Satire Paradox with Malcolm Gladwell S1/E10: Revisionist History Podcast (Transcript)
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Episode 10| Season 1| Revisionist History
Length: 37 min
Harry Enfield: It was the middle of the 80s and Mrs. Thatcher was Prime Minister here and she was very popular with the sort of working classes and things are not with the lefty middle-classes like me.
Malcolm Gladwell: Harry Enfield, one of England‚Äôs best known comedians. He‚Äôs talking about where he got the inspiration for his most famous character, a response to the imperious Margaret Thatcher, with her bob and pearls, who unleashed American style capitalism on the UK.
HE: And we, the student hippies, we used to lived on this council estate in Hackney and we used to go to the local pub and all the local tradesmen and things always had huge wads of money and they‚Äôd take it out because they thought we were squatters. We weren‚Äôt actually squatters, but we looked like squatters cause we worked in television. So they get their big wads of money out and sort of, you know, flash it at the bar and everything.
MG: Enfield hated Thatcher, hated what she represented.
MT: But the power I took was the power to reduce the power of government.
MG: Enfield and his partner, Paul Whitehouse, dreamt up a character to embody Thatcher‚Äôs England.
HE: And it sort of just became this sort of thing really, where we‚Äôd just go, ‚ÄúLoadsamoney,‚Äù about everything. You know, ‚ÄúWell, that Loadsamoney, Loadsamoney, that. Loadsamoney, that.‚Äù And then, it became a sort of phenomenon.
MG: His name was ‚ÄúLoadsamoney.‚Äù He was a construction worker catapulted to sudden, delirious wealth by the 80s building boom.
I got piles!
Piles of money!
MG: He chews gum with his mouth open, wears acid washed jeans, white trainers, a yellow and green nylon jacket with white sleeves, keys on his belt, drives a white convertible in the countryside. All performed with a kind of cheerful, unstoppable tastelessness.
HE: I mean, at the time everything was, you know, everyone was going Mrs. Thatcher this, Mrs. Thatcher that and, you know, sort of, very obviously preaching to the converted. So we sort of did it the other way, which is just to go, ‚ÄúLook at me, aren‚Äôt I great? Isn‚Äôt money great? Everything else is rubbish, only money is good.‚Äù
MG: My name is Malcolm Gladwell. You‚Äôre listing to Revisionist History, where every week I revisit the forgotten and the misunderstood.
In this week‚Äôs episode, the final episode of our first season, I want to talk about satire, political satire.
We live in the golden age of satire. It‚Äôs almost to the point where we seem to conduct as much of our political conversation through humor as through the normal media. Remember Stephen Colbert at the 2006 White House Correspondent‚Äôs Dinner? In character, as the conservative talk show host he was then playing on television, he stands up and gives a satirical toast to his ‚Äúhero,‚Äù President George W. Bush.
SC: I stand by this man. I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers and rubble and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message, that, no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world.
MG: All the while, President Bush sits unhappily on the dais, a few feet from Colbert, squirming and grimacing and looking like he‚Äôd rather be 100 feet underground. It was a moment of comic genius. Then there was Tina Fey‚Äôs devastating impression of Sarah Palin during the 2008 campaign, when the Alaskan governor ran on the Republican presidential ticket with John McCain.
Tina Fey: Well, Alaska and Russia are only separated by a narrow maritime border. You‚Äôve got Alaska here and this right here is water and then that‚Äôs, up there, is Russia. So we keep an eye on them.
MG: Who do you remember now? Sarah Palin herself or Tina Fey‚Äôs Palin? I‚Äôve written opinion pieces for newspapers and magazines and there, you have to write in somber, reasonable tones; you‚Äôre limited. Satire allows you to say almost anything. That‚Äôs where truth is spoken to power in our society. When you sugar-coat a bitter truth with humor, it makes the medicine go down. Your audience lets its guard down. Just look at the way Saturday Night Live has covered Hillary Clinton. They‚Äôve ruthlessly zeroed in on her ambition, her humorlessness, her severity, her opportunism, all the things that have always given people pause about her.
You‚Äôre finally going to announce that you‚Äôre running for president.
Oh my gosh, I don‚Äôt know if I have it in me. I‚Äôm scared. I‚Äôm kidding, let‚Äôs do this!
MG: Comedians have become our truth tellers. That‚Äôs what Loadsamoney was trying to do.
