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David Poland

By David Poland

Fear & Loathing In The Critics Chair

It’s funny (Not really.) When I saw that Stephen Hunter of The Washington Post was writing on

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54 Responses to “Fear & Loathing In The Critics Chair”

  1. MASON says:

    I don’t always agree with Hunter the critic, but I will say this about the guy: he is a fantastic writer. Unlike 99 percent of the critics out there, he is an artist in his own right — he churns out a novel a year and many of them are very good. I always enjoy reading his reviews — even when I disagree with him wholeheartedly.

  2. BluStealer says:

    If comics weren’t losers they wouldn’t be half as funny. There nerd qualities make them funny. How many good looking cool guys are funny? 2%?

  3. The Premadator says:

    Dave Chappelle is a great example of the self-loathing comic. When he hit it mega big last year his lifelong masochism collided with his success. The result was a professional breakdown.
    I’ve been to a few open mic nights here in LA (“the comic orchard,” so to speak) and let me tell you, “loser” is the kind word. These people can be scary. Even Chris Rock’s new TV show is based on the idea of him being a childhood loser.
    So yeah, comedy in it’s purest form is quite sad.

  4. Terence D says:

    Another critic who is perched high up in his Ivory Tower. Can’t understand why some people enjoy humor. Life must be hard for guys like Hunter who can’t find the joy.

  5. MASON says:

    Hey, at least he also makes a living creating art instead of just tearing it apart.

  6. LesterFreed says:

    I can’t stand some critics. They’ll attack everything under the sun. What do some of them like? Weird French films in black and white? Who cares what these people think.

  7. bicycle bob says:

    one thing thats tough to do is critique comedy and humor. the blanket statement of their all losers is funny though.

  8. Mark Ziegler says:

    No one wants to see a comedian happy. Then they wouldn’t be funny.

  9. Skyblade says:

    As a comic, I find it funny a film critic, of all people, is looking down at us as mysanthropes with a bizarre love/hate relationship with the masses.

  10. joefitz84 says:

    I think all comics are getting a big kick out of this article.
    It is like the Schneider/Ebert thing. Rob S is laughing everytime he thinks about his dough from all these movies that Ebert has had to sit thru.

  11. grandcosmo says:

    I don’t see what the big deal is at all. Hunter isn’t saying anything that real comedians wouldn’t also admit. I think it is actually conventional wisdom. Read any biography of a great comedian, their outsider status is what gives them their unique perspectives on life. How many standup comics were prom kings or captains of the football team? Do you think Bill Maher was getting laid in high school?

  12. Chester says:

    It’s very obvious going through this thread so far that:
    a) Very few people who have posted here have actually seen “The Aristocrats.”
    b) Very few people who have posted here actually bothered to read the linked article by Stephen Hunter. Instead, as usual, they are just jumping aboard the David Poland-led bandwagon.
    IMHO “The Aristocrats” is an especially disturbing movie, and I found Hunter’s article right on target. The central joke around which the movie revolves is, by the admission of every single person on camera, not the least bit funny. Therefore, what makes or breaks each rendition of the joke is the context and delivery by each comedian him/herself. As such, the movie often serves as a documentary about comedians and the comedic mind. Sadly, it is also often a study in reckless irresponsibility, and it is not for the faint-hearted.
    I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most of the renditions of the joke in “The Aristocrats” would surpass most people’s definitions of child pornography. True, we don’t actually see any young children having sex, but for two hours we sure hear about it a lot. If someone drew or painted an explicit picture of children engaged in grotesque acts of sex and sometimes rape, how many people here would say that is not a form of child pornography? Assuming it is, then how is creating visual images through words any different – especially when those images are being created JUST FOR LAUGHS?
    Don’t let the many positive reviews fool you. When I saw the film, several women in the theatre were crying (and no, they were not tears of laughter). Just like many here felt about the plot of the over-excused “Hustle and Flow,” the ends do not necessarily justify the means. It is not “just a movie.” Consequently, I for one applaud Hunter for having the guts to stick his neck out and say that most of those associated with “The Aristocrats” have a lot to answer for.

  13. PandaBear says:

    Thanks for your insight, Jefster. I guess you think comics are losers too.

  14. lazarus says:

    Good call, Chester. I’d be surprised if everyone here had read that article, let alone been familiar with Mr. Hunter’s work before passing judgement. Hunter is far from some bitter curmudgeon. The reason he won the PULITZER is because he is an extremely thoughtful AND entertaining writer. He isn’t all about highbrow, indie, foreign, whatever. He wrote one of the most enthusiastic (and analytical) reviews of Revenge of the Sith this year, and you’re more than welcome to read his work at the Washington Post’s website.
    If you don’t take the time to know who you’re labelling, you look like an idiot.

