New Normal, New York
Governor Andrew Cuomo has been in quite a blue mood lately. Although it’s not over New York elected officials bipartisan calls and congressional and senate demands from DC calling for an independent investigation into the motives behind his mandate demanding nursing homes accept COVID19 patients and the immunity law he gave the owners and financial holders of them. It’s also not over the MTA’s running out of funding to maintain and operate the transit system to go along with maniacs breaking train windows for the fuck of it. It’s also not over the mass exodus of the state’s richest people from the big hollow apple and especially those he’s groveling to so they stay put…
No it’s all these young and youngish adults who are flouting the pandemic protocols he put in place back in April (which he did very late) that mandated mask wearing and social distancing while shopping indoors and mingling outside at bars and restaurants. Even though this consensus flouting as been going on since the outbreak began and reaching the tipping point in summer’s eve with people partying down on an Astoria street, Cuomo decided that the only way he could get the narrative through to these maskless party obsessive punks would be through, um, comedy.
Now Cuomo is the last person who should delve into this genre, although as his massive ego and megalomania plainly shows, it’s safe to say that he probably thinks he knows funny more than anyone else who happens to be in his surroundings. Even that COVID 19 mountain grave poster he commissioned to make and is selling now has little side jokes (the boyfriend cliff).
What’s truly interesting about Cuomo’s sudden interest in resorting to humor is that because of his emergency executive powers that Albany’s legislators gave him in order to prevent contagion to keep the curve going back up the mountain is that he won’t let people who are actually funny and rely on comedy for their livelihoods do their jobs:
Witness this from the Queens Chronicle:
Customers at outside restaurants and bars can enjoy live music with their meal as long as the operators can produce appropriate State Liquor Authority certification and can keep at least a 12-foot distance between performers and the audience. Comedy shows, which can also accommodate those metrics, are not extended that right, however.
“Restaurants and other on premises food and beverage establishments that have a license through the SLA are only allowed to offer on-premise music if their license certificate specifically allows for such activity … All other forms of live entertainment, such as exotic dancing,s comedy shows, etc., are not permissible currently regardless of phase,” read the state Phase 3 and 4 guidelines for Licensed On-Premises Establishments.
A spokesperson for the Empire State Development Corp. said that comedy shows, whether indoor or outdoor, are considered high-risk gatherings. The state is concerned that they would create an environment that encourages mingling and congestion, resulting in spread of COVID-19.
“Comedians should be up in arms about this bizarre, explicit distinction. So musical comedy would be okay?” Kambri Crews, owner of comedy club QED, wrote in an Aug. 13 tweet.
Like many other comedy clubs, the Astoria cafe had been operating outdoors in accordance with respective Department of Health dining guidance — patrons should not be standing unless for necessary reasons, standing customers should wear face coverings and that 6-foot distance measures should be respected. In early July, the SLA rescinded that right.
“What comedy show have you been to where people are standing around and milling about?” said Crews, who told the Chroncile she’d happily accommodate any SLA restrictions, such as not selling alcohol, if it meant she could resume operations.
When asked if the distinction between live music shows at restaurants and live comedy performances at clubs lay in the guests’ incentive for gathering, the Empire State Development Corp. spokesperson said, “Music is ancillary to the meal.”
I don’t want to obsess that long on what a moronic statement that spokesman said, because I’ve been to plenty of clubs and concerts and I never had a hankering to chow down on something, but drinking is usually either required and expected during a stand up comic’s show. And Cuomo has been sending his SLA agents to shut down bars with the efficacy of how the Matrix deployed duplicate Agent Smiths after Keanau Reeves, but that’s another long story that needs to be thoroughly investigated and told, because I think the issue here is the state of comedy in New Normal, New York and in COVID-19 America. And it’s not fucking pretty.
Back in May, the NY Daily News profiled a young comedian who was doing parodies of Governor Cuomo’s daily COVID-19 briefings on her social media accounts. Taking after (or stealing from) an overnight sensation novice comedian (and former tech drone) Sarah Cooper’s twitter vids mocking Donald Trump’s interviews and statements by lip synching them, Maria de Cotis lip synched some clips of Cuomo’s pressers that immediately went viral, getting tons of hits and also praise for her satires on the suddenly immensely popular governor, mimicking personal and familial anecdotes and charming banter with the press.
Being a fan of comedy, especially satire, and with a social media account of my own, I felt a sudden urge to aide Ms. de Cotis.
So I clicked the link of her tweet video and I made some suggestions how she can get even more viral and huge by mimicking other videos from his daily briefings that were instantly available from attachments to stories and links from the New York Post that were related the serious subject matter of his policies that he wasn’t getting national fame for, the manipulating of rising mortality rates in nursing homes.
