Camille Paglia explains why Donald Trump is a great stand-up comedian

Over at Salon, Camille Paglia takes on Jon Stewart, Trump, Cosby, Sanders, feminism, and more in three different pieces. She's super interesting and thinks like a comic in her premises. You hate at least some of what she's saying but you're fascinated by all of it and damn, she sure is smart in her arguments. Here's her take on Trump as carnival barker/comedian and how she brought her own improv/comedy experience to the stage when dealing with hecklers.

Comedy, to me, is one of the major modern genres, and the big influences on my generation were Lenny Bruce and Mort Sahl. Then Joan Rivers had an enormous impact on me–she’s one of my major role models. It’s the old caustic, confrontational style of Jewish comedy. It was Jewish comedians who turned stand-up from the old gag-meister shtick of vaudeville into a biting analysis of current social issues, and they really pushed the envelope. Lenny Bruce used stand-up to produce gasps and silence from the audience. And that’s my standard–a comedy of personal risk...

[Trump] takes hits like a comedian–and to me he’s more of a comedian than Jon Stewart is! Like claiming John McCain isn’t a war hero, because his kind of war hero doesn’t get captured–that’s hilarious! That’s like something crass that Lenny Bruce might have said! It’s so startling and entertaining.

It’s as if the stars have suddenly shifted–because we’re getting a mix-up in the other party too, as in that recent disruption of the NetRoots convention, with all that raw emotion and chaos in the air. To me, it feels very 1960s. These sudden disruptions, as when the Yippies would appear to do a stunt–like when they invaded Wall Street and threw dollar bills down on the stock exchange and did pig-calls! I’m enjoying this, but it’s throwing both campaigns off. None of the candidates on either side know how to respond to this kind of wild spontaneity, because we haven’t seen it in so long.

Politics has always been performance art. So we’ll see who the candidates are who can think on their feet. That’s certainly how I succeeded in the early 1990s. Before that, the campus thought police could easily disrupt visiting speakers who came with a prepared speech to read. But they couldn’t disrupt me, because I had studied comedy and did improv! The great comedians knew how to deal with hecklers in the audience. I loved to counterattack! Protestors were helpless when the audiences laughed.

So what I’m saying is that the authentic 1960s were about street theater–chaos, spontaneity, caustic humor. And Trump actually has it! He does better comedy than most professional comedians right now, because we’re in this terrible period where the comedians do their tours with canned jokes. They go from place to place, saying the same list of jokes in the same way. But the old vaudevillians had 5,000 jokes stored in their heads. They went out there and responded to that particular audience on that particular night. They had to read the crowd and try out what worked or didn’t work.

Our politicians, like our comedians, have been boring us with their canned formulas for way too long. So that’s why Donald Trump has suddenly leapt in the polls. He’s a great stand-up comedian. He’s anti-PC–he’s not afraid to say things that are rude and mean. I think he’s doing a great service for comedy as well as for politics!


Her no-shits-given/I-make-my-own-feminism perspective reminds me of Fran Lebowitz a bit. (Thx JF)

Btw, I'm amazed when anyone takes Trump seriously. He doesn't actually want to be President. He wants to get his name in the news as much as possible so his awareness increases of the Trump brand and then he can license it for more to the shitty vodka, golf course, condo building, suit manufacturer, or whatever else that wants to pay him for it. Everyone who mentions him just makes him richer. So Donald, you're welcome.

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1 Comment(s)

Anonymous Helen said...

Hahaha so true... never quite thought of it this way. Thanks for sharing. Love your stuff :)

8/6/15, 10:07 AM