Q: You’ve had an enormously successful TV career right out of the gate (an Emmy nomination and executive producer credit on the mega-hit “Cheers.”) You later tackled political commentary with equal success. TV comedy and the political scene: is there a common element of buffoonery that makes your transition between the two so seamless?
A: The funniest things are also the true-est. When you bang your elbow on something, everyone knows that it hurts in a very specific way — we’ve all banged our elbows on things. Which is why we call it “the funny bone,” because it hurts, we know it hurts, but since it’s hurting you, it’s funny. As Daffy Duck said to a gun-toting Elmer Fudd, when he was trying to convince him to kill and eat Bugs Bunny instead: “I’m different. Pain hurts me.” And I think that’s what makes politics such a funny place, and such a fertile place to find buffoons, clowns, crooks, and liars — it’s filled with folks who keep hitting their funny bones on things, filled with people who have inflated egos, pompous grandees, and we all know that, eventually, they’ll end up looking silly or deflated.
People in politics — and people in Hollywood, for that matter — are funny precisely because they really and truly love themselves so very much, because they think that if they suddenly disappeared and stopped lying to us and taxing our incomes and demanding attention, we’d all collapse in a leaderless heap. But we know better. And that’s why we like to make fun of them, and why it’s so easy to make fun of them. And there’s this, too: in our real lives, we’re not allowed to swan around demanding this and that. In real life, no one ushers us to the best table in the restaurant or behind the VIP velvet rope. But we understand how intoxicating that would be. We get the appeal of being a big shot. So when one of them gets caught Tweeting something awful or cross-dressing with a stranger or doing something humiliating and low, it’s funny. It’s the funny bone. Correction: It’s their funny bone, which is a lot funnier.
—Rob Long, Hollywood writer and producer, started his career as a screenwriter for the TV show “Cheers.” You can find his musings on National Review, Newsweek International, and the Los Angeles Times. Rob’s weekly commentary “Martini Shot” is broadcast on LA’s KCRW and can be found on iTunes. Rob is editor-in-chief of Ricochet.