  15. HenryHill says:

    This is off topic, but I just saw something online about an upcoming Tom Cruise article in Radar magazine, It apparently it’s going to be a major cover story on Cruise and his relationship with Scientology. Is this the “Big” story Dave was getting everyone so worked up about last week? Just wondering.

  16. PastePotPete says:

    “As a comic, I find it funny a film critic, of all people, is looking down at us as mysanthropes with a bizarre love/hate relationship with the masses.”
    So you’re saying you’re *not* a misanthrope Sky? Bizarro say you am.

  17. jeffmcm says:

    Chester: So the makers and ‘stars’ of The Aristocrats have a lot to answer for: what did they do aside from making a couple of women cry, who shouldn’t have been there in the first place? Is there something deeper that you find offensive about a movie that consists of pure, fictional talk?

  18. Chester says:

    “Is there something deeper that you find offensive about a movie that consists of pure, fictional talk?”
    Jeff, please read the entire paragraph I devoted to why I believe many people would consider so much of the content of the film to be child pornography. If you don’t understand why graphically explicit jokes about babies getting raped are disturbing and irresponsible, then you probably belong on a community watch list, not a blog.

  19. jeffmcm says:

    Sorry, sign me up, because I _don’t_ find jokes about baby-rape disturbing or irresponsible. Find me some statistics about how many crimes have launched by stand-up comics. I consider it perfectly suitable entertainment for adults.
    How do you know when a baby is dead? The dog plays with it more.

  20. jeffmcm says:

    There’s also a big difference between comic entertainment and pornography. One gets people off. The other doesn’t.

  21. Chester says:

    Y’know, Jeff, all I’m going to say is that I have no doubt that at some point in your life those recklessly juvenile comments will come back to haunt you.

  22. PastePotPete says:

    Burn her!
    I mean him.

  23. Eldrick says:

    Yeah, I find the whole “black thing” controversy stupid beyond belief. These left wing nutjobs need to get a life. Most black people couldnt care less if there are enough black people in The Aristocrats, a crappy film with some unfunny comedians by the way.

  24. bicycle bob says:

    the thing about this movie is that it should have been on hbo or cable. because theres a reason most comics don’t get on the big screen. its like a train wreck of weird looking people.

  25. Bruce says:

    Hunter gave way too much time and way too much thought to this thing. I don’t think anyone gave it this much time. I can barely find an article on it at MCN.

  26. LesterFreed says:

    As a black man I haven’t even heard of this movie. Too many of us were out seeing Four Brothers to care about the lack of black comedians in a movie about a joke. We all know that the black comedians aren’t respected. It’s common knowledge.

  27. MASON says:

    There’s a lot of envy and jealousy in the world of critics — how many other critics out there have the resume of Hunter? He doesn’t have to slag on people or praise people for a living — he is the rare critic who is also an artist.

  28. BluStealer says:

    You keep saying he is an artist. What has he done? I never really heard of him.

  29. David Poland says:

    Wow… lots of Stephen Hunter love out there.
    I did read the piece as bitter, even if comics are more often than not endlessly self-loathing. So are most film critics I know. The marriage of that kind of arrogance and self-hatred only tends to manifest itself in certain jobs. Besides these two, I would say Congressman and french waiter. (ha ha)
    Equally amusing is the idea that Hunter deserves praise for smacking the comics in the guise of protecting children, which he never does in this piece. In fact, if you read the piece, he points out “What you see here isn’t so much sexual neurosis but career neurosis.” He never once says that the joke is obscene or a danger to children.
    As I wrote in 20 Weeks today, this thinking that everything is able to be summed up to fit, say, red or blue states, is the start of fascism, on whatever side of the aisle you live, whatever job, whatever blog. And when a Pulitzer Prize winner indulges in it, giving it a patina of seriousness… very depressing.

  30. BluStealer says:

    Everyone thinks every story fits in a nice, tight little marketable package. Now I’m going to have to see this movie for myself.

  31. MASON says:

    Hunter is a prolific and very talented novelist.

  32. bicycle bob says:

    hes written some good books. especially like dirty white boys and point of impact.