Enfield wanted to tell the truth about what was happening in England after Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979. She was the British Ronald Reagan. During her 11 year reign, she took on British socialism with a vengeance, called it a nanny state. Her aggression angered and scared a lot of people who felt that something fundamental about the country‚Äôs character was being upended, that something dark and crude had been unearthed, something like Loadsamoney.
HE: All he did was have money, shag birds, drink, going to the opera, that was it kind of thing.
MG: Wait, I didn‚Äôt realize he went to the opera.
HE: Well, he, he didn‚Äôt really like the opera, but he liked it because it was expensive, so he liked to be seen there, you know. So he‚Äôd go up to the bar and flash his wad, you know, and order champagne top, which is basically like, lager top is a very big drink over here, which is lager with a bit of lime in the top. It‚Äôs something you might get your girlfriend in the pub. So he‚Äôd to the opera and order, you know, a pint of champagne top.
MG: Loadsamoney ran in the mid-1980s on a popular, Friday night sketch comedy show on British television. It struck a nerve.
The first couple of times you do this sketch, is the, is the reaction immediate or is it kind of built?
HE: No, it‚Äôs absolutely immediate. I mean, it was a sort of live show, and so it needed sort of big, brash, loud characters and this was one and people absolutely got it straight away.
MG: It‚Äôs really hard to find someone over the age of 30 in England who doesn‚Äôt remember the Loadsamoney theme song.
[Loadsamoney theme song playing]
MG: Enfield released it as a lark in 1988 and it was huge, rose to number 2 on the British pop charts. The video is a series of shots of Loadsamoney marching around with scantily dressed women, driving fancy cars and sneering at the rest the world, all the while waving huge piles of pound notes. It has 3.3 million views on YouTube.
There is no op-ed, no letter to the editor, no impassioned essay that gets 3.3 million views on YouTube. That‚Äôs the power of satire. It can go places that serious discourse cannot.
But here‚Äôs the strange thing. If you ask Harry Enfield about Loadsamoney‚Äôs legacy, about what he thinks he accomplished by speaking truth so boldly to power, you know he says? He says it made no difference. That‚Äôs what I want to talk about. Let‚Äôs call it ‚Äúthe Loadsamoney Problem.‚Äù
HE: You know, I mean, it‚Äôs great fun to do but generally, you know, it‚Äôs just about questioning what‚Äôs there because we‚Äôre allowed to question what‚Äôs there so we do, but it doesn‚Äôt ever change anyone‚Äôs mind.
More in a moment after this break.
Now back to our story.
MG: When Harry Enfield told me he didn‚Äôt think Loadsamoney made any difference, the first person I thought of was Stephen Colbert. Not the straight Stephen Colbert of the current late show, but his breakout character, the parody of a right wing journalist that Colbert played on Comedy Central, first on The Daily Show and then, from 2005 to 2014, on the Colbert Report. Colbert was trying to do a version of what Loadsamoney was doing, shine a light on something crude in American popular culture. But you know, I was a guest on the Colbert Report a few times when I was promoting my books and I have to say that there was always something a bit, maybe ambiguous is the right word, about Colbert‚Äôs satire.
You go to the studios; they‚Äôre in Hell‚Äôs Kitchen in Manhattan, far West Side. You sit in the green room beforehand and Colbert comes in to say hello. He‚Äôs not in character. He‚Äôs this warm, charming, nice guy and I can‚Äôt stress the nice part enough. Everyone who meets Stephen Colbert thinks he‚Äôs nice. He chats with you and he warns you that when you go out on set, he‚Äôs going to be someone else but you don‚Äôt quite believe him because you see this really nice guy in front of you. Then you get on stage and he really is someone else. He‚Äôs now this aggressive, right wing talk show host.
Stephen Colbert: Okay I‚Äôll get straight to my problem with this. Okay? You know I got problem with this, right?
MG: Sure you do.
SC: That can‚Äôt come as a surprise to you.
SC: Okay. The New Yorker, okay, you, think pieces, that‚Äôs you, right? You write think pieces. Why do you want to make me think about my dog? I feel about my dog and my dog loves me back unconditionally. Why ruin that with thinking about it?
MG: Now you know, intellectually, that it‚Äôs satire. He‚Äôs doing a parody of a brain dead talk show host, but it doesn‚Äôt feel like a parody when you‚Äôre sitting there. He‚Äôs jabbing his finger and raising his one acrobatic eyebrow and there I am, like a deer in the headlights of satire, blinking. It‚Äôs terrifying. I think I went on three times and every time I swore I‚Äôd never go on again.
