Mort Sahl and Mr. Fish on Clinton, Communism and Heroes
Posted on Sep 9, 2007
By Mr. Fish
Mr. Fish: Well, where’s that conversation? There are a lot of conversations about different non-economic ideologies and what their pros and cons are, but there never seems to be any conversation about economic theory and the viability of a system of government based solely on a tyranny of ascending and descending numbers.
Sahl: I know what you mean. Look at clubs today—just compare the ambiance of the Hungry i with the Laugh Factory. A comedian today is anybody who can stand up and talk about nothing endlessly.
Mr. Fish: Who’s to blame there, the artist or the audience? Is the artist unable to do good work or is the audience ill-equipped to recognize good work when they see it?
Sahl: I think the artist is only that good. I don’t think it’s a broker’s decision to even try to meet the audience’s needs. A comedian nowadays is there to accommodate the audience’s materialism. They don’t have anything on their minds. [A comedian] will get up there and talk for an hour about women like they’re aliens, and that’s his act. I was in New York and I saw Judy Gold and she was complaining that CNN runs that line of headlines at the bottom of the screen—is that really what’s wrong? I just don’t think there’s any cultural depth perception anymore. Even the guys at “The Daily Show” aren’t making fun of the worst of [political wrongdoing]. Maybe they should just do more of what the real news doesn’t do. Those guys at CBS really ended [the Vietnam War]—Rather, Morley Safer and John Hart—by showing us what was going on. Everyday we hear that a bunch of American soldiers got killed, but we don’t see anything. You will on Al-Jazeera.
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Sahl: She’s good, very impressive, although you have to wonder about Pacifica [Radio]. They play her twice a day but they got rid of Marc Cooper, who was pretty good.
Mr. Fish: So, getting back to what we were talking about: What will it take for people to demand authenticity from their existence? Do people need role models to emulate—role models that are genuine and honest and not afraid to dissent and challenge the government? I started doing cartoons because I wanted to be John Lennon, or Norman Mailer, or Kurt Vonnegut. Who is there to emulate today? I feel like I’m stuck in your past. (Laughs)
Sahl: Role models, right. Well, the culture now mostly just asks people to settle for second or third best. The people who voted for Kennedy would never vote for Hillary Clinton. They wouldn’t even let her into the convention. They knew they did something wrong when they denied Dean and embraced Kerry; they knew that wasn’t truthful. And when their kids get drugged out and play ersatz black music on their iPods and act like gangbangers when they live in Bel Air, they all know that’s a lie. There’s not much resistance to these bourgeois notions. People don’t fight it very hard.
Mr. Fish: Do they need the fight demonstrated for them to pick it up or can they teach themselves? Isn’t it a kind of heroism if nobody’s doing it? If it is heroism, then it has to be demonstrated by somebody to be emulated by everyone, right?
Sahl: What they do to deter heroism in this country is they keep you on the defensive. It’s a strategy. They try to tie you up, get you defending yourself all the time, [where you’re] trying to prove you’re not crazy. People just have to remember what we’re all here for: to find our way home and to search for justice and romance along the way. Heroism is just learning how to listen to your better angels.
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