Best Of The Web
“The term “successful comedian” has always been something of an oxymoron—there’s nothing funny about a rich entertainment icon. This is the premise of Ellen DeGeneres’s new, decorous Netflix special, “Relatable.” It’s DeGeneres’s first taped standup set in fifteen years, a period during which she’s been the host of one of the most-viewed daytime television shows in history—a savvy, cheerful jester tasked with surveying the fast-paced world of celebrity culture and translating it for a mass audience. Along with success, of course, comes wealth, perhaps the unfunniest subject of all. DeGeneres knows this. At the beginning of the set, she recounts a conversation that she had with a friend about returning to standup. “Your life has changed so much,” he told her. “I know, but I still think I’m relatable,” DeGeneres replied. “Anyway, just then, two of my butlers stepped into the library and announced that my breakfast was ready. And I said, ‘We’ll continue this conversation another time.’ ”
Wealth is not the only force that has threatened to undermine DeGeneres’s comedy. There’s also the treacly sensibility of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” which she acknowledges has turned into a trap—particularly her tendency to dance on air, which, over the years, went from a gimmick to a prison of her own making. “There’s been times someone wants a picture, and while I’m doing a selfie, they’re, like: ‘You’re not dancing!,’ ” DeGeneres told the Times recently, in an article titled “Ellen DeGeneres Is Not as Nice as You Think.” “Of course I’m not dancing. I’m walking down the street,” she said. Two years ago, she decided to axe the dancing segment from her show altogether, a move that presented a real risk to her relationship with her fun-loving, all-ages audience.
Theoretically, “Relatable” is meant to offer a course correction, or at least an alternative, to DeGeneres’s reputation as a family-friendly gimmick queen. But, if DeGeneres has seemed to lose her edge over the years, she also struggles to relocate it in the special. Once the well of jokes about how rich she is has run dry—and it happens quickly—there is only a thin layer of material, most of it extremely breezy, to use. DeGeneres recalls the familiar ritual that she and her wife, Portia de Rossi, have of sitting on the couch, each sucked into her respective Internet hole, exchanging cute videos and memes rather than speaking. She brings up a video of a yellow bird dancing to Kendrick Lamar’s “humble.” and envisions a geriatric woman hearing Juvenile’s “Back That Azz Up” sometime in the distant future. And then she dances, seeming jubilant and defeated at once. This is DeGeneres falling back onto the shtick that has defined her career for the past fifteen years. And it’s not for a lack of material—she’s a woman working in the relative ghetto of daytime television, where she’s taken less seriously than the men doing the same routines on late-night TV. That’s a tension that I would have loved to hear DeGeneres explore.”
JJ Editor's Picks
"In a bid to create new space for green industries and fossil-free energy production, greater Copenhagen wants to build an entirely new business and infrastructure district on the city’s southwestern edge."
Donald Trump ran for president saying that he would be a shrewd businessman with a propensity for making deals. Why, then, are we in the longest government shutdown on record?
"There isn’t an Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the way that many outsiders seem to think... In the Israeli view, no peacemaker can bring the two sides together because there aren’t just two sides. There are many, many sides."
"I've always wondered what fans see in her. After debating with a friend about her “merits” for over half a decade now, I thought I had found the one thing that could probably change my opinion of the pop star: the Reputation tour documentary..."
"Even if the economy is on a roll, many Americans aren’t feeling the benefit... In fact, when adjusted for cost of living increases, real wages actually declined 1.3% since the end of 2017, PayScale found."
"Cutting ties with Facebook would mean consciously cutting ties with my own community, and I can't bring myself to do it. When I asked my connections on Facebook why they were staying, their answers were very similar to mine..."
Fear of the news; fear of climate change, fear of touch screens... these New Yorker cartoons portray the modern phobias that are driving us crazy.
"Texts replaced authors as the privileged objects of scholarly knowledge, and the performance of critical operations on texts became essential to the scholar’s identity."
"When I speak to parents’ groups about kids who are addicted to Fortnite and other video games, I tell them that it is the parents’ job to limit, govern and guide their kids’ use of video games..."
"Startups like Hungry Harvest and Imperfect Produce say they're helping to reduce food waste in America. Critics say they're deceiving their customers and making the problem worse."
"Scholars are now interested in whether having a vocabulary item for a concept influences thought in domains far from language, such as visual perception."
"The much-documented anti-Semitism of the British Labor party leader is no accident... Jeremy Corbyn reminds us that anti-Semitism is not just an irrational hatred, harbored by madmen at the fringes of British society."