Thursday, April 01, 2004

Err America

Michael Graham, a talk show host himself, discusses Air America:

Michael Graham on Radio America on National Review Online: "I happen to think the name The O'Franken Factor is the best thing about the show. Nobody needs a lancing of the ego as badly as the preeningly pompous Bill O'Reilly, who combines the journalistic integrity of Walter Winchell with the self-effacing modesty of Howard Stern.

Unfortunately, the counterpoint to pomposity is wit, a commodity in dangerously short supply on Franken's first outing. His closest brush with comedy was a bit where Franken's cohorts allegedly had Ann Coulter locked in the green room and had cranked up the thermostat. What made the joke work was the listener's knowledge that, had the media-omnipresent Coulter been invited, she would have gladly been O'Franken's first guest. And she would have stolen the show, which in this case would only qualify as a petty larceny."

I live in one of the majority spots in the country where I can't hear AirAmerica, and my employer has some definite opinions on the subject of 'bandwidth', so I can't stream the programs. Alas, I rely on reviews such as these.
Franken's debut guest was former Senator Bob Kerrey, who let fly a bit more unrefined partisanship than he might have on Morning Edition, but mostly confirmed the show as NPR Lite — assuming you mean "Lite" as in "less," and not "having a light-hearted tone." Franken followed up with Michael Moore who was, well, Michael Moore.

This was the most telling segment of the show. The question that keep coming to mind as they ping-ponged their Bush-bashing bits between them was "Didn't at least one of these guys used to be funny?" There was a time when SNL alum Franken was on my imaginary "If you could have dinner with anyone alive today" list. His Lying Liars book, while pure nonsense politically, was far more humorous and insightful than anything on day one of Air America

Like the joyless John Kerry claiming insult over President Bush's WMD joke last week, Moore and Franken's broadcast duet was yet another reminder that the days of the American Left being the "fun guys" are long gone. Even an appearance by the genuinely funny (and radio savvy) Bob Elliott couldn't save the day.

One last comment: The O'Franken Factor features several "liners" (one-sentence promotional bites) announcing the show to be "Farther to the Left than Betty Crocker" or "...than the NRA" or "...than the John Birch Society." If I've unlocked the secret humor code, the joke is that my brand of talk radio is not to the Left of the John Birchers and the House Un-American Activities Committee, but right in there with them.

If this is how hard listeners have to work to get the jokes, and the jokes remain this far from worth getting, Air America is in for a short and bumpy flight.

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