Thursday, May 29, 2008
On the Record with Bob Costas
I stood outside a midtown hotel waiting for what was to be the classiest television experience yet. I mean, this is Bob Costas doing a panel-style, sports journalism show, and it's for HBO. Unfortunately, the people in line with me weren't quite as refined. I overheard two dudes (Boston sports fans, I might add, so I should have expected):
"Yeah, her brother did six months in Costa Rica for that thing...Americorps?"
"You mean Greenpeace?"
"Some shit like that."
Anyway, we were seated in a really nice theater. It was a live show, which is such a blessing: it means you know you're not going to be held for two hours after you're supposed to. Just sit back, relax, and wait for the show to start.
A woman came up to the mic. "Guys, we have a great show tonight. Bob's got some great guests, blah, blah blah. But right now we have a special treat..."
A special treat? I thought. Ice cream? T-shirts? We're going to all be guests on the show? Obama's here? We get Hummers?
"Here he is, ladies and gentlemen. Grammy award winning New York comedian...Paul Mecurio!"
Faithful readers know my stance on this man already. Again he did the style of humor that is entirely based on singling out a member of the audience and mocking them. It's not even good-natured. He walked up to a really big guy.
"Whoa! You're like a building with a head! What's your name?"
"Whew, you're Jewish; you won't fight back."
Then he found another guy. "What do you do?"
"I don't have a job."
Paul was silent. That was the punchline. The guy probably felt great about himself that night. Then he found someone in the audience who had a job that would make one wealthy. He did the "give the poor man a dollar" joke he did at the Daily Show. Again, though, I seemed in the minority in thinking him a total tool. The Boston sports fans in the crowd ate him up.
In parting comments, he reminded everyone to be loud and excited; this is a TV show!
As was the case when Mecurio opened for John Stewart, I breathed a sigh of relief when he left the stage for our the host. Costas came out and said "The comedy stylings of Paul Mecurio. I want to amend something Paul said. While I welcome your enthusiasm, please keep it within reason. If I hear someone yell 'whoo', I'll have them thrown out.
You know, I've said before this blog is to talk about TV experience and definitely not to comment on race. But this was the most interesting of several interesting moments.
On his last panel, Costas spoke to two black sportswriters. To the first, he said "You have said, and I quote [though Kevin is paraphrasing]: 'a lack of good fathers as role models in the black community is to blame for why so many prominent black athletes fail to act responsibly.'"
To the second, Costas said "You have said, and I quote [though again Kevin paraphrases]: the values, or lack of values, of most pro-gang and pro-violence hip-hop is a major catalyst for this country's genocide of young black men.'"
The audience, let me add, was almost entirely white.
Then, three things happened in very short succession:
1. Costas said "I agree with you."
2. The audience, sitting rapt with attention and tension, immediately burst into applause.
3. Costas quickly stood up and addressed the audience, palms out. "Please stop. Stop." He then turned back to the men on his panel to say, "but I feel I can't bring this up. It's not my place. I have to wait for you to say it."
And the audience all said, inwardly, collectively, "whoops".