  33. Chester says:

    Dave, your reading and misdirection skills continue to be as lousy as those of your homeboys. No one here ever said “Hunter deserves praise for smacking the comics in the guise of protecting children.” None of the comments I posted above about the debatable child pornography issues were ever attributed back to Hunter. Those issues were completely separate and my own, not his.
    If you couldn’t see the pathetic, neurotic, self-loathing, “anything for a cheap laugh” sweaty desperation openly on display in the “Aristocrats” performances by Bob Saget, Taylor Negron, Howie Mandel and others, don’t go blaming Hunter for pointing it out. And if you find the tone of Hunter’s article to be particularly bitter, maybe it’s simply because Hunter, like many people I’ve spoken to, found that watching the movie was an unexpectedly sour experience.
    In a nutshell, you’ve taken the typical overindulged smart-ass’ position to Hunter’s piece, which is basically, “Where does this guy get off criticizing these people? A performer’s right to violate and offend is a fundamental one without limits … but I’ll be damned if the audience ever has the right to express how violated and offended they feel.”
    Finally, this is not red state vs. blue state or the start of fascism, as you so conveniently and simple-mindedly packaged it. It’s actually quite the opposite. It’s about objective common sense and civil trust. It’s about core values that cross every demographic, religious, regional and political line. It’s about understanding that adulthood is not just an opportunity to get away with all the moronic behavior that would have gotten you automatically suspended from high school. Just like many of us blue-staters believe we don’t need or want religions to dictate what is objectively necessary for a civilized society, we also trust that people will have developed the common sense and minimal decency to realize when their public conduct crosses the line. To deny that such fundamental, objectively valid lines exist is to deny any notion of developed civilization. And if we haven’t evolved to the point where endless repetitive jokes about sodomized babies can be considered an objective evil, then I’m afraid we are indeed doomed to fall prey to the fascistic whims of those we fear the most.

  34. Mark Ziegler says:

    Isn’t there anything more boring than a Chester posting bashing something Dave did wrong? I can abrely get thru the opening paragraph on his rants. It is that bad.

  35. Chester says:

    Thanks, Mark, for at least giving us the thrill of seeing you state in print that Dave did something wrong. That’s a first-ever from you. I guess your brown nose had to come up for air at some point.
    As for the rest of what you said, there’s really no need for you to re-state the obvious. We all know by now that you can’t read past anyone’s first paragraph.

  36. Mark Ziegler says:

    Really, give it a rest. No one cares why and how much you hate Dave Poland. We really don’t. We’re all just tired of your crap and your negativity. At least I am. Do yo ever have any positive to say or are you just focused on what Dave does wrong? Your schtick is getting really boring.

  37. PandaBear says:

    Jefster is back!

  38. jeffmcm says:

    Chester, you and I probably agree on many more political subjects than most others on this blog, but on this issue I think you’re taking a very uptight and puritanical stance. I’m sorry you didn’t like the movie, you have that right, but I think there are many things contributing more to the decline of civilization than a bunch of raunchy stand-ups.

  39. jeffmcm says:

    Chester: I hadn’t noticed before that you called me “recklessly juvenile”. Drinking under 21 is juvenile. Drinking and driving nder 21 is reckless. Speech isn’t.

  40. Krazy Eyes says:

    I get the feeling Chester finds any thought that doesn’t completely agree with him as “recklessly juvenile.” You either agree with him or he’d prefer you just keep quiet.
    He does have some good points every once in a while. It’s just hard to see them through the bile.

  41. Chester says:

    So then, Jeff, according to you, drinking and driving OVER 21 is not reckless. After all, you make it very clear in your particularly qualified statements that you believe nothing done by someone over 21 could be considered reckless. Or juvenile.
    Wow. Maybe that should be Michael Jackson’s entire legal defense next time around the block.
    Meanwhile, Jeff, I’m guessing by your non-specific comments that you haven’t actually seen “The Aristocrats.” I also think it’s safe to presume that you don’t have children of your own. Needless to say, all of that is unquestionably fine – you’re entitled to disagree with me solely based on the principles. I just think it’s possible that you may re-evaluate those principles once you see this movie. Or not. But I’m fairly sure your principles would change if you ever become a responsible parent. I have rarely seen it fail.

  42. Richard Nash says:

    You can’t see good points when everything he posts is filler, crap, and antagonistic. No one who is civilized wants to deal with someone like that. We don’t come here to listen to things of that sort. We come for good movie discussion. Not to here one bad apple bitch and moan. Pardon my french.
    As soon as I see the name “Chester” I know what the post will be about. It will be attacking David Poland or some poster here because that is what he does.
    I suggest you do what i do now. Ignore him.

  43. jeffmcm says:

    Chester, good job in twisting my language. Have you beaten your wife lately?
    I do not have children but I have seen the movie, which I found very entertaining. I would not take children to this movie (or to a comedy club). No disagreement there. You, however, seem to find the movie more deeply disturbing. Would you be in favor of banning it? And by extension, banning all stand-up comedy? If not, I don’t know what your problem is.

  44. Stella's Boy says:

    Just because you disagree with someone, that does not make all of their posts “antagonistic crap.” What I see over and over again here is certain people calling Chester names and attacking him, while never actually contributing to the discussion at hand, which at least Chester does. Those are the posts that should be ignored. Why not debate him on the topic at hand, rather than simply say, “He’s stupid. Ignore him and he’ll go away.” Pick apart his arguments if you don’t agree with him. But how is it contructive to just continually bash him while offering up nothing substantive of your own?