Now I’m not much of an influencer, well, I’m actually not an influencer, my blog only gets about 10-20 hits a day and I have under 400 followers on the twitter, so I didn’t expect her to take my advice. My clear intent was to disrupt the awful narrative that Governor Cuomo is some sort of hero of the pandemic when his dawdling from shutting down the state cost over 25,000 New Yorker’s lives. And also that Maria here can expand her repertoire with some dark, sardonic humor about this tragedy.
Alas, it was not to be. Because minutes later this happened:
I have tweeted at celebrities before challenging their views and opinions but they usually and naturally go ignored. And I’ve been blocked on the Twitter before by regular people, but this was the swiftest that I ever been cancelled by an account. A (quasi) celebrity account too. And it really wasn’t that hard to deduce.
Maybe DeCotis doesn’t do satire that’s acerbic or dark, maybe that’s not her thing, but apparently, she does satire that’s government approved. Or in this case, Cuomo approved. Because in her videos, she not only links Cuomo’s government account but also his personal account @andrewcuomo
The only thing missing from that “comedian”s videos was the excelsior emblem. All of her video tweets have both of Cuomo’s accounts. Something tells me that this woman could have got commissioned to be a jester for King Andrew’s court. While the “LuvGuv” can keep tabs on his detractors. Zoiks.
Which brings us to Cuomo’s latest resort to comedy derived policy making. As the chillier weather and flu season of Autumn nears and with reports of college students getting infected after attending crowd cluster homecoming ragers and park ravers, he gave his celebrity brah Paul Rudd, star of “Clueless” and creator of the sharp comedy about traveling van catering waiters “Party Down”, a call and make a humorous PSA loaded with that snark humor that millenials and Gen Z appreciate so much and view on their $1,000 cellphones.
Rudd gives it all he got here, from the hipster pube beard and upscale hoodie, headphones and skateboard accessories while going off at the mouth with heavily misused social media jargon, but it just falls flat. Especially when the bit comes to a halt when he pleads with the target demographic to don the masks and show respect, which negated everything that was mildly amusing in the video in the first 60 second as Mr. Rudd descends into another middle aged man desperately trying to connect today’s youth that will surely won’t listen. The saddest thing about this is not the wasted effort in this video but the fact that Governor Cuomo basically summoned Rudd to produce this mess. Again spending New Yorker’s tax dollars to hire another jester at his whim.
To paraphrase the immortal saint of comedy Bill Hicks, government monitored and approved humor will always suck. And government integrated comedy is surely worse, as manifested recently at Gotham Comedy club when Chuck Schumer grabbed the mic from Jerry Seinfeld to tell a shitty joke during a charity fundraiser. (And shouldn’t Gotham have their liquor licensed revoked for having a joke being told, which is against COVID guidelines?)
But there is a reason why comedy performance is considered (and mandated) as a potential contagion hazard by the Governor, and that’s because comedy is capable of reverting the authoritative narrative and constructs of the establishment and is capable of bringing truth to power as or even more effectively than the hardest hitting muckraking journalism could. Imagine if a funny person with a gig at a club like the Comedy Cellar going off for an hour with jokes about the police states and the obscene redistribution of wealth that are simultaneously blossoming during this pandemic and gilded age coinciding with a depression and about the politicians of today who are doing a horrendous job serving their constituents with conflicting and suppressing pandemic guidelines while assuring their moneyed donors they will be well protected. The last thing people with power want is someone getting on a stage with solid comic material that excoriates the system induced by this pandemic and going viral with it. That’s the kind of super spread that Cuomo is just as worried about. Maybe more.
As Herschel Krustofsky illustrates and as the legacies of Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, George Carlin and Bill Hicks has validated, the best and funniest comedy besides the jokes is when it challenges the status quo and points out the inherent absurdity of it. It confronts taboos and turns them inwards rendering them irrelevant. It exposes the truth behind the lies and opens up minds that hear it, subjecting the creators and defenders of those lies to the ridicule they all deserve. Sadly, thanks to the likes of Paul Rudd and Maria DeCotis, all of that endemic graft and corruption is going to continue unblemished.
Speaking of Ms. DeCotis, I wonder how she has progressed as a comic since she went viral months ago.
I guess I will never know. And apparently, it’s very essential that I better not.
The last time I heard Andrew Cuomo make something resembling a joke was just days before he was going to end his COVID daily briefing afternoon variety show; he rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange and flippantly remarked that 73 people who succumbed to coronavirus that day as “good news”. And topped it off diminishing those people that died with a tone deaf observation by describing it as the “absurd reality” “we” all live in. The reality the ersatz King Cuomo exacerbated with his criminally absurd and negligent decisions while trying to normalize vapid acceptance by marginalizing the deaths of over dozens of people because of the vast amount that died and got stored in trailers before those 73 victims in a short amount of time.
No wonder he needs comedy to salve his sorry leadership and the general lack of respect for him from young adult and certifiable young New Yorkers. And to salvage his certifiable royal fuckups.