Mark Sullivan/WireImageFans of the popular ABC shows Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal often find themselves wondering who comes up with the fictional plot twists and love affairs that keep them up at night. While she obviously does not work alone, the simple answer is Shonda Rhimes. The Emmy-nominated writer and producer created both shows, but that’s not all she contributes to the universe. Here are a few things you might not know about the genius behind the curtain.
She Knows How To Handle Drama On And Off The Screen
This past year Rhimes came under criticism for the treatment of her lead character Olivia Pope (played by Kerry Washington). Some folks (including Star Jones) accused her of glorifying marital affairs, and even felt that the interracial relationship on the show was problematic. Rhimes has brilliantly responded to such accusations by defending her art as just that — art, and not a political or social platform. And she often takes to Twitter to remind people who get a little too caught up that her shows are, in fact, fictional.
Oprah Winfrey Is Obsessed With Her
When Oprah Winfrey and former President of the United States Bill Clinton watch your show (they both love Scandal), it’s kind of a big deal. But Oprah and Shonda are so close, their Twitter exchanges are well-documented, and when Shonda made TIME Magazine’s 2013 list of 100 most influential people in the world, Oprah even wrote the powerful accompanying essay.
Halle Berry Kinda, Sorta Owes Her
Halle Berry got her start long before her role in the television biopic Introducing Dorothy Dandridge. Still, her performance in the Shonda Rhimes-written script was one of her best and most well-respected, as she (along with Rhimes) brought to life the important story of the first black movie star to be nominated for a Best Actress Oscar.
She Was a Candy Striper in High School
This woman is living proof that volunteer work truly pays off in the end. Rhimes volunteered at a hospital during high school, and attributes that experience to her interest in such environments. Grey’s Anatomy and its spin-off series Private Practice are a direct result of her candy striper days in Chicago.
She’s an Inspiration to Unemployed Writers Everywhere
After Rhimes got her Masters of Fine Arts degree from the University of Southern California, she was just another unemployed scriptwriter in Hollywood. She worked odd jobs to pay the bills, but eventually got her big break as a research director for a documentary on Hank Aaron. See? We all gotta start somewhere.
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Washington Wizards basketball star Jason Collins has become the first professional male athlete in America to 'come out' as gay. Collins made the big announcement in a new Sports Illustrated magazine column, which will hit retailers in May (13).
He writes, "I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay. I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, 'I'm different'. If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand."
The sportsman reveals his "journey of self-discovery and self-acknowledgement" began when he was growing up in Los Angeles, and he chose to 'come out' publicly after the Boston Marathon bombings earlier this month (Apr13), explaining, "The recent Boston Marathon bombing reinforced the notion that I shouldn't wait for the circumstances of my coming out to be perfect. Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully?"
The sportsman 'came out' to his twin brother Jarron, who is also a basketball player, last summer (12).
He recalls, "He was downright astounded. He never suspected. So much for twin telepathy. But, by dinner that night, he was full of brotherly love."
Collins, who was previously engaged to a woman, has played for six professional teams, including the Wizards and the Boston Celtics. He is currently a free agent looking for a new team.
One of the first people to applaud Collins for 'coming out' was former U.S. President Bill Clinton, whose daughter Chelsea was a classmate of the sportsman's at Stanford University.
A statement from the former leader reads, "Jason's announcement today is an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community. It is also the straightforward statement of a good man who wants no more than what so many of us seek: to be able to be who we are; to do our work; to build families and to contribute to our communities."
Even Stephen T. Colbert, leader of the Colbert Nation and the newly founded Colbert Galactic Initiative, can't deny the charms of former President Bill Clinton. The two world leaders met up on Monday night's edition of The Colbert Report — which was filmed at the Clinton Global Initiative at the Washington University in St. Louis — and it was as thoughtful, hilarious, and, yes, charming a conversation as you'd imagine.
