Ever since Stephen Colbert used his time at the podium to point out that George Bush was kind of a bad president, the choice of headlining comedian at the White House Correspondents Dinner has been a symbolic act. Bush—who in retrospect was not the kind of guy who has a great sense of humor about himself—chose as Colbert’s 2007 successor Rich Little. In addition to his spot-on impression of what awaits us all at the end of our lives, Little brought to the event what could only be described as maximum safety. The sheer tactical deliberateness of his selection—no one walked into that meeting saying, “You know who’s funny? Rich Little”—elevated the choice to the level of discourse. Like your favorite NBA player,* your Correspondents Dinner headlining comedian says something about you. Last year, President Obama chose Wanda Sykes, who was hilarious and repeatedly threatened to say the n-word. This year, he went with Jay Leno. It wasn’t the biggest mistake of his presidency, but it was the one that sums up all the others.
Combat! blog has tended inexorably toward politics during the last year, since that is where the worst habits of the age are inflated to grotesques. In our fixation on all things governmental, it’s easy to forget that politics is only one subset of a larger world, and a subset whose lineaments exist only in our understanding, at that. In fact, politics and popular culture and bears and ethnomusicology are all names we have given to elements of one seamless, coherent whole, and that whole is just as stupid and baffling as everything else, which is nothing. This Friday’s linktacular is largely about popular culture, and if you think politics are dispiriting, have a look at those portions of society run by people who are too lazy to keep up with politics. It’s Friday; the week is almost end; up is down; wrong is right and things that should make us angry give us strange pleasure. Unbuckle your seat belt and rest your teeth gently on the dashboard, because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.