SC: You say ‚Äúour dogs.‚Äù Do you have a dog?
MG: I, I, I don‚Äôt have a dog.
SC: You don‚Äôt have a dog.
MG: I, um‚Ä¶ my building doesn‚Äôt allow dogs. I, I‚Äôm an aspirational dog owner but I, I‚Ä¶
MG: Yeah. I, someday‚Ä¶
SC: So had you the ability, you would own a dog?
MG: I would, someday I hope to own a dog, yeah. I, I grew up with dogs and I‚Äôve‚Ä¶
SC: Were you raised by wolves? What do you mean? Where‚Ä¶ grew up with dogs?
MG: That‚Äôs what I mean by ambiguous. Am I in on the joke or the butt of it? I don‚Äôt know. The Colbert Report has actually been studied by communications scholar named Heather LaMarre, an assistant professor at Temple University, in Philadelphia. She‚Äôs part of a group of social scientists who‚Äôve made a specialty out of studying how humor operates in popular culture and she was drawn to the Colbert Report for the very reason that I‚Äôm talking about. That gap between what you, as the audience, know intellectually that he‚Äôs trying to do and the way his performance feels.
Heather LaMarre: I have a lot of liberal friends, especially in, you know, academia, but I also have a lot of friends and family members that are conservative and I started noticing that they would talk about the show as if it was equally funny but in completely opposite ways.
MG: It struck her as something worth examining in more detail.
HL: Why are my Republican friends and family members watching him every single night and finding him hilarious but they see him making fun of liberals and my liberal friends love him to death and just the biggest fans ever, and think it‚Äôs hilarious that he‚Äôs making fun of people like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O‚ÄôReilly?
MG: As an example, LaMarre picks a clip of an interview Colbert did with a left wing journalist, Amy Goodman. This is from 2009.
SC: Thank you so much for coming to the show.
Amy Goodman: It‚Äôs good to be with you Stephen, I think.
SC: Now, you‚Äôre a communist, right? You‚Äôre super liberal lefty. They don‚Äôt get any more liberal lefty like, uh, outside agitator than you, do they?
AG: I don‚Äôt know. I think that conservative and liberal lines are breaking down right now.
SC: Yeah, to right and wrong.
AG: Let me talk about the Red Estate and the‚Ä¶
SC: I‚Äôm not going to let you do anything; you‚Äôre gonna have to earn every inch of this interview, young lady.
AG: I was just‚Ä¶
SC: You don‚Äôt come in my house and get me to let you do anything.
MG: During that outburst, Goodman nervously swivels back and forth in her chair. She starts to smile, but only gets half way so there‚Äôs a kind of grimace left on her face. She raises her arm and points it at Colbert but then, just as quickly, takes it down. I know exactly how she feels.
SC: I heard you‚Äôre a firebrand. Well, bring it baby!
MG: What does LaMarre finds when she studies audience reactions to a clip like this? She finds that the more liberal you are, the more you see Stephen Colbert as a liberal skewering conservatives; but the more conservative you are, the more you see Stephen Colbert as a conservative skewering liberals.
HL: So, essentially, they saw what they wanted to see. So the big takeaway here of this study was that this is what we would call motivated cognition or biased perception.
MG: Colbert says to Goodman, ‚ÄúYou‚Äôre a communist.‚Äù That‚Äôs funny if you think the joke is on Colbert. It‚Äôs also funny if you think Goodman actually is a kind of communist and someone is finally calling her out on it.
HL: Yeah, and he‚Äôs sticking it to a communist. And we asked those kinds of questions in several different ways and every single time the conservatives, and especially the strong conservatives, would say, ‚ÄúYeah, it‚Äôs a joke but he really kind of means it.‚Äù So he really does, sort of, think she‚Äôs a communist, and he really does, sort of, think ‚ÄúThere is a right and a wrong and I agree with that.‚Äù Whereas the liberal would be, like, ‚ÄúOh, yeah, he‚Äôs clearly making fun of Bill O‚ÄôReilly.‚Äù
MG: There‚Äôs no difference in how funny conservatives and liberals find Colbert?
HL: Right. And that‚Äôs part of the magic, right? So that‚Äôs why I would say he was a comedic genius.
MG: LaMarre loves Colbert and she thinks that what he accomplished with the Colbert Report was extraordinary. He created a character who managed to appeal to all sides of the political spectrum simultaneously. Do you know how hard that is? Really, really hard. But if you think he‚Äôs somehow winning an ideological battle, you‚Äôre wrong.