Colbert, who continues to prove he is the best man in late night television, didn't give up his schtick for Clinton (who played nicely off of the host's routine). While he played a little more softball with Clinton (he introduced him as his "future personal friend") than he does most of his liberal guests, it didn't mean Colbert didn't throw some hilarious curveballs to the former President. Although he did warn him, "This is not Charlie Rose, buddy!" and "If you start filibustering, I will cut you off."
Still, for every intentionally silly question ("Why help other people?", "Who wants help from Sweden?"), the President gave sincere answers that made Colbert realize even he is powerless to those Clinton charms. I mean, how can you not like a guy who says he wants to make the world a better place for "my daughter and the grandchildren I hope to have"? The guy that says he has done so much good post-Presidency because "for the life I've been give by the American people I'd be kind of a slug if I didnt do it"?
That said, Colbert took some of his power back when he got Clinton to send his first-ever tweet from the amazing handle he created for him, @PrezBillyJeff. Clinton admitted he doesn't tweet because "I'm so insecure... what if you tweet and nobody tweets back? There's nothing worst than a friendless tweeter, just wandering around in cyber space." Still, even Clinton had to succumb to the Colbert charms and told the world on Twitter, in 140 characters or less, "Just spent amazing time with Colbert. is he sane? He is cool! #CGIU." Seriously, how can you not love both of these guys?
You can watch the entire fascinating and funny exchange between Clinton and Colbert below. While the interview is almost the entire half hour, it's worth your time, if only to hear Clinton talk about how his saxophone skills are no longer up to snuff. Also, be sure to look out for when Colbert asks the former President of the United States if he's ever considered having his Clinton Global Initiative join forces with TED Talks to create "Bill and Ted's Excellent Initiative." Check it out all three parts of this most excellent meeting of the minds here:
The Colbert Report Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Indecision Political Humor,Video Archive
The Colbert Report Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Indecision Political Humor,Video Archive
The Colbert Report Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Indecision Political Humor,Video Archive
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It's easy to take the freedoms of our society today for granted, especially for those who grew up in the past two decades. It's easy to forget about an America wherein political officials and public figures felt they could not come out in support of certain issues, in this case those pertaining to the LGBT community. And it is an uplifting gift that we might find ourselves so embedded in an era of tolerance that the alternative becomes difficult to even imagine, but that doesn't mean that progress has yet to be made.
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On Monday, Hillary Clinton released a statement in the form of the below video affirming her support for gay marriage. The former senator and Secretary of State has spoken on the issue with varying stances in the past — in 2003, she stood in opposition to the right for homosexuals to marry, but offered support for civil unions; in 2011, Clinton addressed the nations of the world from a platform in Geneva with a message in favor of LGBT rights:
But in this video above, in which she states her belief that "human rights apply to everyone, gay and straight," marks the first official statement Clinton has released domestically, just over a month following her dismissal from her Secretary of State position. Clinton's term in the public eye has provided a muddled vantage point on her stance on LGBT issues: a March 2007 interview resulted in controversy when Clinton, despite her later declarations, hesitated to come out and defend homosexuality against accusations of immorality. We know that Clinton does not subscribe to these backwards mentalities; we're just surprised she hasn't taken more steps to make her progressive attitudes more clear and available.
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Still, especially in light of Clinton's plausible run for the presidency in 2016, we're happy to receive this latest message, trusting that her potential admittance into the White House will not mark any sort of recoil on the issue. While it might have taken President Barack Obama a bit longer than desired to open his mouth candidly in this conversation, the past year has seen an influx of support from government figures on both sides of the party lines. We might undervalue the luxury of the era in which we live, but let us hope that figures of influence — Clinton, Obama, Sen. Rob Portman — continue to remind us of how lucky we are.
Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeter
[Photo Credit: Kevin Lamarque/Pool/AP Photo]
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Every president and every major politician in the last 20 years has had a comedic identity. Bill Clinton was a charismatic playboy; Bush was a hapless cowboy; Al Gore was a well-informed snooze; John Kerry was a droning old man, as was John McCain; and Sarah Palin was a clueless hockey mom. Now, we have Governor Mitt Romney added to the mix as an out-of-touch rich guy stuck in the 1950s. But while we can easily sum up practically every major politician in recent memory (let’s not forget John Edwards as a pretty, pretty man with an infidelity issue), President Barack Obama's comedy peg isn't exactly staring us in the face.
