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Comedic Timing in “C.P. Time.”

We’ve been somewhat preoccupied this week with rehearsals for our annual brief appearance on the amateur theatrical stage, in a satirical song-and-skit fund-raising revue put on by some of the local media, but we’ve been able to pay enough attention to the news to notice that the Democratic Party’s putative presidential front-runner has thoroughly embarrassed herself in a similar effort.
Former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and long presumed First Woman President of the United States Hillary Clinton volunteered for a comedy bit in the New York City’s Inner Circle show, which is apparently Gotham’s equivalent of our own Gridiron Show, albeit with bigger-name guest stars, and she wound up creating one of those racial imbroglios that inevitably result from Democrat politics. The bit involved Clinton, the more or less commie Mayor of New York City Bill DeBlasio and one of the black guys from the current Broadway hit “Hamilton,” and a joke about how DeBlasio had been slow to endorse Clinton’s candidacy because he was acting on “C.P. Time.” For those who don’t run in racist white circles or self-effacingly jocular black folk circles, “C.P. Time” stands for “Colored People’s Time,” which implies that people of color are congenitally unpunctual, but it all led up to the putative punchline that DeBlasio had been acting on “cautious politician time,” so there is a certain unsatisfying humor to the gag, but it seemed to fall flat with not only the audience but the broader Democratic primary-voting pubic.
As former professional drama critics and ambitious semi-professional satirists, we found the entire performance entirely second-rate yet rife with intriguing unintended ironies. There’s the fact of that black guy dressed as Aaron Burr from the big Broadway hit “Hamilton,” for one thing, because it’s an all-black-and-Latino cast celebrating in hip-hop fashion the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton, which is so rich by itself. Hamilton remains the most controversial of the founding fathers, and the one slated to be expelled from the currency instead of the slave-holding and Indian-slaying but Democrat-party-founding Andrew Jackson, because he was the foremost founding father of America as a capitalist country and the only one who would inarguably be a Republican today, but he was also an illegitimate sire of a Caribbean family and a New York City urbanite and ardent abolitionist who envisioned a nation of similar strivers who wound up dying in a duel over a “dis,” so he’s actually a pretty likely hero for a hip-hop Broadway hit. We don’t even mind that some reportedly talented people of color have culturally appropriated this dead white male, and we suspect that Hamilton also wouldn’t mind, but we’ll resent on Hamilton’s behalf that he was somehow involved in this awful skit.
Neither Clinton nor DeBlasio exhibit any timing, and the presumably talented “Hamilton” star’s lines are clearly thrown off, and the part where he says he’s not comfortable with the whole “C.P. Time” thing hang more portentously than the punchline can stave off, and the funniest part is that both Clinton and DeBlasio are being criticized by even their most adoring press. DeBlasio might have thought he was immune by virtue of a black wife and half-black afro-wearing and fist-raising son, and Clinton might have thought she was immune by virtue of being the oft-betrayed wife of the first First Black President and the long presumed First Woman President, but they’re both still white and stuck with the comedic limitations.
Our own ventures on the amateur stage often entail some slightly uncomfortable humor about America’s convoluted race relations, and last year we had to refuse a local celebrity guest’s interest in a role because she was uncomfortable with a gag about a Starbucks barista telling a middle-aged white guy to “check his white privilege” and him responding that he hadn’t been laid in months, and challenging her to find a brother who would do the same thing, which got a big but obviously nervous laugh from our mostly liberal audience, but then again we’re not running for president as Democrats. If we were running for president as Democrats we’d know better than to frankly acknowledge such nervous understandings, and stick with a humorless scolding of any frank acknowledgements any Republican might make.

— Bud Norman

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Frozen News

The big story these days is the weather, which is wretchedly cold. Temperatures haven’t yet reached absolute zero, that theoretical point at which all molecular activity is suspended, but they’ve gone low enough to slow down all the other news to a near halt.
There’s still plenty of work for the reporters to do, of course. Aside from the familiar television features where a parka-clad correspondent stands out in the weather and talks about how cold it is, there are interviews to be done with travelers stranded at snowbound airports, speculation to be made about how the big freeze might affect the agriculture and energy sectors, lists of school closings to be compiled for scrolling along the bottom of the screen, and all the other obligatory cold weather tales to be told. Now is an inopportune time for stories about global warming, which will be kept in editors’ “tickler files” until the first inevitable heat wave of next summer, but the Secretary of Health and Human seized the opportunity to encourage Americans to sign up for Obamacare before catching a cold, sportswriters can type with frost-bitten fingers about the brutal conditions at the National Football League playoff games, and there are any number of other cold-weather angles to be wedged into routine reports.
Which is not to say that there’s nothing going on in the world except the cold. Al-Qaeda has recaptured the Iraqi city of Fallujah that American soldiers and Marines once fought bravely to liberate, it is increasingly apparent that Obamacare is clearly not the cure for the common cold, and the newly-inaugurated commie mayor of New York City has begun his campaign to create a socialist utopia by banning Central Park carriage rides and conveniently freeing up the stables for a campaign donor’s new development, among other things. All of it is dispiriting, but it’s hard to get one’s blood appropriately boiling about it when the wind chill is well below zero. Whatever the next debacle the Obama administration is planning, they should unleash it now while the public is preoccupied with this even more dreadful weather.

