Sunday, September 30, 2007

Man's Best Buddy

Let's say that your beloved pet suddenly died, and his death was then mocked by strangers on the radio. How would you feel? Slightly homicidal, right?

When Bill Clinton's dog Buddy died in 2002, the Imus cast naturally had a field day with it. The following article describes that day, but it also discusses what makes the Imus show so special: its ability to make us laugh at the truly horrible things, to somehow probe our id and find the things that we would never dare say in public.

The Imus crew always used humor that cut very close to the bone. Let's hope that they keep that when they come back.


David Hinckley

New York Daily News

January 9, 2002

I saw a T-shirt recently that read "It's Only Funny Until Someone Gets Hurt. ... Then It's Hilarious."

Naturally, I thought at once of radio comedians, whose lifeblood is the misfortune of everyone else. Then I thought of it again last week when Bill and Hillary Clinton's Labrador retriever, Buddy, was killed by a car and WFAN morning man Imus pounced on the story like a starving man who just found a case of Imus Brothers salsa.

Basically, said Imus, who fires up the chain saw every time he hears the word "Clinton," this proves again that Bill and Hillary take so little responsibility for anything that they couldn't even bother to keep their dog from running into traffic.

When Imus read the Clintons' statement that Buddy had been a wonderful, faithful companion, Imus sidekick Bernard McGuirk cracked that this sounded like the statement they issued when Vince Foster died.

And so it went, because that's what Imus and his posse do. They make wise-guy remarks. They're funny.

But I also know that when your dog dies, it hurts, and I started thinking about those pictures of Bill Clinton taking Buddy for walks. Maybe those were only photo ops. Maybe not. Maybe, like dog owners everywhere, the most powerful man in the free world realized that Buddy, in contrast to his human friends, was actually happy to see him even when he'd acted like a jerk.

On your worst day, your dog still likes you. Small wonder we get attached to them. Maybe when Buddy dies, we could just say we're sorry.

Of course, the fact the Imus banter made some people uncomfortable also probably means it worked. If you can't flat-out offend someone in the radio comedy game, making them uncomfortable is a good second choice.

In that way, the Buddy riff recalled the day Rush Limbaugh admitted to his listeners he was going deaf.

The words had barely left his lips before the on-air jokes started - not on the Imus show - about how no hearing in his left ear for Rush wasn't a problem, it was an answered prayer. Or, alternately, that it was redundant.

Loss of hearing, like the death of a pet, is for most of us just sobering. We think about it - what if you loved music and could never hear it again? - and we instinctively feel bad for anyone to whom it happens.

So maybe the challenge for radio comedians is to push through that moment of human weakness and make the jokes anyhow. Once you learn to ignore the "Do Not Offend" signs, the little town of Hilarious can't be far up the road.


Al said...

Hinkley is on the money.

The Imus gang ARE funny!

...and smart...

which makes them stand out...and perhaps targets for the morons who have no sense of humor.

Will a terrestrial radio station, like, say for example WOR, let them be funny and smart ON THE AIR

CollegeGirl said...

If the terrestrial station doesn't let them be funny on the air, then said terrestrial station will have zero Arbitron numbers and few advertising dollars.

So hopefully the answer is Yes, they will be allowed to be funny.

laree said...

College Girl,

I am a dog lover, I always wanted to believe Buddy, was a real companion for Bill Clinton. I mean he is married to Hillary, he would be lonely. Still it seemed that Buddy appeared, during the time in Clinton's administration, when he was being reamed by the media. It is possible Buddy, was to make Bill look more human? I mean did someone on the Clinton team, think to themselves, how could we make Bill Clinton, more endearing so they gave him a puppy? I know that sounds real cynical but I have Clinton living history on my side. It wouldn't be the first time they, tried to shape reality by changing perception.

There were two movies that came out during the Clinton Administration, everyone seems to have forgotten, one was "Primary Colors" the other was "Wag the Dog" huh...Wag the Dog.

Al said...

From a NY radio insider...from NY Message Board
Posted by

Allan Sniffen on October 02, 2007 at 12:59:33:

"I'm hearing that Citadel and Imus are close... very close. Bernie will likely be back but in a non speaking capacity (for now). McCord also to be part of it.

Don't treat this as fact just yet... but... If I were going to place a bet..."

laree said...


Are we talking WABC then? You know who is on WABC, and are being attacked right now by Media Matters?

Al said...

Well, at least Bernard will still be a part of the show...

I love the way Imus operates....Imus will still have bernie's input, even though the rest of us won't be able to hear Bernie(for now, at least)

...but I'm sure we will get a drift of what Bernard is thinking, no?

Imus will probably SLOWLY ease the 'talking' Bernard into the show...


Al said...

Media Matters on the warpath again?
who they attacking this time?...since I haven't listened to regular radio since Imus got canned, I have no idea what's going on...

CollegeGirl said...

Al- THAT IS WONDERFUL NEWS. That makes my day. :-)

Particularly the part about Bernie. And I don't care that he's initially going to be in a non-speaking role. The important thing is that A. he can provide for his family again, and B. the crew is back together.


I usually check the NYRMB like ten times a day...and naturally, this is the ONE DAY I don't check it...

CollegeGirl said...

Laree, I agree. Chances are that Buddy's purpose was just to win favor with the public, but I think that he and Bill were close.

imusfan said...

This has made my day!! Can't wait to hear the announcement and the details - just knowing Bernard is on the premises will make me laugh.

I hope a TV station picks them up too

CollegeGirl said...

Imusfan - Agreed 100%!!! :-)