When he first became a candidate for president, Obamas “thing” was that he was “cool.” He was young and with it. His soft spot for basketball, hobnobbing with celebrities, and an actual appreciation for Miles Davis set him apart from other, stuffy politicians. From the now classic Saturday Night Live faux-campaign ad “Be Cool” to his memetastic presence as the “Not Bad” guy (above) — thanks to a hilarious nonchalant expression he made being captured by a photographer — Obama made an initial comedy imprint as the coolest politician alive. “He was super hip and super cool and all the kids just loved him," says Comedy Central's Indecision.com Editorial Producer Mary Phillips-Sandy. "There was definitely a sense of wanting to sort of take that and looking at him and that persona and the way he was being perceived and sort of just finding the humor in how over the top it got.” And as time wore on, that peg didn’t exactly dissipate. Instead, it got a few bedfellows.
After we settled into the idea that Obama is a righteous dude, we started to notice him as something cool people tend to become: a celebrity. He wasn’t just the leader of the free world, he was a guy whose wife wears Michael Kors and Jason Wu dresses. He was a guy whose daughters could heighten the popularity of Uglydolls by dangling miniature ones on their school backpacks. He’s a guy who might get photographed by the paparazzi when he takes a dip in the ocean, much like any bikini-clad Kardashian. It was a status that had been brewing since he faced off against Hillary Clinton in the 2007 primary; just look at his “surprise” appearance on SNL, during which he removed an Obama mask to reveal himself to thunderous applause, accepting it like the most seasoned of celebrities. (Sure, Gore and McCain have both hosted the late night show, but their awkward appearances hardly had the same panache.) Add to this the public’s obsession with the inner-workings of Michelle and Barack at home and the Obamas’ friendship with pop culture and hip-hop royalty Beyonce and Jay-Z, and Obama is practically the new George Clooney. But even Obama's celebrity is still not used for comedy.
Despite being both really, really ridiculously cool and a major celebrity, Obama still boasts another personality quirk. While wildly discordant with his other public traits, the quirk been referenced in comedy bits ranging from Fred Armisen’s now-dormant SNL impression, to The Daily Show’s approach, to Key and Peele’s name-making impression of a calm Obama assisted by a boisterous “anger translator.” It’s his unflinching stoicism. It’s the notion that while the president smiles often and genuinely, he’s not going to flash those pearly whites unless he’s already decided, hours before, that he should do so. It’s a meticulousness that begs notice.
And that’s where it becomes obvious that the President’s comedy profile isn’t as easy to peg as the country's other famous politicians'. How can he be the cool, hip celebrity and the well-read, highly-intellectual, thoughtful, and stoic leader? Our pithy representations don’t usually allow room for that much variation. How can he be the guy who sings Al Green songs at the Apollo and the guy who’s so stifled that we’re inclined to imagine all the frustration going on in his head? How can he be all those things in the realm of pop culture, a place that loves to boil politicians down to their most ostentatious characteristics? “It feels more nuanced, [determining] what would be the characteristics of Obama in comedy," says the artistic director of New York’s Upright Citizen’s Brigade theater, Nate Dern. "It’s not a one-note thing.”
Depending on where you look, different comedic outlets are picking up on varying subtleties of his personality. But why has Obama escaped the fates of all presidents and presidential candidates before him? (Heck, even Gerald Ford became “the falling president,” thanks to Chevy Chase’s inflectionless impression.) To be fair, many folks started off on the wrong foot with Obama-centric comedy. Phillips-Sandy points out that when Obama first hit the national stage, some folks in the comedy world feared there was no humor to be found in the could-be president. “I remember back in 2008 reading all these [articles] and people were saying, ‘Oh, how are we ever going to make fun of Obama?’ And that was fascinating to me that that was even a question,” she says.
