Tuesday, April 7, 2020

The Final Solution: COVID-19 Hurts Provocation Industry

Bob Hope (photo: Marion S. Trikosko)
If you’re a person prone to flamboyant, provocative and outrageous behavior, you may be finding COVID-19 is cramping your style. It’s hard to parody “Schenk v. United States,” the famous Holmes decision when the theater is actually burning down—which is metaphorically the state of things. How can a curmudgeon survive a pandemic? Naturally pundits like Bill Maher, who have gotten mileage on their sardonic and scrappy remarks, are going to have an audience. However, if you’re someone who enjoys pointing out the failings of your fellow man, sees the worst in everybody, and refuses to join the human race even as more valiant souls struggle to put out fires on one continent (Australia), only to find themselves fighting the modern version of the plague on the next, then you’re going to be a fish out of water. If you’re the kind of individualist who makes a profession of underscoring human foibles you’re probably not going to be asked to take a seat at the table—aka Zoom which is technology’s gift to social distancing. Dorothy Parker famously said about a Katherine Hepburn performance that “she ran the whole gamut of emotions from a to b.” That kind of cutting remark is not going to gain traction in a world where theaters have been closed down. While Oscar Wilde was jailed for homosexuality, his witticisms would make him virtually unemployable in the current climate—where the evangelical spirit is what the walking wounded crave.  Edwardian dandies need not apply. Remember it was Bob HOPE not Lenny Bruce or even George Carlin who performed before the troops.

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