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Thursday, April 09, 2020

Breaking down news: Gag files

On humour, or the lack of it on airwaves these days

Written by Pratik Kanjilal | Published: June 8, 2019 12:37:21 am
donald trump in UK, Hasan Minhaj, the patriot act, navika kumar, us news, world news, A six-meter high cartoon baby blimp of US President Donald Trump is flown as a protest against his visit, in Parliament Square in London, England. (Source: AP Photo/File)

There was a run on British visas this week, apparently because of a tourist rush on account of the World Cup. But it could as well owe to the excitement generated by Donald Trump’s visit to London. What could be more stirring than seeing the baby Trump blimp take to the skies again? Perhaps, it flies for the last time, because it is apparently being acquired by a museum. Never mind, there’s the float of Trump tweeting first thing in the morning from atop his thunderbox. And the crowds of protesters who turned out with placards bearing testimony to the durability of British humour. The coverage of the protests, and the volume of airtime given to embarrassing POTUS, was fairly uplifting. The Guardian commented on FLOTUS “aerating” the lawn with her high heels. The British have been tending their lawns since Stonehenge was built, and they take such things personally.

The great Bette Midler summed up the public mood in the UK on Twitter: “Trump said he was greeted by thousands in the UK, but they were actually thousands of protesters. How does he always hear the opposite of the truth? Donald, if you’re reading this you SHOULD NOT slam your **** in a door!” Midler had tangled with Trump online after he had attacked London mayor Sadiq Khan, for the crime of repeatedly making liberal and inclusive gestures.

Speaking of repeat offences, try this reaction for size: “You have a terrible habit of alliteration and repetition when you continue to repeat and labour on the same point multiple times with some kind of a glorious insecurity that when the point is made the first time it will be seen to be so facetious that I will not be able to comprehend its logic but unlike you I’m smart enough to understand something when it is said for the first time so will you please sir not consider this to be a kindergarten class where you have to repeat the point 10 times over thank you unless you want to be my onion for the evening and let me tell you that it will not be a very pleasurable experience because I will grill you peel you fry you sauté you and then serve you to yourself and by the way the technology… you know your image froze for a while you know why because your logic also froze and secondly your silly and childish attempt to create internal trouble within the government is really foolish because both Rajnath and Nitin Gadkari and Amit Shah have been happily sworn in while your supreme leader came in unshaven looking extremely unhappy was flopping around and then went back understanding that he’s an embarrassment to himself. Thank you, at least I don’t repeat myself, and sorry for that long sentence.”

This is a real sentence, really spoken at length on television by Arnab Goswami, and while it lacks the literary merit of masters of the form like James Joyce and William Faulkner (who once held a Guinness Book record for a sentence 1,288 words long in Absalom! Absalom!), it is nevertheless a landmark in television history. Even the most garrulous cricket commentator, who reports rapidly unfolding events, could not possibly match this sentence, focused on just one allegation – that of repetition. It is such a tremendous feat that Republic has put the clip titled ‘Arnab goes non-stop’ of one minute and 44.52 seconds on YouTube for keeps. Is that just celebrating a long
performance, or is the channel trolling its own anchor?

Meanwhile, Goswami’s former colleagues at Times Now are doggedly stalking stand-up comic Hasan Minhaj in the hope of having him on a programme with Navika Kumar. He had done two episodes of his Netflix show Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj, during the run-up to the Indian general elections, and after the results, well-researched drollery was met with machine-gun bursts of Indian trollery. But what caught Times Now’s attention was a section about cable news anchors, where Navika Kumar found mention. And so they sent him an invitation, which Minhaj rejected as a ‘trap’, an ambush that he refused because the show was too “intense”. Which is a polite way of saying that he has no interest in blood sports.

But Times Now is as insistent as a roadside Romeo in the movies, and sent him an invitation to an allegedly less intense show by Navika Kumar, Frankly Speaking. In evidence of lower intensity, they sent him a clip of Kumar’s show with Jaggi Vasudev, which is a bit like trying to seduce a hilsa fan with a turnip salad. They just can’t understand that Minhaj is a comic, and that his allusion to Kumar, which had set the ball rolling, should not be regarded as fan mail. No sense of humour on the airwaves, these days.

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