But clearly those naysayers were wrong; over the past four years, Obama has been a presence throughout comedy \'97 after all, how could something like SNL, The Daily Show, or any comedy platform go four years without joking about the POTUS? They wouldn’t make it. “I think that, more than anything, revealed an inherent bias or confusion that some people are untouchable, but no one is,” Phillips-Sandy says.
The entertainment industry has indeed long been accused of harboring a liberal bias. But is that what's keeping Obama from being tapped by pop culture? Let's investigate.
Exhibit A: Comedic Bias
It’s not hard to understand that while most comedians strive to be equal opportunity observers, it’s a hell of a lot harder to write jokes about someone whose platform you support than it is to write jokes about someone who stands against most things you believe in. “There are clearly a lot of comedians and a lot of comedy outlets that are just biased one way or another, so no matter what happens with the subjects of their comedy, they’re going to have biased perspectives,” says Phillips-Sandy.
And while there are comedians on all sides of the political spectrum, many of the folks who dominate politics in the pop culture sphere are very obviously on the liberal end. Just look at the way in which SNL went after Bush, with giant swaths of generalization in the name of comedy, while their aim at Obama has swerved all over the place.
And speaking of indecision, over at The Daily Show, we can see a quick distinction in the coverage of both the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention. While the RNC was given the hilarious dig of a subtitle, “The Road to Jeb Bush 2016,” and was delivered with a side of never-ending “stripper capital of the world\” jokes aimed at Tampa, Fla., the DNC got the lighter (but still funny) “Hope and Change Part 2.” Where the RNC coverage was marked by segments like “Find a Black Person at the RNC” (which, for the record, did appear to prove difficult), the DNC's week-long coverage included bits about the Democratic party\’s proclivity for excessive inclusiveness. Burn.
Further still, when one of today's most respected and lauded comedians Louis C.K. took to Twitter to blast Palin in September, calling her a “c**t” among other vulgar things, few were quick to jump to his defense. But, all the same, the incident only helped to explode his persona as a comedian who cares so little about what we think that his brutally honest brand of comedy will both shock us and send us into fits of laughter. Yet former SNL star Victoria Jackson — who has argued such insensitive points such her the notion that Glee is "making kids gay," referring to "homophobia" as a "cute little buzzword of the liberal agenda" in an attempt to lend an air of comedy to her beliefs on Showbiz Tonight back in 2011 — has become largely ex-communicated by fans and comedy brethren for her conservative views, which are largely labeled "radical" instead of comical.
Still, this inherent bias in much of mainstream comedy doesn’t wholly explain President Obama's scattered profile. After all, Clinton was the Democratic party’s shining star and he still managed to nab a consistent comedic peg as an ol’ Southern boy who’s just out to have a good time (even before Monica Lewinsky gave him a hand with that, so to speak). The lack of a simple comedic profile isn’t a Democratic thing. It’s an Obama thing.
Exhibit B: Obama\'92s Stern Demeanor
Of course, the question now is, “What is the Obama thing?” After all, the man is purposefully difficult to read and to predict. (If we pit all the presidents of the last few decades against each other in a poker game, let’s just say my money would be on Obama.) “With Obama, I get the impression that he’s even smarter than he lets on, whereas with a lot of politicians, it’s all out there,” Dern says. And it’s true; while many of us are familiar with Obama’s intellectual background, he doesn’t often bring it into direct play. He allows himself to remain layered, bringing out the right armor at each opportune moment.
Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, stars of Comedy Central’s Key & Peele, star in a recurring sketch that attempts to unpack this exact issue: What is the President really thinking when he appears so unflappable to the public? Key's Luther stands next to Peele's Obama in each iteration of the sketch, translating all of Obama's diplomatic answers into harsh, angry truths as a method of turning the President's subtext into farce. This take on the POTUS borrows what Key refers to as a “nugget” of the president’s personality, which is then “blown up” for comedic effect. “Our take is that he’s a guy who can’t voice all the things he would like to, that he has boundaries as a president and as an individual that prevent him from being emotive,” Peele says.