[All in the Family theme song]
This isn‚Äôt the first time this has happened with politically motivated comedy, by the way. Almost 50 years ago, when Norman Lear‚Äôs All in the Family was the most popular show in American television, there was a huge debate over the show‚Äôs star character, the bigoted, reactionary Archie Bunker.
Isn‚Äôt anybody else interested in upholding standards? Our world is comin‚Äô crumbling down! The coons are comin‚Äô!
MG: Bunker was created to satirize conservative attitudes on race and sexuality. But in the end, the consensus among social scientists seemed to be that he didn‚Äôt do that at all. Here is the conclusion of the best known study on the show. ‚ÄúWe found that many persons did not see the program as a satire on bigotry. All such findings seem to suggest that the program is more likely reinforcing prejudice and racism then combating it.‚Äù It didn‚Äôt change any minds. And the same thing happens with Loadsamoney. At one point, Enfield does a benefit for British nurses who are all on strike. Nurses in the UK are public sector employees and they want a modest raise and Thatcher, who‚Äôs intent on shrinking the size of the public sector, won‚Äôt give it to them. So what this benefit, Enfield comes out on stage as Loadsamoney in his white trainers and acid washed jeans and nylon shell and screams at them all, ‚ÄúGet back to work you scum!‚Äù Then he burns a 10 pound note on stage and the room of nurses goes wild, they love it. He‚Äôs perfectly captured what they‚Äôre up against. But the other side, the side they‚Äôre up against, they love it, too.
HE: And it got, sort of, taken on by The Sun, which was a very right wing paper, and the kind of left wing papers. Basically, everyone took it on. Everyone decided it was theirs, you know, they made him their property.
MG: So The Sun looked on Loadsamoney quite affectionately?
HE: Yeah, yeah. They thought it was great and it was a sign of Thatcher‚Äôs Britain, that all working class people were getting richer. That‚Äôs what they, that was their propaganda, that was how they interpreted it I guess, yeah. Which, obviously, wasn‚Äôt really the case, but it was quite funny.
MG: Were you taken by surprise, by the reception that Loadsamoney got?
HE: I was.
HE: Well, just because, you know, I‚Äôd done other characters and they‚Äôve been all right but this seemed to go very big and it got, sort of, mentioned in parliament and then Mrs. Thatcher suddenly said, ‚ÄúWe‚Äôve got a Loadsamoney economy,‚Äù or something. And then, the leader of the opposition says, ‚ÄúYou know, you‚Äôve created this Loadsamoney.‚Äù They, and they were both using; one of them was using it with praise and the other one with, you know, contempt. It was, it was odd, very odd. I, I didn‚Äôt expect at all, Malcolm.
MG: It really is odd. There are cultural histories written of the Thatcher years and invariably they talk about Loadsamoney and how the character was this great symbol of the era. And it‚Äôs clear that enthusiasm for this grotesque mockery was even greater on the right then it was on the left. Finally, Enfield just kinda gives up.
MG: Tell me how you killed him off.
HE: Oh, I think he got‚Ä¶ well, I think I just stopped doing him and then we were doing Comic Relief over here and I think we did a sketch where he got run over. He was run over by a van on live telly for charity.
MG: The Loadsamoney problem happens because satire is complicated. It‚Äôs not like straightforward speech that‚Äôs easy to decode; it requires interpretation. That‚Äôs what draws you in, that‚Äôs where the humor lies. But that active interpretation has a cost; Heather LaMarre calls this the paradox of satire.
HL: So the tradeoff with satire becomes all of the thinking, or a lot of the thinking, becomes devoted to what the comic means, who the target of the joke is. And as they interpret that, then they spend less time thinking about whether that warrants any kind of real consideration or counter arguing, sort of, the merits of that message.
MG: This doesn‚Äôt happen when you listen to a straightforward discussion of politics; you just think about the arguments. But with satire‚Ä¶
HL: Here, you‚Äôre spending all of your time thinking about the nature of the comedy, which leaves very little mental resources available to think about whether the comedy has truth.
MG: There‚Äôs a brilliant essay written on this very subject in the July 2013 London review of books. It‚Äôs called Sinking, Giggling into the Sea and it‚Äôs by the writer Jonathan Coe. You should read it. Coe takes the argument against satire one step further. He says the effectiveness of satire is not just undermined by its complicated nature, by its ambiguity, Coe says it‚Äôs undermined by something else‚Ää‚Äî‚Ääthe laughter it creates.
