Jumping the Whale
Congratulations folks, we've finally done it.
11:00 PM, Oct 29, 2006 • By LARRY MILLER
"Oh, this must be a sketch. Yeah, that's it. It's comedy. One of those Saturday Night Live things, one of the really good ones, where they use makeup and wigs, and the cast is great, and someone's imitating Larry King, and someone else is imitating . . . John Mark Karr. Yeah, they got someone who could look like him, and they're doing a sketch, in fact the perfect sketch, the perfect satire of a society that's lost its rudder, that's fallen so far, too far, a society in which John Mark Karr is just another talk show guest. That's it, a slightly unsettling but wonderful comedy premise, a satire that says someone like that isn't 'someone like that' at all, he's just another celebrity, and it's all just a big joke."
Except it wasn't, was it? It was real. It was planned. It was fine. It was intentional.
It was horrifying.
DO YOU KNOW how talk shows are booked? There are two ways. The first way, a publicist or agent calls the producer and says, "We have a bunch of clients we'd like to pitch to you as possible guests. How about so-and-so? No? Okay, how about so-and-so? No? Hey, here's one you don't see every day, and we just signed him: John Mark Karr. That's right. Him. Our newest client. Yeah, the guy with the little shoulders, and the all-cotton boys' polo shirts. That's the guy. He's going to be very hot, and we've got lots of offers for other shows outside your market, and I think you ought to book him before someone else in your time slot does."
The other way is when the booking goes in reverse: Sometimes the producer gets the idea first and brings it up in the meeting, and everyone says, "Fantastic. Good 'get'. Do you think we can grab him before anyone else?" And the producer calls the rep, who leans back with a smile and says, "I was expecting your call. What took you so long?"
So either someone pitched a producer, who said, "Sounds good, let me get back to you," but then took it to the big meeting with the other folks on the show, and ran it up the pole, and everyone said, "Yeah, good, sounds great. Book it." Or the producer ran into the head of the show's office and said, "Stop the presses, I've got the next idea for a Very Special Episode. Are you ready, boss? Close your eyes and think of three little words: John . . . Mark . . . Karr!"
WHAT'S THE OLD ANDY WARHOL THING? Fifteen minutes of fame? Brilliant observation. But I think he meant feckless people with empty stories. Perfect banality. A media beast so hungry it begins eating victims that aren't even cooked yet. Not this time, though.
This wasn't the beast eating the victim; it was the victim televising the beast.
"Well," you may say, "but he didn't do it. He said he did, but then they proved he didn't." No, I guess that's right. He didn't do it.
No, he just bragged about doing it. He just pictured himself doing it. He just confessed and came halfway around the world--in public--to pretend he did it. Why do you think this guy moved to Thailand for all those years? For the food? "Gee, I just love how they put coconut milk in everything."
He didn't kill that girl, but I'll bet the people who represent him now wish he had. Could've gotten him his own show by now if he had.
I don't know. Maybe not. I hope not. Maybe that's too cynical. I hope we don't live in so surreal and inverted a culture that people would actually give him a show.
Do you understand that this guy doesn't think any of this is wrong? He's not claiming he was abused or an alcoholic, or anything else that might wrench a soul. He thinks he just likes to do something unfashionable. That society is wrong to be so judgmental of him. We haven't gone that far, I suppose. Yet.
We might have jumped the shark and the whale, but that would be jumping the Loch Ness Monster.
BACK AT THE CAF , I asked our young waitress/actress if we could please turn the TV off--very, very quickly--and she smiled sweetly and did. No problem. Something to remember: Sometimes you just have to ask.
I wonder if she even noticed? Or cared? How many other bars in America was it on? Did they care?
Ah, what the hell. Too late for a drink on a weeknight, anyway.
Larry Miller is a contributing humorist to The Daily Standard and a writer, actor, and comedian living in Los Angeles. His new book is Spoiled Rotten America: Outrages of Everyday Life (Regan Books).