But that’s just one singular aspect that the duo chose to focus on. Key and Peele's take also points to the other, sometimes hidden, aspects of his personality. “He is a very multifaceted character," Peele adds. "He’s a funny guy; he’s a serious guy; he’s a smart guy; he’s a competitor, so it’s hard to put him in a box and I think that’s something that Keegan and I relate to."
And Key’s “Luther” — who presents “what the president is thinking” in an anger-heavy throwdown week after week — is just one imagining of what’s going on inside our president’s head. “There’s nothing that sticks out because of his demeanor,” Key says. And that shows. The president's calm and collected exterior leaves much to the imagination, which is likely why Key sees him as “a reserved, thoughtful man” while many comedic portraits see him as “a super-duper cool guy,” according to Key.
It's that dichotomy that tripped up the comedians when they actually spoke with the president in person. Because, according to Key and Peele, he was neither of those men. “When we — I’m just going to name drop — so when we met the president [laughs], I called my wife and I said, ‘He’s warmer than you think he’d be in person. You think of him as really calm and collected and really cool, but he’s warmer than you’d think,” Key says.
The comedian even goes as far as to compare Obama to someone who's often represented as the president's polar opposite: George W. Bush. “That’s the interesting thing is that he has a very approachable warmth, much like everyone said Bush had," Key says. "But he also exudes, simultaneously, sheer competence."
That’s certainly one way to vary your comedic footprint: Be an enigma, wrapped in a riddle, and hide it all with a calm, collected demeanor.
Exhibit C: The Gold Standard of Impressions
Of course, there’s something to be said about the power of a single good impression. The honor of the de facto presidential impression usually goes to SNL, oftentimes because of its strength and because of the series’ lasting influence and visibility. “One thing that happens is that there will be a comedian who does impressions and kind of becomes the gold standard for that politician,” Dern says. “So with George W. Bush, it was Will Ferrell and then everyone’s George W. Bush impression after that really were just impressions of Will Ferrell doing George W. Bush." Every iteration we saw of Bush after Ferrell attempted it, from Frank Caliendo’s impression to Comedy Central’s Lil’ Bush cartoon, was informed by Ferrell’s scope.
And to some extent, that happened with Armisen’s impression on SNL, but his influence was heavier in technique than content. Armisen was the first to nail Obama’s difficult cadence, laying the support for other impressionists to follow. And at first, the way of speaking, itself, was the joke. But that didn’t last long. (Especially when other folks, like Peele, were managing uncannily accurate vocal impressions.) A quick survey of Armisen’s Obama sketches over four years continually see comedy happening around the character rather than comedy involving the character, often bringing in hapless “Uncle Joe” Biden to bring the funny rather than relying on the President’s quirks.
Now, SNL has switched horses, blowing the “gold standard” format to bits. Jay Pharoah’s ridiculously accurate vocal impression is accompanied by caricature-like, yet fairly accurate facial expressions, eschewing one standard and introducing another. The sheer fact that we’re able to switch “standards” (and make a switch that was done without the pressure of a cast member suddenly leaving or becoming unable to perform) and not only continue the political satire without interruption, but also enjoy yet another take on the Obama comedy persona as more than just a ridiculously deliberate talker is significant. Especially when we had four years to get comfortable with Armisen's take.
When Ferrell left SNL and forced other comedians to step into his rather large, Bush-impersonating shoes, no one could cut it. Chris Parnell was generally disliked; Darrell Hammond was fine, but only did it twice (and sounded remarkably like Clinton instead of Bush); Will Forte’s little lamb of a president didn’t sit too well with viewers; and Jason Sudeikis’ placeholder Bush just kept the spot warm until Ferrell could return to reprise the role in a guest stint. When Hammond did Clinton, no one else could compare. When Chase did Ford, he became the pop culture depiction of Ford, despite the fact that he didn't look or sound anything like the president. And when we think of a George H.W. Bush joke, we’re still greeted with visions of Dana Carvey in our heads. Why then, was it so easy to replace Armisen?
