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Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Mike Richards, Jeopardy, and humor

Because I am a mere fan while Paul is a multi-time champion, I have not commented on the Defenestration of Mike Richards as new host and (as of today) as executive producer.

This has all the hallmarks of a modern story--smarmy white guy; past offensive comments and behavior buried, ignored, and unearthed; the joust between "cancel culture" and "our First Amendment right to disassociate with you because of what you said;" and the never-ending quest to show that past statements and actions do not reflect "who I am" as a person. It is not certain what ultimately led to Richard's demise--the hostile atmosphere he allowed (and may have participated in) on past shows he ran; the blatant self-dealing to get the host gig and his dishonesty about that self-dealing; the problems he created within the Jeopardy workplace; or the seven-year-old podcast stupidity. The response to Claire McNear's reporting, and the speedy changes since that reporting, has focused on the fourth more than the first three. That affects how we think about this in the "cancel-culture" narrative. The first three were disqualifying; the problem emerges when we focus too much on the fourth.

This piece by Ken Levine (a TV writer  on shows such as Cheers, Frasier, and M*A*S*H* and a baseball announcer for the Orioles and Mariners) raises a great point that captures what got Richards in trouble:

People say stupid things when they try to be funny and they’re inherently not funny.  And that includes racist remarks and sexist remarks.  
They hear Howard Stern pull it off, or Don Rickles, or Richard Pryor and they think they can too.   But they can’t.  
And let’s be honest, sexist, racist jokes are easy.  Instead of displaying real wit they go after easy targets.  


Especially now, that we’re all so hyper sensitive, we all have to be careful and exhibit good judgement, and that could be a problem for unfunny people who think they’re funny because their judgement is already cloudy.   Leave the comedy to the pros. 

We can debate the hyper-sensitivity point. There is no debate that there are funny people and unfunny people. The few weeks I watched Mike Richards as guest host did not radiate "funny."

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 31, 2021 at 03:26 PM in Culture, Howard Wasserman | Permalink


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