3/28/21: Scoop (2006) — The Death of Entertainment #poetry

3/28/21: Scoop (2006) — The Death of Entertainment #poetry

Entertainment died at 8:10 PM, Chicago time on 3/27/21. Cause of death — insight.

Last night I watched the last movie that was capable of entertaining me — Woody Allen’s Scoop from 2006. The movie ends with a scene where Allen plays a ghost doing magic tricks for other ghosts on a ship of dead souls. He has a funny line as he patronizes his audience, “Don’t be discouraged just because you are deceased, ladies and gentlemen …” I laughed … quite hard … for the last time at an entertainment.

A decent Woody Allen comedy, of which Scoop is one, is more palatable than most entertainments because Allen’s audience is a little more intelligent and sophisticated than the audiences for most entertainments. Entertainers pander — that’s what Allen’s last joke was about, and wit plays better for me than the broad, tiresome and dull mugging and pratfalls served up by a “brand new Saturday Night Live” hosted by Maya Rudolph starting at 10:30 PM Chicago time on 3/27/21.

The audience is the biggest problem in entertainment. The audience is a mass of varying sizes depending on the vehicle. Masses are inherently dim, dull and regressive. Masses are as far away from the cutting edge as is possible. The average person is far from enlightened — that’s why they are average. An entertainment, and an entertainer, can never be exceptional.

The entertainer is the second biggest problem in entertainment. The entertainer is not motivated to express his or her heart and soul — in other words, his or her personal truth. The entertainer wants to please the audience and get its applause as a means of procuring fame and fortune. Woody Allen’s audience wants a report on the state of his soul. Each of his many films is a fairly honest report of his psychological and spiritual state in a particular moment, or at least year, so Allen’s movies have a patina of art about them ….

but Allen was severely punished by audiences for two films early in his career … Interiors and Stardust Memories … punished for going too deeply into his thoughts and feelings … his own discomfort with being an entertainer in Stardust … his own wish to learn how to write drama in Interiors …

and Allen was largely ignored for releasing and exhibiting his rage at disapproval for his personal life in Deconstructing Harry, one of his most interesting movies.

So the audience wants the real Woody Allen, but not too much of him … God forbid that everyone discovered something …

Allen is an interesting entertainer to look at because he had aspirations to be an artist, and achieved art at times, but like all entertainers with such ambitions, he was ultimately held back by his audience.

Audiences want brands … they want to know what the entertainment will provide them before they choose to consume it. Entertainers create brands. It’s their job. Commercials can be amusing and diverting, but they can never be interesting.

I want to be interested. I want real communication — not sales pitches. I don’t want to escape anything. That’s a waste of time. I want to understand. I write to understand (art) and I watch to understand (art).

I stopped going to Mass because there was nothing there for me. The priests never said anything that transformed my life. They seemed to be talking to someone different than me. Someone dumber, someone weaker … someone more interested in survival than in fully living life with excellence. The other congregants were unimpressive as well. They were generally cold and bored and distant, and sometimes not even polite. The Church was supposed to toss me out of the timidity and meanness of weekday society and give me a glimpse at what was truly wonderful and possible. It didn’t.

So, the Church died for me a long time ago. And now so does entertainment.

R.I.P entertainers and their audiences and priests and their congregations …

Actually, I think entertainment died for me a long time ago too … I just didn’t know it. I stopped fashioning entertainment more than thirty years ago, and entertainment audiences disappeared forever at least four years ago … I just stopped pursuing them.

My insight last night into the death of entertainment is more than an academic one. It is life – changing in several ways. It changes my ideation — past hobby horses of resentment and grief are gone. I can’t even remember who and what was bothering me. I have rock solid and amplified clarity about places and people that I definitely want to avoid. I have closure.

Maya Rudolph paused at the beginning of a sketch last night featuring her Kamala Harris character, waiting for major laughter and applause that never arrived. It was embarrassing — a failure of Rudolph’s brand. She had misjudged her audience. Her audience has the attention span of a flea. They seemed to have forgotten who Kamala Harris was, just a few months from the election campaign when she held centerstage in the national media. Worse for Rudolph, they had already forgotten Rudolph’s Emmy winning turn as Harris in 2020 … the attention span of fleas … a flea circus where the fleas are in the audience watching the human beings …

Entertainment is an undignified thing to do. Entertainers are humiliated. I was on the main stage of Second City Theater in Chicago in the early 1980s. I was a big local hero for a time. No one remembers except a very few select friends and enemies. I stopped entertaining and my body of work as an entertainer disappeared. I’m glad for what I experienced and learned at Second City, and I am glad that no one knows about it. The value of my time there was in my own human development, and in the training that has later served my writing in certain ways.

Second City doesn’t even remember that I was there, and I am in good company. Second City doesn’t remember Paul Sills, David Shepherd, Fred Kaz, Viola Spolin, Mike Nichols, Bernie Sahlins, Joyce Sloane … and many more artists that didn’t fully know what I know now — that entertainment is dead …

Present day Second City doesn’t resemble the Second City created by those of us interred in the Tombs of the Unknown Improvisers … present day Second City is a corporation that leads party games on cruise ships and video games on Zoom …

a photo here, a commemorative video there, a plaque, a written appreciation …

but the wit, the intelligence, the warmth, the feeling, the community …

the strangeness …

the theater …

the art …

is gone …

no more idealism,

no more high mindedness,

no more eccentricity …

an American art form has been colonized by advertising and sitcoms, it’s natural resources plundered and depleted …

and destroyed …

kidnapped and murdered by businessmen …

yes, entertainment is dead,

and even worse entertainment is deadly … entertainment destroys art, in artists and audiences … entertainment destroys artists’ integrity and audiences openness to truth …

The viewer of art is different than the consumer of entertainment … the art viewer comes to learn, to change, to be moved …

The artist is different than the entertainer … the artist makes art to figure things out, to understand him or herself and to understand the world …

The viewer of art does not consume the art, he or she participates in it …

Art has many of the same elements as entertainment … humor, suspense etc … what art doesn’t have is entertainment’s nihilism and cynicism …

Entertainment’s goal is to just get one through the night … stave off the current anxiety … entertainment’s concern is the passing moment, art’s concern is eternity …

Maya Rudolph is married to Paul Thomas Anderson …

A commercial hack entertainer married to a real artist …

The Three Stooges married Phantom Thread?

Here’s Lucy married Daniel Day Lewis?

How does this couple co-exist?

Does Maya bring home the bacon, and Paul whip up the haute cuisine?

They may have it all figured out — I hope so, I wish them the best …

but Maya brought her family to the show last night,

Paul and the four kids …

Paul has to be very careful …

it is dangerous for an artist to be too close to entertainment’s toxic atmosphere.

Entertainment is a case study for me … I observe it and would never wish to be part of it — passion about entertainment is a type of necrophilia …

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

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