It could be because Armisen’s impression simply wasn’t complete. The blame could fall on the comedian himself. But it’s hard to believe that SNL would let four years pass if people were dissatisfied with what Armisen was laying down. The more likely answer points, once again, to Obama himself. We’ve already established that his demeanor makes him difficult to read and that his plethora of public-facing personality features give comedians a great deal to work with. Perhaps the reason the “gold standard” rule isn’t really sticking with Obama is that none of his pop culture pegs are rising to the top of the heap. He remains a complicated guy, and as such, comedy consumers require a multifaceted array of presidential hilarity.
Exhibit D: The State of Comedy
So, Obama requires a more sophisticated array of comedic representations? It makes sense — the face of comedy and its impact on politics happen to have changed greatly in the last four years. “[Comedy] is something that registers and resonates with the voting public," Phillips-Sandy says. "In the new social web, it flies around the country faster than any press release ever could."
Politicians, Obama not excepted, can’t ignore the presence and relevance of comedy, thanks in great part to the legitimizing of political comedy wrought by The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and sites like Phillips-Sandy’s Indecision. And throughout his presence at the forefront of politics, Obama’s team has been on top of the varying offshoots of his image. “They put more thought into the branding and positioning of their candidate in pop culture than we’ve seen with any other candidate who’s run for president," Phillips-Sandy says. "They’re smart, they’re younger, they’re digitally savvy, and they know that people like me are all sitting here waiting for our opportunity and they work really, really hard right out of the gate to package and present something that would be a little more appealing to people, just like when you’re launching a product into the consumer market."
While we can certainly witness the effects of that process, especially through his presidency and leading up to this 2012 campaign, we’ve witnessed Obama being placed in specific realms of comedy, going tete-a-tete with Stewart on The Daily Show and slow-jamming the news with Jimmy Fallon over on NBC. He and his team see our game and they’re playing.
But the field is bigger than it has been for any president before him and it’s only getting bigger. “Also, we’re seeing an interesting phenomenon where we’re seeing more comedy than ever,” Phillips-Sandy says. \”Comedy is no longer just in a nightclub or on a TV, it’s on your phone, it’s on your tablet, it’s everywhere and you can access it anywhere. And that’s changed the dynamic I think,” she says. And perhaps that’s what has helped audiences seek more than a gold standard impression, and want more than a one-note comedic persona when it comes to our president. There’s just too much opportunity for something more.
When you devote time to creating comedy around a political figure in spheres that are seen daily and have further opportunities to expand on a subject (like daily political comedy blogs, memes, and Colbert and Stewart’s shows), we become accustomed to that comedy beast getting its daily bread. While weekly impressions on SNL can certainly add the levity that we often seek to the political conversation, they can’t keep up with the daily dissection we find elsewhere. “The Daily Show, that can devote several minutes to a segment and can return to it, day after day — it’s more suited to deliver a more nuanced portrait of someone or an issue over time,” Dern says.
What we have on our hands here is a full-fledged and valid political conversation going on through the medium of comedy. “I don’t think that anyone is going to tell you an animated GIF of Obama is going to replace a detailed report of his shifting position on gay rights or his refusal to stop drone strikes or his healthcare plan or whatever, but I think these items can help sum up truths or moments that are part of the national conversation and national consciousness and it can really, not just shed some light on things that are happening, but really bring people together in an awareness of what’s going on in the political scene," Phillips-Sandy says. "That’s ultimately a really good thing for us."
Of course, this opens up a big question: Is this peg-less comedy profile that Obama seems to be enjoying the product of his presidency and the way his staffers have played the game? Or is it a symptom of a growing and shifting comedy world? Would this question arise even if McCain had been named our nation’s leader in 2008? And the answer is maybe, to a certain extent.
We can’t discount what the Obama campaign has done to play along with the comedy world, or the unique nature of his public persona; however, we can see that other politicians are wising up to this new order. Phillips-Sandy says Romney’s handling of this new realm of comedy and its gaining relevance isn't any different from Obama’s. “I think Romney’s evolved, especially from seeing the primaries in which you had all these wacky characters around him and it was sort of like Romney’s a robot," she says. "We know a lot more about him. He’s sort of out there more — [now] he’s kind of like Eddie Haskell running for president.”
