Misaimed Fandom: Comedian Characters
Examples of Misaimed Fandom
for characters created by comedians.
- Sacha Baron Cohen relies on this phenomenon when performing in the character of Borat — he presents what can only be described as an over-the-top, wholly unbelievable portrayal of a backwards, anti-Semitic Central Asian reporter, expressing opinions that most people would find intolerable, and in so doing, gets people to agree with those opinions. Perhaps the ultimate example is "In My Country There Is Problem", which starts off innocently enough before launching into the chorus "Throw the Jew down the well/So my country can be free..." which the audience had no reservations at all about singing along to. The video is both hilarious and very, very disturbing.
- Similarly, Baron Cohen's Ali G character was intended as a satire of white guys trying to be black but was ultimately worshiped by the very people it criticized.
- Inversely, Baron Cohen's Bruno character, meant as a parody of gay stereotypes, was criticized as being homophobic. Even by critics who understood the above two examples (possibly because the first two were Acceptable Targets.) Baron Cohen seems to have a lot of trouble getting his intended message across.
- Arguably the problem with Baron Cohen's characters is that while his intended message is fairly progressive he does also use a lot of stereotypes and racist/homophobic jokes to get cheap laughs from the audience. For every "gay conversion" or "Straight Dave" scene there's a cheap joke about anal sex or incestuous Kazakhs.
- Al Murray's Pub Landlord character was intended as a parodic stereotype of working-class British Nationalists. He was given a talk show on ITV and asked to play the character straight. Nor does it stop people with those actual views from agreeing with the character.
- Jamie Kennedy's character B-Rad. B-Rad was a satire of white kids who want to be black along the same lines as Ali G, but those who only saw him in Malibu's Most Wanted might not know how much Jamie Kennedy despised the character. He mocks it in his standup act.
- Harry Enfield's sketch character "Loadsamoney" was intended as a biting parody of smug, narcissistic, possessions-obsessed yuppies. That they turned out to be the character's biggest fans led into Creator Backlash, and the character being Killed Off for Real.
- Sarah Silverman, especially when her fans drool over her looks, demonstrating one of the attitudes she mercilessly satirizes.
"I don't care if you think I'm racist, I just want you to think I'm thin."
- Stephen Colbert's character has been mistaken for a genuine conservative more than once. A fan asked him about this before a taping of The Colbert Report:
Fan: What do you think of conservatives who watch your show and think you're serious about what you say?
Stephen: It just goes to show that we haven't gotten rid of all the lead paint in our houses.
- In fact, a recent study has shown that conservative fans think that Colbert is exaggerating and presenting his actual views in a comical manner, rather than being outright sarcastic. Both fans and newcomers were presented a clip and asked what they thought Colbert's real views were. The clip was an interview where Colbert attacked a liberal guest in an exaggerated way.
- Van Kooten En De Bie: Dutch comedians Kees van Kooten and Wim de Bie had it happen to them with their characters Jacobse en van Es. Originally, they were supposed to be smalltime crooks, until, in 1980, they decided to start a political party called de Tegenpartij ("The Opposing Party") with the motto "Geen gezeik, iedereen rijk" which means "No complaining, everybody rich" ("geen gezeik" is Dutch slang for "no pissing" and by extension "no complaining"). It was supposed to be a spoof on all the extreme right-wing political parties. Unfortunately, said political parties had no sense of satire and openly embraced the Tegenpartij. As a result, on May 10th 1981, "Jacobse en van Es" were shot to death while staging a coup d'etat in The Hague. Van Kooten en de Bie were very sorry to have to retire their favourite characters, and had them come back from the dead several times.
- The real life Dutch far right wing party, The Centrum Partij, had the characters on the cover of their pamphlets and said: "THESE GUYS FINALLY LET PEOPLE HEAR THE TRUTH!"
- Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis, who starred on the hit Canadian comedy series SCTV, created the characters of Bob and Doug McKenzie (two beer-drinking, somewhat idiotic brothers that talk about menial subjects) as a way to get back at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, who (at the time the show was being produced) tried to force the show's production team to add two minutes of "identifiably Canadian content". When the show premiered, it was a hit with the audience that the two actors were trying to lampoon, and the characters became one of the most famous aspects of the show.