Jonathan Coe: Laughter, in a way, is a kind of last resort. if, if you, if you‚Äôre up against a problem which is completely intractable, if you‚Äôre up against a situation for which there is no human solution and never will be, then okay, let‚Äôs, let‚Äôs laugh about it.
MG: In, say, the humor of Laurel and Hardy, Coe says that kind of laughing is perfectly appropriate.
JC: Because when you see them taking on some ridiculous, Sisyphean task like pushing a piano up an an endless flight of stairs, failing time and time again, then you know what, what they‚Äôre asking you to laugh at there is, is the human condition and the, and the, the intractability of, of, of the forces of nature and the forces of physics which we can do nothing about. So of course, we have to laugh. But political problems, it‚Äôs slightly different. I mean, some, some political problems are intractable, but some political problems can be solved and perhaps, instead of laughing about them, we should try to do something about them.
Tina Fey: I just hope that tonight the lame stream media won‚Äôt twist my words by repeating them verbatim.
MG: Back at the beginning, I mentioned Tina Fey‚Äôs brilliant impersonation of Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live. I love those sketches. I think Tina Fey is a comic genius. But after listening to Heather LaMarre and Jonathan Coe, I can‚Äôt help but think that her comic genius is actually a problem.
SNL brought Tina Fey in to skewer Palin out of a sense of outrage that someone this unqualified was running for higher office. In 2008, lots of people felt this way. Palin was the running mate of John McCain, an elderly senator of uncertain health; she could easily have been president. SNL was trying to hold Sarah Palin to some kind of scrutiny to say, ‚ÄúThis is who she is.‚Äù But looking back now, I don‚Äôt think it worked because Tina Fey is too busy being funny.
David Letterman: Now, please welcome the lovely Tina Fey, ladies and gentleman.
MG: In October 2008, just before the election, Tina Fey does an interview with the talk show host David Letterman. Now, you would think, with the vote looming, Fey and Letterman would wanna talk about the subject of her satire or the intention of her satire, the fact that someone this unqualified might be less than a month away from the vice presidency, but they don‚Äôt. They talk entirely about the mechanics of Fey‚Äôs satire.
TF: She‚Äôs got that crazy accent, it‚Äôs a little bit Fargo, it‚Äôs a little bit, uh, Reese Witherspoon in election and it also, uh, I tried to base it on my friend Paula‚Äôs Grandma, uh, who she, her Grandma was this sweet little old lady from Joliet, Illinois and she would always say, like, ‚ÄúOh, this and that and stuff like that.‚Äù And I think, and I think that might be our next vice president.
David Letterman: But it‚Äôs, it sounded to me like a little, I don‚Äôt know what the connection would be, it sounds a little like upper Midwest, kinda Great Lakes region.
TF: Yeah. She‚Äôs dropping the G‚Äôs it‚Äôs like, you know, her R‚Äôs, she really loves the, you know, like, ‚Äúthese terrorists and William errors and‚Ä¶‚Äù She digs the whole Rs. I think she thinks there‚Äôs oil in those R‚Äôs. She is digging deep.
MG: They want the laugh, so they make fun of the way Sarah Palin talks. And the way she talks is not the problem.
TF: There‚Äôs certainly been a strange reaction to it and I‚Äôve seen people who say, ‚ÄúOh no, you‚Äôre helping them, you‚Äôre helping them because people, people‚Ä¶ it seems, makes her seem nice‚Äù or, you know, the Republicans say it‚Äôs sexist. That‚Äôs, you know, crazy because you have to be able to goof on female politicians just as much otherwise you really are treating them, like, they‚Äôre, like, they‚Äôre weaker or something and this, Sarah Palin is a tough lady. She kills things, she kills animals that‚Äôre bigger than me and you together.
MG: Did you catch that? ‚ÄúBecause you have to be able to goof on female politicians.‚Äù Goof! Like the role of the satirist is to sit on the front porch and crack wise. What doesn‚Äôt Tina Fey just come out and admit that her satire is completely toothless? And then what happens? The very next day, the day after Tina Fey goes on Letterman, Sarah Palin appears as a guest on Saturday Night Live, right beside Tina Fey.
Sarah Palin: Now, I‚Äôm not going to take any of your questions, but I do want to take this opportunity to say, ‚ÄúLive from New York, it‚Äôs Saturday Night!‚Äù
MG: They let Sarah Palin in on the joke and Palin and Tina Fey dress up in identical red outfits with little things in their hair and put on identical glasses because that‚Äôs even funnier. And what are you left with? You‚Äôre left with one of the most charming and winning and hilarious comics of her generation letting her charisma wash over her extensible target, disarming us, disarming Sarah Palin.