And this approach extends beyond Romney. Romney and Obama aren’t the only folks saddled with the effects of the comedy world. No one in politics (or outside of politics) is safe from the reach of a good joke. “I think in a lot of ways, it’s a function of what we know about people, of what we’re allowed to know about people and the opportunities that we have to sort of see them in action,” Phillips-Sandy says.
No matter who is president now, and who is president next, we’re witnessing a sort of new world order in political comedy. Whether or not you believe Obama is a hard target to spoof, it’s hard to refute that he’s, at the very least, enjoyed a realm of political satire unseen by his predecessors. That could be due to his uniqueness or it could be the world that's changing around him. But hey, it's an election year. If you can't disprove it, it's true.
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
[Photo Credits: WhiteHouse.org; Ian White; Dana Edelson/NBC; PictureGroup]
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As the announcement of 2012’s Emmy Awards nominations rolls up, one series’ name can be heard in every single pre-announcement conversation: NBC’s small town government ode Parks and Recreation. The little-series-that-could has churned out some of the best comedy on television since it hit its stride in 2010, and last year the Emmys finally recognized that achievement with a Best Comedy Series nomination in addition to Amy Poehler’s second nomination for Best Actress in a Comedy. And while Modern Family took just about every comedy award that night — and three quarters of the Best Supporting Actor nominations — 2012 could actually be Parks’ year. Much like Leslie Knope, who fought and bested her own political Goliath this season, the NBC series could be the underdog who goes all the way.
Hollywood.com spoke with supervising producer and writer for Parks, Emmy-winner Daniel J. Goor, about whether Parks will get its due praises this year. “We really, really don’t do it for the awards and I know that sounds so stupid, but it’s true,” said Goor, whose experience ranges from writing Emmys telecasts to whipping up jokes for Conan O’Brien and Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. “A lot of people watch the Emmys, so it would be a tremendous amount of exposure and it would be incredibly validating to get that kind of recognition,” he adds. And it seems that Parks may have already benefited from its Emmy exposure from last year. The series, whose ratings hover in the three or four million range alongside other NBC Thursday night critical darlings like 30 Rock and Community, was given a full season order while its compadres will both enjoy only half seasons on NBC’s fall schedule. The Emmys buzz could be behind the larger episode order, but of course, on that issue, Goor remained appropriately diplomatic. Of course, his discretion regarding nominations only goes so far. “We’ll take any and all awards that [are] offered to us,” he laughs, adding that the Emmys are “the crowning achievement.” But what about last year? Was he sore about not making it up to the stage for the big Comedy Series award?
For that, he referred us to the 17th episode of Season 2 titled “Woman of The Year,” in which Leslie (Poehler) is driven crazy when Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) is nominated for a coveted women’s award as a PR stunt. “You shouldn’t care about awards, but the point of it is that, like Leslie, we all care so much about the award,” he says. And Parks’ loss to Modern Family in 2011 was no different. “You can’t help it when you inevitably don’t win. You’re like, ‘Come on! That hurts so much,’” Goor laughs. And this season, the series heads into nominations with the benefit of having been nominated last year. Poehler, whom Goor aptly refers to as simply “amazing,” is all but locked in for another nomination and the series itself has nabbed its spot in the regular lineup of Emmy-worthy comedies, so we can expect a nomination there as well. But now, other players are entering the arena. Offerman’s name and Adam Scott’s (who plays Leslie’s love interest, Ben Wyatt) have been tossed around in the pre-nominations shuffle, with Offerman’s as a likely and overdue nomination. Ron Swanson’s equally manly portrayer is all but primed for the nod. Goor notes that he’s already “gotten a lot of love” in the forms of Television Critics Association awards and nominations. But now, it could be Offerman’s year and Goor has plenty of ammunition for Emmys voters. “Nick Offerman has created one of the all-time iconic TV characters. I really think that what he’s doing is amazing,” says Goor. “He’s a national treasure.” And