- Comedy shows such as The Office, Little Britain, Extras, and Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat have been praised by some for their disregard of political correctness, when in fact the disregard of political correctness is what's frequently being satirized.
- This is traditionally a risk of doing provocative comedy routines, particularly those involving racism and other forms of bigotry; no matter how noble the intentions of the performer, it inevitably becomes difficult to tell whether people are laughing at the satire of the racist character or whether people are laughing with the racist character. The reverse can also be true, it at times being difficult to tell whether the performer actually is satirizing racial issues or whether they're just using this as an excuse to get some cheap laughs using racially-based humour.
- It's becoming increasingly popular in UK comedy to openly mock people who're ardently anti-political correctness (generally straight white men) as just being rude bullies, with Dara O'Brien mocking it as being against "being polite" and Mock The Week guest Mickey Flanagan's occasional racist jokes going over very poorly and being mocked by the other panel members. This, purely because of people misinterpreting and feeling validated by subtle satire of criticism of political correctness.
- Alf Garnett of the British comedy show Till Death Do Us Part and Archie Bunker of All In The Family, the American adaptation, still provoke great debate over whether they were supposed to be satires of the kind of racist mindset they displayed, or played straight. Word of God claimed the former, but a heck of a lot of viewers seemed to believe and agree with the latter.
- To a lesser extends this goes for the Dutch series "In Voor en Tegenspoed" (English: "For better and for worse") as well. The lead character, Rijk de Gooyer who was born for the part, was an extreme bigot. This was around the time that racism in politics became a hot issue again (due to the right-wing Centrum Democrat Party). Somehow, people missed the scathing satire totally. Set eventually right when a parody of the Centrum Democrat Party came to his house to talk about the 'issues' in modern day Holland. The main character listens attentively, agrees with most of the stuff and calls over one of his friends to listen to what they have to say. Que one of his black friends coming over and listening to their drivel. Funny as hell, especially because you see the smile on his friends face getting bigger and bigger, while the representatives from the racist party getting more nervous by the second.
- Charlie Brooker, in a Radio Times interview, described how he was once approached by the Conservative Party to star in an election broadcast. Though he doesn't bash viewers over the head with his politics, it's still quite clear that he isn't a Tory.
- Several mainstream news organizations have taken Jon Stewart to task for being voted America's most trusted newscaster note . Yes, the host of a program dedicated to mocking the news is America's most trusted newscaster. The irony? It's entirely possible The Daily Show is the most reliable news program in America, given that it's one of the few programs (comedic or otherwise) that's willing to make its guests uncomfortable by asking hard-hitting questions (and having an encyclopedic knowledge of the subject matter) - most guests show up thinking they're in for a totally different interview.
- Stewart lampshaded this fact in his well-known appearance on CNN's "Crossfire" in 2004 - Stewart says that news organizations look to his show for cues on integrity. When the hosts try to grill him for not being "hard-hitting enough" on guests, Stewart explains, "You're on CNN. The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls... if your idea of confronting me is that I don't ask hard-hitting enough news questions, we're in bad shape."
- Andrew "Dice" Clay. His comedy character is an over-the-top parody of a 1950's style greaser, with appallingly backwards views on women and sex. The satire, unfortunately, seems a little too on the nose for most people. Roger Ebert reviewed one of his shows and was aghast at the audience, who basically responded to the sexist drivel by pumping their fists and chanting his name. However, Ebert himself made the mistake of confusing the character with the comedian. Part of the problem was that Clay didn't break character in interviews, leading many to believe that the Diceman was a real guy. He has since attempted a comeback by returning to that character after his failures to move into more mainstream and family-friendly fare.
- Pee Wee Herman (who, like Clay, in "his" heyday rarely broke character in the public eye) was a parody of 1950s children's television hosts created by Groundlings member Paul Reubens, who eventually was popular enough to be given his own acclaimed children's show, despite the fact that the original play that Reubens' character came from having much Getting Crap Past the Radar in its content. "Pee Wee" was instead received and treated as a legitimate children's entertainer, which added to the shock when Reubens was arrested for public lewd behavior in the early 1990s.
- To a small extent, Bill Maher. Despite his enormous atheist fandom, he's actually just as critical of hardcore atheism as he is of religious extremism. In fact, not-so-extensive research will reveal that he's more of a hard agnostic than an atheist.