The thing I am most terrified of as a person in media is becoming sheltered in a liberal bubble. Whenever I turn on a ?woke? comedy special, I feel guilty unless I balance it out with some white guy yelling ?triggered? for an hour.
?and then I watched Bill Burr?s Paper Tiger, and I was torn. I couldn?t place it. Sure, he yelled triggered a lot, but he also threw in jokes about male privilege. He defended Louis CK? but also defends Colin Kaepernick.
This centrist comedy quirk ? okay, fault ? of mine really began when deep-deep cable network One America News released the trailer for Headlines Tonight with Drew Berquist.
Finally, I thought, the right has an answer to Last Week Tonight. I better watch both to get the full picture.
And then they released the first episode in full. And?holy moly.
I just? the green screen, the laugh track, the ?thats it, thats the joke,? the terrible Bernie Sanders impression, it?s a reminder: the reason that there aren?t right wing political comedy shows is that there?s nothing funny about being against other people.
I felt this same disgust-but-morbid-fascination in watching Dave Chappelle?s new special Sticks and Stones, which is often used as a comparison to Paper Tiger. Sticks and Stones was the portrait of a man ?daring to say what others won?t,? which ended up being?.jokes ridiculing Anthony Bourdain for dying by suicide, jokes ridiculing the Michael Jackson accusers for not ?feeling lucky? and about 10 minutes of jokes about trans people that were just as funny as when I heard them the first time from Paul Joseph Watson.
Paper Tiger is similar? for the first five minutes. Burr puts on a voice akin to Jim Gaffigan when he imitates feminists, ranting about the #MeToo movement, and it all seems like well worn shock jock ground. The audience, curiously, is British, the special was filmed at the Royal Albert Hall, but they seem to be loving it.
He touches on kink in the age of #MeToo for a second, saying ?well, what if she likes it rough? What do you do then?? and someone in the audience yells ?Ask for consent!? and he acts scandalized, presumably because that insinuates that he rapes people? It was baffling to me as I?ve read enough fanfiction to know that the key to kink and bdsm is consent and communication beforehand, but I guess Bill Burr isn?t up to date on AO3.
I sighed at this point, settling in again for the inevitably jokes about trans people. But they never came.
Instead he spends about 45 seconds talking about how Colin Kaepernick?s protest does not invalidate the efforts of the armed forces and the tone shifts. Maybe this is why it was filmed overseas. Bill?s going woke.
He goes on to make fun of male feminists. I knew this part was coming because in the trailer he says?
actually I feel weird typing it so
Anyway, I was bracing for that line, but while I did, I heard him say ?A man cannot be a feminist any more than I can say I?m a Black Panther. At the end of the day, I?m still a blue eyed white man living my life.?
He doesn?t claim male feminists are pathetic because they support women, he claims they are pathetic because they don?t recognize their own privilege and complicity in the issue. What a breath of fresh air, what misleading trailer editing.
Of course, because we can?t have nice things, this is followed by a tirade about how Michelle Obama is going on a book tour after she was a First Lady, ?a job that means nothing? hey bill? bill? uhh?
And so it continues, with jokes about sex robots and Stephen Hawking, but peppered in between are genuinely heartwrenching moments of a man who wants to learn to be better. He tells the story of his own sexual assault by a woman in a jokey ?this is my STORY this is my TRUTH? way, but you can see how he wrestles with his own masculinity regarding the event.
His temper is the other theme that Bill touches on. It bothers his wife, he?s worried he?ll terrify his daughter, and all he wants is to be better, if only so his wife won?t have anything to complain about. It?s this temper than fuels the persona that got Burr where he is today, so it makes sense that eventually it would be addressed.
The self improvement comes up in my favorite part of the show, a part Kathryn VanArendonk wrote about far more eloquently than I ever could in her review for Vulture, he discusses arguing with his wife, who?s black, about cultural appropriation and Elvis. She makes points about cultural appropriation, he does the customary ?but you appropriate white culture?, and she is offended, and then he takes it back, explaining how minorities are systematically oppressed. He then is on thin ice with this joke, but expertly turns it back on himself, making him the butt of the joke.
That?s where Burr strays from the offensive comedy archetype: he makes the show, or, at least half of it, the portrait of a man who wants to stop the generational chain of outrage in his family, he wants to listen to his wife?s points. People like Drew Berquist say ?it?s okay to make fun of these people, because they are bad people.? Bill is saying ?I?m making fun of these people because I?m a bad person.? He wants to change, and hopefully, he can convince the audience to as well.