July 19 will tell just how heavily his amazing work has impacted the world of television. But nominations or not, the show must go on and Season 5 offers up a bevy of big questions. Most pressing for the series’ fans is likely regarding what will happen to Ben and Leslie now that Ben's going to Washington, D.C.. “We’re actually taking a different turn and he will be wearing the Batman suit and fighting crime in Washington,” jokes Goor. In actuality, that divide will be a big part of next season. “We’re going to have them have experience the stresses of a long distance relationship and hopefully try to find some comedy in that. We’re going to try to play that story,” he teased. How far might “that story” go? Leslie has always had big dreams — just look at the veritable women’s history museum/inspiration board that is her office wall — and with Ben in Washington, could we eventually see our Pawnee heroine contract the federal bug? “That’s a thing that we talk about in the writers room a lot … Leslie loves Pawnee and that’s such a critical element of who her character is … she’s not going wind up being the secretary general of the United Nations this season,” he assures us. “She’s a big dreamer but she also lives in a small town and loves living in a small town and we’re not running away from that.” But fans’ reactions to another Parks heroine and her on-again, off-again beau hasn’t been so warm. The Tom (Aziz Ansari) and Ann (Rashida Jones) dilemma has had many fans scratching their heads (and some shaking their fists in anger in Zorp’s general direction). Chill out, anti-shippers — Goor promises us it’s all in good fun. “We said all along that we were playing it as a comedy relationship and I think people reacted to it because they thought we were trying to play it for more than a comedy relationship, but that was really never the intention,” he says, adding, “I think people will be happy with what we do with it this season.” Season 5 also dangles the prospect of finally meeting the Pawnee mayor in front of us; now that Leslie is moving up the ranks in local government, could we finally meet the elusive politician? Goor didn’t confirm it, but he did mention a few names he’d like to see take the role. In addition to the much whispered about option — Bill Murray, whom Goor says is everybody’s top choice for mayor — he’d love to see former president Bill Clinton or Game of Thrones star and Emmy-winner Peter Dinklage as mayor. “He’d have to come out as [his Game of Thrones character] Tyrion. Tyrion would be a great mayor. Though I kind of like the idea that Joffrey is the mayor,” Goor jokes. While we won’t be seeing Joffrey Baratheon handing Leslie Knope any tokens of recognition any time soon, we may see Parks and Recreation up on that 2012 Emmys stage come September. After all, Season 4 was the most Emmy-worthy season of the show… sort of. “Wait, I think that since we didn’t win for Season 3, I definitely think Season 4 is the most Emmy-winnable season. I think people would be fools not to vote for it. Fools, I say!” laughs Goor. Solid. And with a case that strong, how can the Television Academy resist? Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler. [Image: Courtesy of NBC] More: Emmys Longshots: Nick Offerman Had Us At Meat Tornado Parks and Rec Boss Mike Schur and Cast on the Season Finale: "We Went With Our Gut" Parks and Recreation, Community Renewed Parks and Rec Emmys
Danny DeVito appeared on TV show The View yesterday morning still tipsy after a night of heavy partying with pal George Clooney.
The star was promoting his new movie Deck the Halls on the show, and admitted he hadn't been to bed the night before.
DeVito then cursed his seventh limoncello (a lemon liqueur) from the previous evening and launched into a boozy rant against President George W. Bush, much of which was bleeped out by network censors.
The former Taxi star also revealed he and his wife Rhea Perlman made sure to "utilize every surface available" in the famous Lincoln Bedroom when they stayed at the White House as overnight guests of former President Clinton.
The show's co-hosts, Rosie O'Donnell and Joy Behar, seemed to be amused by DeVito's antics, while Elisabeth Hasselbeck, a staunch Republican, tried gamely to switch the conversation to non-political topics, but failed as DeVito continued on his political tirade.
The show's creator, veteran newswoman Barbara Walters, appeared visibly uncomfortable as the interview progressed.
DeVito's representative, Stan Rosenfield, tells entertainment Web site TMZ.com his client has requested Walters' phone number and that he would say "what needed to be said privately" to her.
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