I have a bad late-night TV habit. I love to curl up on the couch with my Dude or the cats and watch funny people be funny (or not). This is bad for two reasons: 1) it is, by definition, late, especially if I stay up to enjoy my TV boyfriend Craig Ferguson,and if I’m going to be up and functional the next day I should be sleeping, and 2) recently, it’s been wall-to-wall misogyny up in there, and the funny people, who are men-people, are beginning to look like giant assholes, which cuts into the funny significantly.
I’ve been a David Letterman fan for yeeeaarrs. I like the banter he has with the band, I like Stupid Pet Tricks and high school bird callers, the wide variety of musical guests, and the occasional, rather substantial political conversation. But Letterman got married a few months ago, after more than 20 years and a kid with his ladyfriend. That’s all well and good. But after a few bashful comments about it, he’s started folding in tired “take my wife please” jokes rather often. Unmarried, he almost never mentioned Regina Lasko, or if he did, she was “Harry’s mother,” and he was often the butt of the joke–the big dummy, who was saved by the clever girlfriend. (Yeah, that’s not much better.) Now: oooooh, he’s henpecked! Women are bossy! Women are the Bad Mommy! Marriage is a punishment for men! (Please realize that I’m not a huge fan of marriage, and have not chosen it for myself, but his attitude as expressed in performance is doing very little to make that institution worth saving.)
The man is still telling jokes at Hillary Clinton’s expense (philandering husband! icy! pantsuits!), despite the fact that she’s been serving very effectively as Secretary of State, and he was ruthless about Sarah Palin (barbie! russia! barbie!). But recently, Dave has been sinking deeper in Vortex of Suck that is misogyny as he went after the Palin family again, prompted by their recent trip to New York. In addition to the usual “$150 thousand wardrobe” comments, he went on to snark on her appearance, likening it to a “slutty flight attendant,” (that’s a sexism and classism twofer!), then make wildly inappropriate cracks about Palin’s 14-year old daughter Willow, who accompanied her mother on the trip: Eliot Spitzer was trying to get with her; Alex Rodriguez knocked her up while they were at a Yankees game. Hyuk hyuk hyuk!
Letterman never referred to Willow by name, however, and when Palin called him on his unfunny, tasteless, offensive “jokes,” he spent more than seven minutes (half-seriously) assessing the situation on his show. While he didn’t apologize for the “flight attendant” remark, he took the time to note that he wasn’t referring to Willow, because to make jokes about men with questionable sexual histories having sex with raping an underage girl is beyond the pale. He expressed some mock-horror that he would subject a girl to such behavior, or intimations thereof, but it was built around his trademark style of self-deprecation, and it wasn’t an apology. Instead he claimed he was referring to Bristol, who is 18 (and therefore fair game for his misogynist spew). Also: she’s a slut who had sex and made a baby and had a baby and did I mention she’s a SLUT? Never mind that she wasn’t in New York with her parents.
Letterman said that he couldn’t really defend his material, as they were simply jokes (and so to find offense is blowing things out of proportion, ya big girl); that he was going for cheap laughs, as he always has. He then went on to repeat his jokes, to the great amusement of his studio audience. Disgusting.
To be clear: I think Sarah Palin is politically a menace and personally ridiculous. But to go after her appearance or her daughters’ sexuality? Unnecessary, off-topic, and utterly out-of-line. Grade A Sexism, plain and simple So fuck you, Dave. If I stay up after the news, it’s going to be for Conan.