up there with you and will be able to grasp your comedic pearls of wisdom. The only time they said to go with dick jokes was if you were playing in the suburbs. They said the burbs were filled with frat boys who only wanted to hear dick jokes and didn't want to have to think for their laughs. Miller seems to have left his intelligence at home (as have all of the other right wing talking heads)and is now playing to a different crowd. His crowd wants the dick jokes and he is not disappointing.

No offense meant to the frat boys who play to their intelligence and no offense meant to the truly funny dick joke...

Shakespeare's Sister

He's never been much more than a smirk and a tone of voice.

Mmm, but what more there was, was predicated on a presumption of intelligence. Miller's riffs used to be rife with esoteric references and ten-dollar words. I can quite clearly remember his hosting a comedy show on HBO I saw when I was about 13, and going to my parents' encyclopedias to look up who "Menachem Begin" was, so I could get one of his jokes.

The saddest commentary on both Miller and his newfound audience is that now his best references are Bewitched, Rain Man, and Mary Kay.


When I was nursing my dad in Chicago, a few weeks ago, I happened to see television for the first time in years; it was definitely the first time in a few election cycles since I'd seen political commercials that were intended as real, not spoofs. The vitriol connecting a candidate as a "friend of Nancy's" or one who voted on the immigration bill "the same as Nancy" or that this person was "a Nancy Pelosi Wannabe" should have made me laugh. The voice-over was so overwrought with tones of impending doom, it must have been mimicking a horror movie unfamiliar to me. But the commercials did not make me laugh; the effort to foment such rabid hatred shocked me. The viciousness disturbed me.
That's what you get for not watching TV in this country: so innocent of the predatory outrage directed every day at anyone who might be different that your sensibility grows too rarefied to cope. The commercials that failed to make me laugh did not frighten me, but they did hurt me. Usually, I clicked the power off in tears.


I wonder if Miller remembers his old routines where he mocked southerners. "I just did a tour of the Deep South. Those people are anything but deep." And so on. Perhaps 9/11 changed that, too.

But, seriously, folks. I am jealous of Miller. Rather than settle into hosting cable awards shows and a steady stream of character parts in second-rate movies, he chose to become the conservative movement's official funny man. Smart guy. First, there's no competition for the job. Second, it's easy when you just have to insult people and don't even have to be as funny as Don Rickles. Third, working for conservatives is where the money's at. The guy is in his fifties. It's time to save for retirement. If someone came up to me and said we'll pay you, and all you have to do is have more charisma than Colmes, I mean, hey, sign me up, and I'll spin plates, too.

Miller started out doing a kid's show on local TV. I have a feeling that his knowledge of how to aim at half-developed intellects is going to help with this new gig. Fox viewers could finally get that complex separation of powers thing now that an experienced sock puppet man is around to explain it....

Mike Schilling

he chose to become the conservative movement's official funny man. Smart guy. First, there's no competition for the job.

What is P. J. O'Rourke up to these days, anyway?

Dennis Perrin

Hey Lance -- looking fwd to your "Animal House" critique. And as far as the National Lampoon's mean "elitist" tone goes, here's my reaction to a recent NY Times book review on that very topic, which includes a dissection of P.J. O'Rourke, stepfather to Dennis Miller, among others.

Ken Rasak

To me, the through-line from Chevy Chase to Dennis Miller is smug self-satisfaction. They don't need an external audience to appreciate their humor; their internal one gives them all of the validation they could ever need or want.


What? The 49ers' offensive line ISN'T gay? Then there has to be another explanation for the team's inability to run the ball or protect the quarterback.

matt christman

In the "we're cool, they drool" vein, there's a billboard off of the highway leading from Milwaukee to Waukesha county (the commuting route of choice for pissed off, middle aged white-flight douchebags) for the local right wing talk radio station: it shows a huge, stylized, star spangled elephant with its foot on top of an overturned, tiny donkey with the message: Don't be STUPID, Be Right!

And I will hear no more words against Ghostbusters.

blue girl

And I will hear no more words against Ghostbusters.

I'm with you Matt C. And if they keep it up, we're gonna have to slime 'em.

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