Friday, January 25, 2008

Newsarama Is Bad And Matt Brady Should Feel Bad, Part 3: In Which There Are Stupid Questions

It might surprise some people to find I have great respect for Chris Farley as a comedian. Yes, his movies mostly sucked, but that wasn't his fault. (Well, except for agreeing to do the films, presumably not having read the scripts, or so drowning in money and coke that he didn't give a shit.) The movies sucked because they were standard Hollywood idiot comedy fare, and did nothing to tap into what made Farley funny when he was on Saturday Night Live.

Like many talented artists, Farley had a deep-seated and profound self-loathing. And like many successful artists, he managed to channel that self-loathing into his art and raise it above the mundane into the spectacular. All of the great Farley skits, in one way or another, draw their humor from Farley's portrayal of himself as a fat, pathetic schlub. The Chippendale's skit revolves around the absurdity of a man in Farley's physical condition auditioning for a role as a sex object (with the punchline being that he beats out Patrick Swayze, an actual sex symbol at the time). Matt Foley is the schadenfreude of watching a man at the absolute nadir of his life plunge into a nervous breakdown, along with another ironic casting of him as a motivational speaker.

My all-time favorite bits, though, are the "Chris Farley Show" interviews. (View an excerpt of his interview with Paul McCartney here.) The humor is simple and cuts deep, as Farley inevitably finds himself awestruck senseless in the presence of one of his heroes. It's only amplified by the fact that, as his career progressed, Farley himself became one of the most famous and well-paid comedians in the country, amassing as many fans as his personal hero, John Belushi (whom, of course, he never interviewed, unless St. Peter is a big SNL fan).

You can tell where I'm going with this, right?

Newsarama's interviews generally run on a variation of the Farley formula. Instead of the "You remember the time you did XYZ," "Yeah," "That was awesome" formula, they go "You're gonna do XYZ in a couple months," "Yeah," "That's gonna be awesome." In a bizarre and frankly obscene abuse of the question/answer format, the interviewers often dish on spoilers from recent issues ("Ray Palmer's gym shorts turned up in Plastic Man's apartment; what does this mean for the future of the DC Universe?") and receive a complete non-answer ("You'll have to read the next issue to find out.") from the interviewee. And this is viewed as the way things ought to be.

Probably the most frustrating and insulting series of these exercises in inanity was "Joe Fridays," which in a more accurate world would have been titled "Joe Quesada Sells The Marvel Universe." It was the All-Spin Zone, a weekly clusterfuck of hype, self-aggrandizement, and fanboy fellatio that makes Barbara Walters look like Bob Woodward. Occasionally a brand new nadir would be reached when Quesada himself would turn around and interview a member of the Marvel staff. When FEMA played both roles at once at their little "press conference" last year, they were rightly excoriated by everyone with a pulse. I guess when you're talking about how to improve Spider-Man by rolling back the clock to one of the most creatively dull periods in the book's history, though, you get special dispensation.

Not to be outdone, DC has gotten into the act as well. Aside from their weekly Countdown rehash (which, I'll admit, does the comics-reading public the gracious service of freeing them from having to read it), today saw a strange little piece with Dan Didio dishing on the current status of an arbitrary handful of C-Listers (and Aquaman, whom I suppose we have to bump up to B-list in spite of his inability to actually carry a book in today's market). Maybe if they let Matt Brady into the White House Press Corps, we could finally get some news on what the hell happened to the hunt for Bin Laden.

Now. I know this is entertainment journalism. I know upcoming project material is part of the game. But it shouldn't be the whole game. Are there really no interviews to be had with artists and writers about technique, especially as it relates to the progress of the digital age? Can comic store owners truly only be reached for comment on the Monday after Free Comic Book Day? Has every possible graf about the history of comics as told by the people who lived it already been written? Hell, did no one at First Second want to talk on the phone for five freaking minutes about Laika?

(That's something else that pisses me off, actually. Not the Laika thing, although certainly they could stand once in a while to give a company whose characters don't appear on lunchboxes some face time. No, I mean how Newsarama never mentions a creator over the age of fifty-five except when he dies or confirms a con reservation.)

Questions are where knowledge begins (as in the famous "Why are we here?"). Paradoxically, knowledge is also where questions begin (as in the slightly less famous, "Who the hell are you, and what are you doing in bed with my wife?"). But to ask the right questions, you need the right knowledge. And that's the problem with

I wanted to tie this back to Chris Farley somehow, but I'm not a good enough writer, so here's some clips.


Jeff said...

Paragraph 5 ends rather strangely.

Anonymous said...

Or abruptly, if you happen to think it not so strange.

Anonymous said...

The above anonymous post is from me.


RAB said...

Upon realizing it was written by someone who thinks Chris Farley was funny, the paragraph killed itself.

Jeff said...

Ahh, much better.

And hey, Chris Farley was

Brad said...

Newsarama regularly has retailers weighing in with a monthly feature, has posted numerous interviews with respected veterans (recently, John Romita Sr.), recently ran a profile of First Second, had earlier interviewed Nick Abadzis about Laika, and many creators on their craft (such as Jordi Bernet recently). That's just in the stories that I can rememeber off the top of my head. Do you read the site at all, or just like to go on about things you don't know about in order to convince others of these misstatements being true? Always fun to see someone do the shoe-pounding thing and use absolutes when they are so easily shown to be utterly wrong.

Matt Algren said...

Brad, your argument would carry more weight if Newsarama hadn't just asked Brian K Vaughan (and I quote)

"NRAMA: What are some issues affecting women worldwide that you didn’t have room to cover in the series?"

That's a Barbara Walters question if ever I read one.

(Don't go to the interview if you don't want mega super outrageous spoilers, by the way.)