  45. Chester says:

    Thanks a million, SB!
    Jeff, where did I twist your language? Go back and read it. Your language, which completely focuses on under-21 behavior, speaks for itself, as does your blanket conclusion that speech can never be recklessly juvenile. Speaking of which, tell me, if a 35-year-old man thought it would be fun to yell “FIRE!” just for kicks in a crowded theatre, wouldn’t that qualify as recklessly juvenile speech (among other things)? (Take any First Amendment course if you doubt that yelling “FIRE!” qualifies as a serious free-speech issue.)
    I have never suggested that “The Aristocrats” should be banned, Jeff, nor would I. But that doesn’t mean that I am not entitled to protest material that I find so deeply offensive. My issue is not at all about whether or not children should be allowed to see this movie. (Why even bring that into the discussion?) It’s about recognizing that once in a while something comes along that is so depraved and dehumanizing that its very existence and motives cannot be easily shrugged off.
    If you disagree, fine. Make your case. As for those of you who won’t or can’t make a case, then stop making this about me personally. If you want to attack me within the context of a serious discussion, go ahead and take your best shot. But if you have nothing of substance to say, then do us all a favor and keep it to yourselves.

  46. jeffmcm says:

    You did twist my language. I said certain behaviors were juvenile or reckless. I never said these were meant to be inclusive. Your words, not mine.
    I don’t have a problem with your protesting anything. But I think your time and energy would be better spent criticizing truly harmful speech, for example (to open a can of worms) when a national public figure advocates the murder of a democratically elected head of state. Where’s your outrage for that?
    I know how Dave P. feels. Arguing with you is tiresome.

  47. jeffmcm says:

    The above word should be ‘exclusive’, not ‘inclusive’. Sorry.

  48. Skyblade says:

    “Good call, Chester. I’d be surprised if everyone here had read that article, let alone been familiar with Mr. Hunter’s work before passing judgement.”
    I was familiar with the guy’s work. He gives so much thought into his reviews, he can’t even be bothered to get some of the characters’ names right.
    It’s not really a matter of hurt feelings, so much as annoyance with someone who’s not in much of a position to say it. I’ve said worse things about the people in my profession. And really, if it was anyone other than a critic who’s work I haven’t cared for, I’d probably still be able to take it in stride. (Though once again, if there’s anyone who shares the traits Hunter accuses us of, it’s film critics)
    Maybe the movie is so amazingly vile its release is troublesome. Hunter’s point wasn’t “It’s a shame stuff like this gets made” so much as “Only a certain type could be capable of making it”. It seems like he’s trying to start a turf war between very dorky archetypes where neither side is likely going to be rooted for in the public.

  49. joefitz84 says:

    A week can’t go by without Chester/Jefster/Stella starting something. Usually over nothing. He must get bored a lot.
    If you’re going to start something at least have the sense to actually make sense.

  50. David Poland says:

    I just keep saying the same thing… if you disagree with something… if you feel strongly about something… express it.
    But there is no reason to attack others with whom you disagree.
    As soon as the discussion becomes about why the other person is wrong and not why your position is right, it is no longer a real conversation on the topic, but a series of attacks and defenses, which are in most cases quite boring.
    If someone thinks there is something wrong with a movie, so be it. But with some people, it is inevitably couched in “Someone is an idiot because they think this… and here is why.” And then, they argue that they were on point. Well, sorry… the attack makes anything said after it utterly irrelevant.
    People who have to shout louder to be heard usually have nothing much to say. Command respect… don’t demand it. (Add a homily of your own here.)

  51. Sanchez says:

    Homily added and approved. Coom bi yah. Me Lord.

  52. Lota says:

    Mr Hunter is a good writer. I would hope he meant ‘perceived as’ losers as opposed to writing it as a slur/name (hmmm sorta sounds like it). Having said that I am not sure i would like the Aristocrats, but I may get talked into it.
    Perhaps the lifetime perception/pigeoholing of comics as Losers gives them a shorter lifespan. So many of them have had dreaded diseases, killer habits and unfortunate accidents at young-ish ages (John Belushi, Gilda radner, Andy Kaufman, Chris farley, John Candy, Sam kinison, Bill Hicks, marty Feldman and the list goes on and on).

  53. Mark Ziegler says:

    Maybe Hunter feels he has taken too many hits over the years thru critics and now is picking on someone too. He’s a thriller writer. Not exactly Hemingway or Roth or Steinbeck.

  54. MASON says:

    Yes, because writer a really good thriller — even a series of them — is really easy. You know, anyone could do it.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

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