Thursday, January 14, 2010

Late Night Schadenfreude

With all of the gut-wrenching, emotionally draining photographs and stories that continue to emerge from Haiti, the late night TV nonsense has provided a welcome (and funnier than usual!) diversion.

I'll say up front that I'm on Team Conan, mostly because of how well he's handled the really uncomfortable situation in which he's found himself. I'm not really a fan of either Conan O'Brien or Jay Leno, to be perfectly honest. Jay's kind of humor has never really resonated with me and while I've watched Conan now and then, I would never consider myself a real fan.

I have, however, been a loyal David Letterman viewer for, well, practically forever. I watched him as a teenager, mostly because he was in NYC, I suppose...but he's always been my go-to late night host. My most favorite, though sometimes I am no longer awake when he's on, is Craig Ferguson. He's extremely silly and his obsession with puppets and his snakey cup make me laugh, often until my sides ache.

All this to say that I've been greatly amused by the back-and-forthing between all of the late night hosts. I feel for Jimmy Fallon, whom I do enjoy--his Real Housewives of Late Night is hysterical and utterly over the top. And Conan's open letter to the "people of earth" was very well written--a totally classy move on his part. I can fully understand that he feels protective of the Tonight Show legacy and all that's the fulfillment of a long-held ambition for him as well. It also seems pretty clear that Jay Leno wasn't ready to cede his Tonight Show mantle to Conan O'Brien and therein lies the recipe for unrest and hard feelings.

For my money, the winner in ALL of this is David Letterman. He has the catbird seat and can watch the mud-slinging between the other two while taking his own jabs at his former employers at NBC. I think anyone who has been fired, downsized, unceremoniously dismissed, or ***insert your favorite shit-canning euphemism here*** keeps a fantasy in the back of their mind that someday they will be avenged, or at least, that their boss or employer will "rue the day," so to speak. David Letterman is living that dream for the rest of us. He is having, and I'd say enjoying, his moment of schadenfreude--that lovely word we've borrowed from the Germans that expresses the joy one can feel at the misfortune of another. 

I understand that this may come off a little mean-spirited and even, dare I say, bitter, but it's really not meant to be. I'd bet that anyone who has worked for a difficult boss or been put in untenable situations by their employer has a little revenge fantasy playing out in their head from time to time. Unlike the movies, most of us will never get the opportunity to storm dramatically out of the room, slamming the door after having uttered a perfectly phrased bon mot. (I cite as a further example the scene in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation where Randy Quaid kidnaps Chevy Chase's boss in the middle of the night and brings him--still clad in his pyjamas--to the Griswold house to face the music over the lack of holiday bonuses.)

Letterman, though, he's basically won the schadenfreude lotto. After being treated rather badly by NBC in 1993 when they chose Jay Leno over Letterman for the Tonight Show, Letterman moved to CBS and I'd say has done just fine. He's rarely beat Leno in the ratings, but he had--and still has, I think--a loyal fan base. I can only imagine the grin that must have crept across Letterman's face when he heard about all the drama unfolding at his former TV home.

Granted, it took 17 years, but David Letterman may well have the last and best laugh over the slug-fest between O'Brien and Leno. (And I'm sure most mental-health professionals would suggest that it is unhealthy to hold on to that revenge fantasy for 17 years, but still...) Enjoy your schadenfreude, Dave, the rest of us will fantasize vicariously via your snarkily-worded witticisms.

OH...and if you need a smile today (and who doesn't??) here's the link to Craig Ferguson and the puppets...The Lonely Goatherd.

Don't forget the people of Haiti in your prayers and thoughts today.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed this coz, yes, I do think you unabashedly hit it on the nail about schadenfreude!