— Bud Norman

What’s Old in New York City

Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it, according to one of those indisputable old maxims, and after Tuesday’s mayoral election it is likely that the people of New York City are doomed to repeat the bad old days of the ‘70s and ‘80s.
Any New Yorker of a certain age should surely well remember that dark era, when taxes skyrocketed and city services went into the clogged and alligator-infested sewers, welfare flourished and crime was rampant, unemployment was high and spirits were low. Although we spent those days in the safe embrace of the peaceable prairie, so far away from New York City that if we were any farther we’d just be that much closer to Los Angeles, we still recall a chilling phone conversation with an old college chum who had moved to the Big Apple and described a daily hell of muggers, panhandlers, passed-out junkies that had to be stepped over on the way through trash-strewn streets to a rare job that didn’t come close to covering the exorbitant cost of living, and tales of political corruption and incompetence awaiting him on the evening news when he finally made his way back to a tiny and astoundingly over-priced apartment. Other friends made the big move to the big city, too, and most soon came back with similar horror stories.
Even the younger New Yorkers should have been reminded by any of the era’s cinematic depictions of the city that still show up on the late show, from “Taxi Driver” to “Death Wish” to “The French Connection,” or even the “Odd Couple” episodes still in re-runs that make light of the ubiquitous street crime and general shabbiness of the city, all of which confirmed an impression of a thoroughly unlivable city. Between all those movies and the vacations that people still spent in New York, as well as the official statistics on crime and tax rates and economic performance, the city had a horrible reputation with that great unwashed swath of the country beyond the Hudson River that was frequently expected to pick up the tab for its profligacy.
It all started in the ‘60s, naturally enough, when the handsome and charismatic Mayor John Lindsey began to fundamentally transform the city with hope and change and every cockamamie scheme that liberalism had ever concocted. It took nearly a decade for the city sink fully into the abyss, but by then the bureaucracy and the dependent vote and the prevailing political climate were so firmly entrenched that it was taken for granted by voters who continued to re-elect the people ruining their city. The reign of Mayor Ed Koch restored some semblance of fiscal sanity to the city’s finances, at least to the point that his famously arrogant city didn’t have to go begging those hicks out in flyover country for bail-outs, but the subsequent brief administration of David Dinkins at long last forced New Yorkers to consider the unthinkable. Dinkins had combined the worst of New York’s utopian liberalism with the mau-mau racialist sensibilities of other city’s black political machines, and the results were so horrible that New Yorkers actually elected a Republican.
The city had been known to elect “progressive” Republicans such as the legendary Fiorello LaGuardia, and even the wildly liberal Lindsey won on a GOP ticket before bolting to his natural home in the Democratic party for a failed presidential bid, but Rudy Giuliani’s win was notable because an actual Republican. The party’s primary voters in flyover country would later reject Giuliani’s presidential ambitions because of his rather northeastern views on guns and abortions and such, but when it came to taxes and regulations and welfare and the coddling of criminals and other governmental impediments to a successful society he was downright Reaganesque.
Our aforementioned college chum who moved to New York City was a die-hard Democrat, despite being a pleasant enough fellow from a small Kansas town, and we still recall the disappointment in his voice as he conceded that the city’s problems were too severe for his brand of liberalism to solve. He noted that the city’s generous welfare state had done nothing to diminish the city’s crime, and that further generosity would require raising taxes to a point that would surely drive away all the taxpayers, so he couldn’t imagine what possible solution there might be. When Giuliani raised taxes and increased revenue with his slightly smaller share of a much larger economy, then spent the money on aggressively policing the streets and drastically reducing the crime rate, even such die-hard Democrats as our friend felt compelled to vote for the Republican’s re-election. New Yorkers continued to elected Senators and Presidents who would happily inflict liberalism on the rest of the country, but in their own backyard they picked a mayor successor was also a Republican, even he quickly switched to independent rather than be embarrassed by the association with those flyover country types, and although his totalitarian instincts led him to such laughed-at initiatives as banning oversized soda cups and salt shakers they also compelled him to continue the successful policies that Giuliani had wrought. Things went well enough that New Yorkers apparently forgot the lessons they had been taught.
The newly-elected mayor, Bill DeBlasio, seems to have never learned those lessons in the first place. Famous for his past support of Nicaragua’s communist Sandinistas and other far-left causes, DeBlasio became New York City’s first Democratic mayor in 20 years by railing against the fact that some New Yorkers are richer than others and by promising to end the “stop and frisk” policy of the police department. He’s not so handsome or charismatic as John Lindsey, but he does have all the hope and change and cockamamie schemes. His jeremiad against the top one percent, currently picking up 43 percent of the city’s tab, is certain to leave the city’s economy and finances in shambles. The “stop and frisk” policy does indeed bump against the Fourth Amendment and is no doubt a burden to many of the law-abiding dark-skinned New Yorkers who are disproportionately stopped and frisked, but it has also played a crucial role in reducing the city’s murder date from six a day to less than one and it will not be the only effective police tactic that DeBlasio halts.
Our guess is that it will be less than a decade before New Yorkers are willing to try another Republican mayor, but more than a decade before they stop trying to impose liberalism on the rest of us.

— Bud Norman