SP: And now, I‚Äôd like to entertain everybody with some fancy pageant walking.
MG: Sure, we laughed, but it‚Äôs kind of heartbreaking, isn‚Äôt it? At least Harry Enfield was trying to take a bite out of the establishment with Loadsamoney. Saturday Night Live has taken out its dentures and is sipping the political situation through a straw. Lord help us if some other, even less qualified and more frightening political figure comes along.
JC: I think that the pleasure that laughter generates can be deceptive.
MG: That‚Äôs writer Jonathan Coe again.
JC: To make an audience laugh is very, it‚Äôs a very solid, a very tangible thing. I think it‚Äôs, it‚Äôs only after the event, maybe years after the event, that you pull back and ask yourself, ‚ÄúWell, was that effect that I wanted?‚Äù
MG: Jonathan Coe brings up Peter Cook, the legendary English comedian of the 1960s. Cook was the driving force behind Beyond the Fringe, the British satirical review that‚Äôs really the spiritual ancestor of shows like Saturday Night Live.
MG: Cook later started a comedy club in SoHo, in London called The Establishment.
JC: Peter Cook, kind of his genius and also his curse was that he, he saw all these contradictions as soon as he started, really, and he wasn‚Äôt, he was under no illusions that he was going to change the world through satire. And, uh, yes, the parallel he used with The Establishment was that he was, he was modeling it all on all those wonderful, uh, Berlin cabarets from the 1920s, which have done so much to prevent the rise of Hitler and the, and the beginnings of Nazism.
MG: There‚Äôs a television show in Israel called A Wonderful Country, Eretz Nehederet. It‚Äôs been on the air since 2003. It‚Äôs satire, very political. The show‚Äôs writers belong to the beleaguered Israeli political left. They want a separate state for Palestinians; they want an end to the endless wars, they worry about the increasing conservative religious influence on the country‚Äôs politics. They‚Äôre ideologically motivated in their humor in the same way that Harry Enfield and Tina Fey were, but there‚Äôs a difference.
Muli Segev: It‚Äôs more political and it‚Äôs a, a little more rugged and hardcore because life in Israel is, is much more rugged and hardcore.
MG: That‚Äôs Muli Segev, the show‚Äôs executive producer. A Wonderful Country airs Friday night at 9, after the news. Practically the whole country watches it.
MS: The stomach of Israeli viewers is much more adjustable. You know, they can adjust to much tougher material, firstly, because the news broadcast that is on the air before us, uh, shows so many gruesome stuff and horrible things that, naturally, the comedy after that will be the same.
MG: A Wonderful Country goes further than the kind of TV satire that we have in the US or the UK, maybe because the stakes are so much higher in Israel. Maybe in a country with a tortured history, suffering under constant threat, the boundaries that satire needs to push up against are more real.
MS: And we have very, very bad reactions sometimes.
MG: Can you give me an example of a sketch that brought about a bad reaction?
MS: Let‚Äôs say, like, a couple of years ago, we made a sketch that was a parody on a, on a game show called 1 Vs. 100, you know that, that show?
MG: 1 Vs. 100 was a quiz show where one supposedly brilliant contestant, known as the one, squares off against 100 people sitting in little cubicles in the audience. The one and the audience are asked a question and whenever someone in the audience gets it wrong, they‚Äôre eliminated. The light in their cubicle goes off and we can‚Äôt see them anymore. In A Wonderful Country‚Äôs version, the one was the Prime Minister at the time and the audience was made up of 119 people. 119 was the number of Israeli soldiers who died in the 2006 Lebanon War.
MS: He was asked why did you go to that war? Why did you do that? What did you, did you do that? And all the answers he gave was, were wrong, naturally.
MG: it was the 1 versus the 119. And with every wrong answer from the Prime Minister, the light went off underneath one of the soldiers in the audience. They vanished from sight.
MS: And that was very graphic and very hard to watch, but it was, but it was important for us to say so, that this war was unnecessary at the time.
MG: Can you imagine Saturday Night Live doing that sketch during Iraq War? Of course not. I think we‚Äôve forgotten what real satire is in the West. That‚Äôs real satire. It uses a comic pretense to land a massive blow.
The first A Wonderful Country sketch I ever saw was from 5