Rise Above the Noise
Remember Lisa Nowak? She's the 43 year old astronaut who drove from Houston to Orlando, (or Orlando to Houston? who remembers?) wearing diapers, and has since been charged with attempted murder and released on bail? Remember all the outrage? All the questions about NASA's psychological screening?
Well, if not for Anna Nicole Smith dying and Britney Spears shaving her head you might be hearing about her ad nauseum. You'd have heard every adult wearing diapers joke there is to tell.
If not for Anna Nicole Smith dying and Britney Spears shaving her head you might also have heard that 10 US Soldiers have been killed in Iraq since Monday.
If not for Anna Nicole Smith dying and Britney Spears shaving her head you might have heard that 10 US Soldiers were killed in Afghanistan this week. Eight of them in a helicopter that crashed after an unexplained loss of power.
If not for Anna Nicole Smith dying and Britney Spears shaving her head you might have heard that our number one ally, Great Britain, is getting ready to pull all of its troops out of Iraq. They've got (gasp!) a timetable (excuse my language, Mr. Bush). Denmark followed suit by announcing its withdrawal.
If not for Anna Nicole Smith dying and Britney Spears shaving her head you might have heard that the International Atomic Energy Agency released a report saying Iran has expanded its nuclear program since promising to freeze them and more sanctions and hightened tensions are on the way.
But Anna Nicole died and we don't know what to do with the body and who's gonna get custody of little Dani Lynn, poor little Dani Lynn, stuck in the Bahamas, who's watching poor little Dani Lynn in the Bahamas? Who's Dani Lynn's real father? Is it this guy, or this guy, or Howard Stern Not that Howard Stern, Howard K. Stern. Or it could be Zsa Zsa's husband Zsa Zsa Gibbor is still alive? BRITNEY SPEARS IS BALD! She shaved her own head!! And then got tattoos! And she's BALD!! Anna Nicole died, and her body is hanging out in a refrigerator somewhere while Judge Larry Seidlin, the silly, whiny nebbish from the Bronx, makes jokes and asks questions and compares her to a Shakespearean tragic figure. Britney's in rehab! And she's wearing a wig to cover the bald head, that's good What about her kids! Who has her kids? Oh, K-Fed has them, good, he'll take care of her kids. Anna Nicole's body is starting to decay, we might not be able to have a viewing Where should we bury her, judge? Britney left rehab and she showed up at K-Fed's in the middle of the night She's going crazy! Hey! Anna Nicole, still dead, still not buried, who gets the body? Judge Larry is so totally unorthodox, have you ever seen a judge like this? He's insane! He's nutty, he's inappropriate! A woman died, this is no time to joke around. Why's he talking about wearing tennis shorts? Britney's back in rehab. Good. Maybe third time's a charm. Judge Larry Seidlin is crying. Crying? What's the verdict? Can we bury her. I'm on the edge of my--
Enough is enough. This week is the week that causes 24 hour news and late night tv to have multiple simultaneous orgasms. The material just keeps on coming. It's like OJ and JonBenet and Tonya Harding all at once, all rolled into one. Everywhere you look, punchlines abound. It's so easy. It's so deliciously, incredibly, easy.
Which is why it needs to stop.
Enter Craig Ferguson. In an attack of conscience on Monday night, Ferguson, host of CBS' Late Late Show, changed his focus. "For me, comedy should have a certain amount of joy in it," he said. "It should be about attacking the powerful -- the politicians, the Trumps, the blowhards -- going after them. We shouldn't be attacking the vulnerable."
"I want to be able to be funny, but I want to be able to get some sleep...and people are falling apart! People are dying! That Anna Nicole Smith woman, she died! It's not a joke, you know, it stops being funny then. She's got a six month old kid, I mean, what the hell is that?"
And then he said this: "I think my aim's been off a bit lately. I want to change it a bit. So tonight, no Britney Spears jokes." He told no Britney Spears jokes, stayed away from the story and became a story himself. For rising above the noise.
We need more people like this out there. Not just late night comedians, but plenty of the people in my business, too. People who know the difference between news and voyeurism, between comedy and cruelty. There is more complex and exponentially more important news out there to report, and there are smarter and funnier jokes to be made. Enough is enough.