Alex Pareene wrote a take down of humorist Andy Borowitz that I found so infantile that I felt obliged to write a take down of his take down here, even if it means garnering Pareene more attention than he deserves. Based upon his opening paragraph, I knew that I would despise this piece:
Andy Borowitz makes dad jokes for self-satisfied liberals. If you think Sarah Palin is stupid and Mitt Romney is rich, Andy Borowitz has some jokes that will decidedly not challenge a single one of your prior assumptions!
It’s a terrible opening paragraph. He opens by using two unsupported, undefined, vaguely indiscernible adjectives that I still don’t quite understand.
First, he refers to Borowitz’s jokes as “dad jokes,” and while I may have an inkling of what Pareene is implying by the phrase "dad joke," I am still not entirely certain, and this is the first statement of his piece.
Are his jokes corny? Aged? Obvious? PG?
Actually, this statement comprises the first five words of the piece, and even if I am right in one of my assumptions about the negative use of the word "dad," Pareene does nothing to support the claim for at least three more paragraphs.
Pareene then describes Borowitz’s audience, still in the first sentence, as “self-satisfied liberals.”
I honestly have no idea what this means or why it is bad.
Then he ends his opening paragraph with an exclamation mark, which is something I might expect to see in an essay written by a high school freshman but not a piece in Salon.
Pareene spends the next three paragraphs, which amounts to 36% of the total words in the piece, attacking Borowitz for his sitcom work in the 1980s and 1990s. Why he thinks that Borowitz’s work on The Facts of Life or The Fresh Prince of Bel Air has any bearing on whether or not he is funny twenty and thirty years later is beyond me, but he seems quite angry about the amount of work that Borowitz did in the past and fixates upon it for quite some time. He’s also generous enough to mention that Borowitz was the editor of the Harvard Lampoon, but he only includes this fact parenthetically, as if it is fairly irrelevant in comparison to Borowitz’s shameful work with Will Smith and requires the sequestration of parenthesis lest it be viewed as an important part of Borowitz’s comedic career.
In this same paragraph, Pareene attacks a Borowitz joke from 2o08.
Five years ago.
Does he think that any comedian could stand up to this kind of scrutiny? If we examined every joke told by any comic from the last five years, does Pareene really think that we wouldn’t find more than a few clunkers? I don’t get it. It’s not as if Pareene is even attacking a recent joke. He goes back five years to find one that he doesn’t like. Later on in the piece, he goes back to 2004 to find another joke to fit his argument.
In fact, Borowitz’s has tweeted more than 8,000 jokes in the past three years alone. Pareene cites a grand total of ten of them while criticizing the comedian. That’s .00125 percent of all the jokes Borowitz has attempted, and this only amounts to the jokes he has posted on Twitter, which is the area in which Pareene is directing the brunt of his post-millennial criticism.
What comic doesn’t miss on .00125 percent of his or her jokes?
Then Pareene makes this statement:
I am not a comedy expert, and nothing is less interesting than listening to any self-proclaimed comedy expert expound on comedy, but I thought it was at least generally agreed that the best humor involves the element of surprise.
The best humor involves the element of surprise? This is generally agreed upon? By whom? Had Pareene lost his mind? There are many ways to be funny, and while surprise is certainly an effective one, it is not agreed upon to be the best by anybody.
It’s surprising how stupid Pareene’s statement is, but that doesn’t necessarily make it funny.
Pareene then spends a paragraph criticizing Borowitz for including celebrity culture as a part of his comedic repertoire. Does he expect anyone to believe that Borowitz’s decision to write jokes about Hollywood starlets and reality television buffoons is a signal that Borowitz is a hack? What comedian doesn’t reference celebrity culture in his or her comedy? Even a comedian as hyper-focused on politics as Bill Maher takes advantage of the horrors and stupidity of Hollywood when telling jokes.
Does Pareene really think the world of celebrity culture should be taboo to serious comedians?
Pareene follows this nonsense with claims that Borowitz’s humor is most appropriate for old people, because apparently in Pareene’s estimation, old people suck and aren't funny. In defense of this argument, he cites Borowitz’s appearance on CBS Sunday Morning as evidence that his ideal audience is old people.
Of course, CBS Sunday Morning has also featured comedians like Louis CK, Chris Rock and Sarah Silverman, just to name just a few, so they must suck, too. Right?
Pareene then proposes a formula for creating a Borowitz joke and attempts to create a few of his own, none of which are funny (nor is the Pareene’s formula bit), all the while lacing his piece with more unnecessary exclamation marks and the incredibly stupid double question mark.
Pareene ends his piece by suggesting that Borowitz should work less often, not only for the good of America (yeah, he said America, and I know he used it as an exaggeration, but sometimes exaggeration is so obvious and cliché that it no longer serve as exaggeration), but for Borowtiz’s own good.
He uses a couple extraneous exclamation points here as well.
I guess it wasn’t such a take down after all. In the end, Pareene must like Borowitz a great deal. Apparently he wrote this whole take down as a way of warning Borowitz about the dangers of overexposure and a life spent consumed with too much work and not enough play.
Pareene also states that less Borowitz would be good for his Twitter feed, but apparently Pareene doesn’t understand Twitter.
Rather than writing a hack takedown piece in Salon, just unfollow the guy if you don’t like him. It would be better for you, Alex Pareene.
See? This isn’t a take down of a take down after all. I’m just looking out for you, Alex Pareene.
I mean, for you!