Today’s Comedy Retread: Self-Loathing Billy Joel

Today I yet again rehash Twitter comedy from a couple of years ago. But I was looking for something from an old Twitter conversation and found these tweets in response to a hashtag the hilarious John Moe of Wits fame started called ‪#‎SelfLoathingBillyJoel‬ and it was making me laugh too hard not to post:

  • Only the good die young / While I live on, without purpose or meaning
  • In the middle of the night / I go walking in my sleep / Look away, don’t look at me, I’m hideous
  • What’s the matter with the clothes I’m wearing? / STUPID ME I’M SO FUCKING STUPID
  • Uptown girl / She’s been living in her uptown world / I deserve scorn
  • Tell her about it / She’s eventually going to find out she’s wasting her life with me
  • Anthony works in the grocery store / Savin’ his pennies for someday / I sit alone in darkness / A stain
  • We might be laughing a bit too loud / God, I’m so sorry, I ruined your perfect evening
  • Yes, they’re sharing a drink they call loneliness / They never ask me to join them
  • Go ahead with your own life / Mine’s not worth living

I will also take this opportunity to share my favorite Billy Joke:

“In the middle of the night, I go walking in my sleep.” – Billy Joel, explaining to police why his car is in the neighbor’s living room.

What SeaWorld Should Have Said Was Nothing

It seems to me that SeaWorld could’ve saved itself some future problems if it had reconsidered this conversation from 40 or so years ago:

“OK team, we want to bring whales to the park. We’re going to put the giant whales in tanks with humans and have them perform tricks together, largely for huge crowds of families with children. Any suggestions on what type of whales we should get?”

“Uh, how about killer whales, Larry?”

Controversy has smothered the summer fish circus SeaWorld since CNN first aired the combustible documentary Blackfish a few months ago. (I first typed “searing documentary” but couldn’t abide the unintentional fish pun.) The film makes a passionate and riveting case against SeaWorld’s captivity of orcas, the massive killer whales that have drawn hundreds of thousands of people to its parks for decades.

As part of the swift, fervid backlash against SeaWorld, many musicians backed out of a summer SeaWorld concert series. Several celebrities have spoken out on record, including this scathing indictment by whale-cocked drumstick-twirling marine biologist Tommy Lee:

*shortly after making statement, gets online to search for cow vaginas*

Shortly after making this statement, Tommy Lee got online to search for cow vaginas

It’s almost impossible to watch Blackfish without at least questioning the wisdom of keeping the big fish captive for our entertainment. You don’t soon forget harrowing scenes of orcas turning on trainers and dragging them to the depths of the tanks. As damning the movie is, I always maintain some skepticism when people with a specific and personal agenda attack something. There is always some truth in the middle that they distort or ignore. I’m sure there are many good people at SeaWorld who really do care about the well-being of the animals in the parks. In fact, I am certain that SeaWorld cares. Here’s how I know:

SeaWorld Cares

Which brings this meandering post to its elusive topic: SeaWorld’s insulting, annoying and staggeringly inept response to Blackfish. SeaWorld seems determined douse a brush fire with kerosene until the entire forest burns to ash.

SeaWorld defends itself with an aggressive, name-calling assault, partly in the form of incessant pay-promoted tweets such as this one:

The SeaWorld Charm Offensive begins

I want to invite SeaWorld, vegans and self-assured atheists to my next dinner party!

Wow! Way to do everything wrong SeaWorld! I have no idea what communications agency SeaWorld works with, but either the agency is giving poor advice or SeaWorld executives are so blindly angry that they are forcing the issue. This fails in every way possible.

1) It’s defensive. SeaWorld sounds like a guilty politician caught fucking the housekeeper, reacting with indignant and angry denial.

2) It’s dismissive. Blackfish worked. It fueled real emotional responses for a wide audience of people. Now SeaWorld opts to insult those people for being naive to “propaganda.” If you make someone mad, then call them stupid for being mad, you just make them that much less eager to forgive you or even listen to you.

3) It’s self-defeating. SeaWorld has done more to promote Blackfish than anyone besides CNN. SeaWorld has introduced the controversy to countless people who had probably never heard of it to begin with.

4) It’s pedantic. Here is SeaWorld’s lengthy response to Blackfish. The movie grabbed attention with vivid, emotional and sometimes tragic human and animal stories. SeaWorld responded with a manifesto that reads like a labyrinth court deposition. SeaWorld splits semantic hairs and haggles over chronology and minutiae that won’t sway opponents and will likely inflame neutral observers. Case in point:

The film depicts a killer whale collection in Washington State that occurred 40 years ago. It leaves viewers with three false impressions: (1) that SeaWorld continues to collect whales from the wild to this day; (2) that Tilikum himself was collected by SeaWorld; and (3) that the collections done four decades ago were illegal. None of this is true. SeaWorld does not collect killer whales in the wild, and has not done so in over 35 years. Tilikum was not collected by us. And the collections four decades ago were conducted in compliance with federal laws, pursuant to federally-issued permits at that time.

