Dana Milbank is not Chris Rock


Michael Scott: How come Chris Rock can do a routine and everyone finds it hilarious and groundbreaking, and I do the exact same routine, same comedic timing, and people file a complaint to Corporate? Is it because I’m white and Chris is black? (8:08 into the video below)

Link: The Office S01E02 Diversity Day

Slate.com’s Jack Shafer doesn’t see the big deal with these political journalists trying to star in comedy videos and then hosting them at Washington Post’s website (h/t me for bold/italics):

If you’re late to the dispute, Milbank and Cillizza are political journalists at the Post who, since early June, have been donning silly costumes and hoisting stupid props on a cheesy set thats supposed to echo the old Masterpiece Theater set. They make fun of themselves. They make fun of powerful politicians. The segments are short and topical.
[…] Although I avoid making jokes—lest I hurt someone’s feelings—I support the right of others to cross the line from gentle teasing to gore-splattering comedic mayhem.
via In defense of the Milbank and Cillizzas offensive episode of “Mouthpiece Theater.” – By Jack Shafer – Slate Magazine .

I support the right of people to make jokes, to. Shafer has set up a straw man here. People in social company, people speaking at weddings, satirists and comedians. Not two unfunny political journalists at the Washington Post. This is like the jerk who comes up to me, a web application developer, and wants me to teach them to build a website because…well…”it can’t be that hard. Right?” Comedy is a craft, and the purposefully humorless Jack Shafer doesn’t realize that or believes its too hurtful for him to appreciate, that’s fine. But Milbank and Cillizza are paid to be political journalists by subscribers. Not comedians.

While, the hopefully ill-fated, “Mouthpiece Theater” sketch comedy production team of Cillizza, Milbank and Managing Editor Raju Narisetti waste time yukking it up, they are not digging up political news. In addition if they feel fit to say Secretary of State Clinton would choose “Mad Bitch Beer”, I doubt it endears them to Clinton’s staff aka sources and the time spent filming can’t be used for their reporting. It has to be a detriment to their actual craft. Political journalism.

I am not against a newspaper having video features, slideshows and other content. I fact I can name a few value adding multimedia applications on the web: Slate’s podcasts, Time magazine’s White House Photo Blog (LIFE on the web, in my opinion), NY Times Politics Section MSNBC: New York Times Edition & Style sub section “Vows”, and ESPN’s ESPN360 (especially during college football season).

The big papers would be better tailoring multimedia features to the people who are to star in them and then partnering with other news organizations to help fund their development. If they wanted to do something that would be “fun” and or “interesting”, Cillizza and Milbank should try to have an off the cuff discussion about political news. As themselves. Not as a poorer version of the Duke brothers from Trading Places. Whether I agree with their opinions or not, they both are pretty heavily used political opinion show panelists. They can definitely voice their opinions about a major topic or a few minor ones in a succinct manner.

I don’t go to WashingtonPost.com to see low quality comedic skits. It is these types of tone deaf, awkward, “we journos are cool too” shenanigans, coupled with intellectually lazy op-eds and reporting that centers on memes and not facts that will make me think less of the Washington Post as a news source. That is the problem.