Schlock Jockey

by Scott McLemee on April 16, 2007

I was sick of the whole Don Imus thing about two minutes into it, and did not expect willingly to read a long discussion of the subject. But Phil Nugent’s commentary is on target. The rhythms of his rant are always so beautifully well-modulated:

The talk radio world, one that Imus worked hard to shape, is one where overpaid white guys who did well in the voting for the title of “Class Clown” at their respective high schools sneer at blacks, women, gays, what have you, in a dismayingly self-congratulatory tone. The self-congratulation comes not from the cleverness of their material–nobody could be that self-deluded–but from the fantasy that they’re speaking truth to power and taking on The Man by being, and here hold tight while we flash back to the thrilling days of 1993, “politically incorrect.” Their natural audience is people who hate their lives and, at least for a few minutes a day, like to imagine that they’re outlaws by listening to some peabrain on the radio make fun of, say, homeless people or the victims of the 2004 tsunami. This stuff is not hard to do. Lest you think I’m being self-righteous here, let me make it clear that I know how easy it is to do funny ethnic voices and make fun of gay stereotypes because I’ve done it, usually very late at night, often on car trips when I was trying to keep myself and someone else awake, always when my cerebral wattage had reached the draining point and I couldn’t think of anything to say that would actually have counted as funny. In my defense, nobody was throwing millions of dollars at me at the time, and if they were, I like to think that I would have differed from the Imuses and the Opie and Anthonys of this world in that I would have made some effort to actually earn the money. (I remember that when Howard Stern began a short-lived tenure of having his show broadcast in New Orleans, he held a press conderence, and one of the local reporters asked him how he would compete with the hilarious, daring wild man talk guy who was already doing a New Orleans morning show, and whose name escapes me. Stern, who’d clearly never heard the local guy’s name, said something like, what’s he do, like a Southern guy and a black guy and a gay guy, all the while doing high-school level impersonations of a drawling hick, a Stepin Fetchit type, and a nelly dude, which did indeed sound exactly like the local guy’s repertoire of funny voices. I remember that the New Orleans reporter was stunned by this, and seemed genuinely unaware that there was some yokel doing the same basic act at some radio station in every city in America.)

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