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Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 07/21/2008

The E-Mailbag: Beyond the Irony Age

By Michael Cavna

"Oh, irony. We do not get that here. ... We haven't had irony here since about, uh, '83, when I was the only practitioner of it ... and I stopped as I was tired of being stared at."
--Steve Martin, as the Cyrano figure in the '80s film "Roxanne."

Impassioned throngs of readers -- and by "throngs," we mean "eight" -- e-mailed us to ask why we haven't seen fit to comment on the Obamas-as-Constitution-Burnin'/Osama-Loving/Fist-Bumping/Angela-Davis-Fro'd/
Muslim-Extremists New Yorker magazine cover, seeing as how the entire firestorm was begat by, yes, a cartoon.

Well, we stayed mum because we firmly believe that about, oh, 92 percent of the whole kerfuffle was trumped-up manufactured controversy, stoked by people -- as well as Members of the Media -- ravenous for a real one. We say this without fear of contradiction -- at least until someone informs David Remnick or Wolf Blitzer that this blog exists.

Let's grow a clue, boy and girls. You canNOT expect the throngs of campaign pundits -- and by "throngs," we mean roughly 3 kajillion -- to subsist on a single Obama brouhaha for stretches of 10, 12 days at a time. And nothing is more enticing to packs of roving campaign media types than: (a) endlessly replayed video of something that can be edited for maximum impact (hello, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright); or (b) a static, sitting-duck cartoon that is denuded of context, perhaps because Wolf Blitzer's excited bitemarks shred beyond recognition the telltale masthead of The New Yorker.

But bringing this riff back to its impact on illustrators: The take-home for the nation's cartoonists is the fear that we've moved well past a culture of political correctness and headlong into a world of the "ironically correct," a scary and reactionary place where comic hyperbole falls on deaf ears or people become numb to irony. (What's next? Tactically chosen vid-clips of the Man-on-the-Street taking the Onion headlines seriously?)

"People are gullible. They are stu-pid," Bill Maher said to us backstage after a recent standup performance at DAR Constitution Hall. We were chatting about professional satire and the public, and Maher stressed that comedians must be crystal-clear in stating their comic premises -- lest they mislead the spoonfed lemmings.

So we come full circle. Exactly a week ago, we wrote that many people take their cartoons seriously. A few respondents disputed that claim. Then the Obama/New Yorker mag &%$storm erupted and suddenly ... crickets. We couldn't have asked for a better real-world example to prove our point, as the masses lit torches, stormed the streets and called for the cranium of editor David Remnick.

And by "masses," we mean Wolf Blitzer.

TOMORROW: Comic Riffs interviews "The Boondocks" creator Aaron McGruder about satire, the small screen and the love for Gangstalicious.

By Michael Cavna  | July 21, 2008; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  The E-Mailbag  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: The Morning Line: Honey, They Shrunk the Strips
Next: The Morning Line: Go 'Forth' and Multiply


My sense-of-humour test is to tell someone a "stereotype" joke. If they laugh, tell an equally funny joke about their particular race/group/religion/hair colour/sex/political outlook. If they say "that's not funny, they're humour impaired.

My problem with the cover occurred when I saw comments like "they missed the REAL problems with Obama, like..." and go on to spew more misinformation. Cartoons like the Seattle P-I "response" at are funnier because (hopefully) no-one is going to say "that is so true". (I REALLY hope that!)

By the way, you misspelled "fire" in "firestorm".

Posted by: f2 | July 21, 2008 10:55 AM | Report abuse

I too think this whole thing is a tempest in a martini glass, but how DOES one contact you? For example, in 15 minutes, the Post is about to run a chat w/ Joss Whedon, who writes comic books - shouldn't you have a heads-up about that?

Posted by: Mike Rhode | July 21, 2008 11:48 AM | Report abuse

On a completely unrelated note: the "Title" character in "Roxanne" was actually played by Daryl Hannah.

Posted by: Josh McDonald | July 21, 2008 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Postmaster won't deliver to
Please post a working address!
Thanx--J. J. C.

Posted by: J. J. COOK | July 21, 2008 10:27 PM | Report abuse

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