Thanks, SeaWorld! Now I completely understand why those whales have sad floppy fins and drag your trainers to their terrifying deaths in your torture pools! No one who watched Blackfish will be moved or fooled by this turgid barrel of words.

5) It’s annoying. This will probably end up being the longest post I’ve ever written here. Not because I’m an activist for the cause. It’s because SeaWorld annoyed the shit out of me. It’s relentless, aggressive tweets irritated me so fiercely that I first started responding to them on Twitter, and then took to writing this rant that at least 17 other people will see. Aim at foot, pull trigger, SeaWorld!

I found Blackfish compelling, and at times sad and terrifying. But I’m not a someone who thinks about SeaWorld much to begin with. I’m middle-aged with no kids. I hyperventilate and explode in hives just passing through the Orlando airport, filled with loud, overpacked huddles of sugar-and-Mickey-bloated families navigating the airport as if it’s a corn maze.

So I’m not someone who would have ever even considered a trip there. Blackfish would’ve likely drifted to the back of my consciousness. Except SeaWorld just wouldn’t let it.

So, SeaWorld, here is the lesson of the title you should heed. Given your noisy, belligerent and self-destructive response, what you should have said was nothing. (Impatient viewers skip to the 3:40 mark.)

Ana Gasteyer’s Quest for Justice and Other Important News

He Can’t Believe It’s Not Sutter!

Kurt Sutter, creator and executive producer of Sons of Anarchy on FX, has launched a hilariously bitter and vulgar Twitter war against the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for completely shutting his show out in today’s Emmy nominations. Some highlights:

  • “these two academy member walk into a bar. one orders a beer. then they both die because they’re so fucking old.”
  • “i envision every academy member having sex with a cheap, light blue poly-cotton sheet between penis and vagina.”
  • “fuck glee. hate those annoying, “please accept me for who i am”, singing brats. there, i said it. are you happy?”
  • “best part of not getting an emmy nod. now i don’t have to pretend i give a shit about the profiteering douchebag academy.”

We don’t watch the show (although we’ve heard it’s good), but we are thoroughly amused by Sutter’s reckless, heartfelt tirade against the Academy for the snub. It’s refreshing, in a nasty, petty, vindictive, disproportionately self-satisfied sort of way.

But we’re most impressed at how absolutely Fabiolous Kurt Sutter looks:

You should see me with a dead bird on my face

@peanutfreemom: Staging comedy with the audience as your co-stars

Someone has crafted an excellent Twitter satire with the fictional Debra Jones-O’Brien, a sanctimonious, busybody, self-appointed supermom with her fragile, peanut-allergic son Caleb and a rapid-fire scroll of judgemental, self-oblivious perspectives from the suburban vacuum. Here’s a sample:

  • “Mom at Snip-Its told me she uses ‘Johnson & Johnson’s’ Baby Shampoo for her children.  I wouldn’t put that poison in Caleb’s hair.”
  • “@FCC I’m concerned about the show #glee.  Their writers have demonstrated insensitivity towards those affected by peanut allergy.”
  • “Caleb wants to see Cars 2, but we don’t support Disney products.  I suppose we’re just a little more socially conscious than some.”
  • “The complimentary coffee at the Volvo dealership was NOT fair trade certified.  Uh, Earth to Volvo?  Hello?”
  • “Drafting a petition to have the lyric ‘Peanuts and Cracker Jack’ omitted from ‘Take me out to the ballgame’.  Very insensitive.”
  • “Parents who buy their children “Lunchables” should be put it prison.”
  • “Parenting Tip: Try calling carrot sticks ‘Power Sticks’.”

The tweets themselves are a hilarious, a too-close reflection of actual clueless parents with a few more dollars than sense and a lifestyle-convenient social consciousness. @peanutfreemom creates a legitimately clever satire of obnoxious nannies everywhere who are eager to impose their rules, lifestyle choices and morality on everyone around them.

But I really love the author’s use of the unique structure of Twitter to pull it off. It’s more than just Twitter trolling; @peanutfreemom knows how to agitate just enough among the credulous who think she’s a real person. She pushes buttons sure to draw indignant outrage, including class snobbishness, judgement of others’ parenting, pop culture (baiting fans of Glee and Bridesmaids), school teachers and adoption. That outrage in turn fuels the growing audience, who are unwittingly participating in the production as it unfolds. The narrative can go wherever the audience steers it, or wherever it gets the most laughs and attention.

As long as it’s funny, and grounded by concepts and characters that reflect some real aspects of our culture, then I consider something like this as creatively entertaining as a well done comedy sketch or comedy episode. I’ve also thought about this way too much.

[UPDATE: Welcome all the many, many @peanutfreemom lovers and haters.]