Greg Giraldo and Direct Confrontation on Television

Comedian Greg Giraldo passing last week brought to my attention a video clip featuring him that’s both remarkable and illuminating for being such.

I knew of Greg Giraldo mainly from his appearances on podcasts and some online clips, and he always seemed like a comedian who used comedy to hunt for truth. This remembrance, written by fellow comic and friend Ted Alexandro is very affecting.

Many of the posts about Mr. Giraldo link to a particular clip from the show Tough Crowd, in which he gets into it with, comic-turned-actor, Denis Leary, as an example of his wit and fearlessness. That clip is here, the conversation is about conflict with North Korea with the relevant bit starting at 3:20 (though the whole clip worth’s watching just to see how quickly he elevates the discourse):

It’s great TV. One smart person arguing with an even smarter person, and the two going directly at each other.

What’s remarkable about it is the tension that watching it, even now, produces. I think that’s because the clip shows us something that’s surprisingly rare on television, two people disagreeing with each other without compromise.

Cable news, mainly devoted to covering a political moment in which each party thinks the other is not just wrong, but crazy, hardly ever produces that kind of direct confrontation. If we had more of it, not to mention more social commentators like Greg Giraldo, our discourse might be in better shape.

Greg Giraldo and Direct Confrontation on Television

I Miss Evil

I started out a little scared of Dick Cheney. And of Karl Rove. Further back, even of Newt Gingrich.

I was scared of them because it felt like they were working the levers of a system that I couldn’t perceive.

Even as a teenager it seemed so transparent that Mr. Gingrich was a thundering hypocrite, about both economics and personal morality, that he had to be playing a deeper game within American politics. That some hidden power was pulling the strings and trying to nudge America into a particular shape.

The early days of the Bush administration felt the same way. That there were hidden agendas that may have been kleptocratic, but that still required a basic societal stability from which to profit.

For a Progressive, the opposition felt evil, in the way that a Bond villain is. Or Doctor Doom.

Man, I miss those days.

Now when I look at the politics of the right, there doesn’t seem to be any hidden agendas. There doesn’t seem to be any kind of comforting, comic-book, evil, just inchoate rage from some (Ms. Angle, Mr. DeMint) and the desire to stay one step ahead of that rage for others (Mr. Boehner, Mr. McCain).

Now, not only do the ideas not make sense, but it doesn’t matter that they don’t make sense. There seems to be no fear of ruling over ashes.

I’d like my comic-book bad guys back.

I Miss Evil

How Starting Quarterbacks are like Network Pilots

A NFL team spends its whole preseason either figuring out who its starting quarterback will be or preparing the one they have for the upcoming season. Critical practice reps are devoted to getting the offense right, and all the pieces revolve around the signal caller.

And after that quarterback fails in his first two games, after less than 13% of the season has passed, they’re out. Possibly to never return to the starting lineup.

A network pilot gets written. Executives decide to film a pilot. Staff are hired. Actors are cast. Important decisions are made about every aspect of the show. The pilot works. The show gets picked up. Subsequent episodes are filmed.

The pilot airs on the network. It bombs. It may not even make it to a second episode.

In both situations massive upfront investments were made for no return at all.

Perhaps it speaks to unique nature of sports and entertainment that their markets can be so inefficient, or perhaps there’s room for innovation in both.

How Starting Quarterbacks are like Network Pilots

A Sincere Question about Professional Football

What percentage of offensive success is based on successfully executing a game plan vs. the defensive failing to execute theirs?

Basically, how often does a play work because the offensive is doing something right and how often is it because the defensive is doing something wrong?

(Which can get a bit fuzzy when lots of plays are designed to fool the defensive into making the wrong reactions, play-action passes and counters and such, but even throwing those out, I still think the answer would be fascinating.)

A Sincere Question about Professional Football