Comics are desperate for a new prez to kick around
The votes are in: The nation has caught a bad case of early winter Chronic Election Fatigue Syndrome. It was fun for a while there. ”Saturday Night Live” has been getting the biggest boost from the ongoing electoral indecision, leading off its show with Bush and Gore impersonations and filling its revitalized Weekend Update (Hoorah for new head writer and coanchor Tina Fey!) with good, mean jokes.
But last Friday, Chris Rock, on his HBO show, drew cheers from the studio audience when he said with exasperation, ”Just get a f—in’ new president in the White House!” And Jon Stewart, who has proven the most reliable bellwether of public sentiment by being ruthlessly unsentimental, has taken to starting Comedy Central’s ”Daily Show” with his head down on his desk, only to raise it, bleary eyed, and croak out a few punch lines about how he can’t believe we still have Bush and Gore, rather than Bush OR Gore, to kick around.
In one of those unpredictable pop culture coincidences, the Backstreet Boys released their new CD today, called ”Black & Blue.” It turns out to be a perfect example of the new mass culture being created by the new GoreBush Era: The music, like the political campaign that just preceded it, is full of false sounding emotionalism and an overriding desire to appeal to so many different consumers that the end result is paralyzed with excessive calculation.
I know, it’s easy to beat up on a boy band (almost as easy as making fun of, say, Gore’s stiffness or the already exhausted comic possibilities of the phrase ”hanging chad’). So I guess I should say I’ve really liked Backstreet singles like ”Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)” and ”I Want It That Way.” Of all the current teen acts, the Boys have struck me as the most talented at melding white and black pop ballad styles. But on ”Black & Blue,” the Backstreeters sound like campaigners trying to woo votes away from ‘N Sync — their CD is full of hollow promises.
On ”The Chris Rock Show,” Rock hauled the Rev. Al Sharpton out to remind viewers that if Gore wins, he’s got some promises made to black voters for which he must be held accountable — it was a good attempt on Rock’s part to stir up some partisan passion. On ”SNL,” Will Ferrell’s Bush quoted most aptly from, as he put it, ”the great poet Leonard Skynyrd”: ”Ooh, that smell — can you smell that smell?” It’s the smell of mustiness and exhaustion, as Chronic Election Fatigue Syndrome slows pop culture to the barely beating pulse of the Backstreet Boys’ new single, ”Shape Of My Heart.”