Lauren Mayer: Schadenfreude, Downton Abbey-style

I don’t generally take pleasure in the woes of others, but every now and then it is delicious to see someone get a much-deserved come-uppance.  Like when that speeding shmuck who cut you off 2 miles ago gets pulled over by a cop, or when a morality-preaching evangelical gets caught with his pants down.  So you can’t blame people for gloating a bit about the spectacular (and quick) downfall of resigned Congressman Aaron Schock – he used taxpayers and donors to finance a glamorous, jet-setting lifestyle having nothing to do with his district, and flaunted his exploits – and his abs – at every opportunity, on social media and magazine covers.  Not to mention his homophobic voting record, which as Barney Frank pointed out, actually does make his sexuality at least somewhat germaine.

And how fitting that Schock was a fan of Downton Abbey, a show about the lavish, glamorous lives of a soon-to-be-obsolete upper class . . .

Lauren Mayer: Homophobia Is So Last Millenium!

Public approval for marriage equality has skyrocketed, as state after state joins the accelerating trend.  But a few states are holding on to the past, this time by trying a bit of clumsy obfuscation – framing discrimination as ‘religious freedom,’ as though bigoted florists and bakers are the real victims.  They aren’t losing the right to worship the way they want, but when you do business in public, you follow basic laws.  For example, what if my religion disapproved of being Mormon?, or left-handed, or homophobic?  I still couldn’t turn away those clients.  (On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine a homophobic client wanting to hire a liberal musical satirist, but still, you never know!)

Clearly these feeble attempts are the last frantic sputters of dying-out resistence to gay marriage.  (Which always reminds me of the scene in Blazing Saddles where Sheriff Bart tries to keep the put-upon residents of Rock Ridge from leaving town and giving into Hedly Lamarr’s evil plot.  He says, “Can’t you see that’s the last act of a desperate man?,” and Howard Johnson replies, “We don’t care if it’s the first act of Henry V. We’re leaving!”)  So here’s a musical reminder to opponents of marriage equality that we see through their feeble attempts to disguise what they’re doing:

Lauren Mayer: Everything Old Is New Again

Retro is in!  The fun of nostalgia is that we can romanticize the aspects we liked (e.g. Downton Abbey’s fabulous costumes and Maggie Smith’s great lines) while ignoring those we wouldn’t really want to resume (servants with no lives of their own, no antibiotics or disposable diapers, etc.).  So it was only fitting that the controversy around Bill O’Reilly’s exaggerations erupted the week before Downton Abbey’s Season 5 finale.   Here’s my tribute to the 1920s/commentary on O’Reilly’s reaction (which was, shall we say, just a tad different from Brian Williams’), and it’s up to you if you want to consider it as also being a commentary on the age of O’Reilly’s target audience.

Lauren Mayer: The Real Reason Behind The Success Of ’50 Shades’

Not only is E.L. James’ fan-fiction’ trilogy a runaway success, the movie version is also setting box office records.  Meanwhile, critics, literary analysts, BDSM experts, and all of us with any basic sense of logic and writing are scratching our heads.  How on earth could so many people embrace soft-core porn that expects us to believe a beautiful 21-year-old English major has never been kissed, has never thought about sex, and has never decided to use her supposed experience reading Thomas Hardy novels to update her vocabulary from “jeez” and “triple crap”?

Since women are the bulk of the audience (including those of us who read a book or two ‘just to see what all the fuss was about’, honest!), it’s easy to dismiss the whole phenomenon as an illustration of suburban sexual frustration, of lonely moms yearning for some kink in their lives.  But I’m firmly convinced it’s really because the books tapped into the suburban mother’s deepest fantasy – of having someone ELSE take charge for a few hours.  

For that we’d put up with awful writing, a hero who is more abusive-stalker than charming, and a lousy representation of consensual sexual experimentation.  Just think how successful we’d make any example of ‘mommy porn’ that skipped the contract delibrations and references to “my inner goddess”?

Lauren Mayer: Stupidity Can Be Bipartisan

Even though I am an unabashedly liberal political satirist, I have immense respect for any efforts at bipartisanship.  (I was a competitive debater in high school and college, where we had to argue both sides of any given topic, and it was great training not just for politics but for marriage . . . . but I digress.)  Which is why I’ve always been proud to contribute to this site whose whole foundation is to encourage bipartisan discourse.

However, my admiration for seeing both sides of an issue has largely been theoretical.  On the issues that matter to me, from women’s reproductive choice to marriage equality to the environment to income inequality, I have had a very hard time seeing any validity to the arguments on the opposing side.  And when that opposing side is based on a wholesale denial of facts, evidence, and science, it’s even harder to remain balanced.

However, an issue has recently come up where science denial originated on the left – the ant-vaccination movement.  And while a few right-wingers have made idiotic, pandering remarks about parental choice, or a ‘temporal link’ between vaccines and autism, just as many diehard conservatives have come down squarely on the side of science.  Who knew we’d find a subject on which Hillary Clinton and Ben Carson express the same point of view?

So for a change, the sarcasm and disdain in my political satire song is aimed equally at Democrats and Republicans who persist in willful ignorance:

Lauren Mayer: Why Leftist Humor Is Easier

Pundits and comics alike have posited all sorts of theories as to why there is a more robust culture of political humor on the liberal side.   Is it that liberals take themselves less seriously so are less open for ridicule? Or is the media quicker to pounce on right-wing mistakes?  Are liberals more educated and wittier? Or is it that the entertainment establishment is run by liberals who won’t give a platform to more conservative viewpoints?  Do liberals see more nuances in issues? Or is the culture of ‘political correctness’ stifling outrageousness on the left?
In this site’s spirit of bipartisanship, I’d like to suggest a more random theory that is nonjudgmental and assigns no blame or evil to either side – Liberals simply haven’t yet come up with anyone to compete with the most colorful rightwing figures.

Face it, it takes no particular wit, or media bias, to have immense fun with characters like Donald Trump and Michele Bachmann.  Who can compete with that?  Elizabeth Warren is newsworthy but she’s just not that funny, and it’s been years since we had a comedy candidate like Kinky Friedman (who ran for governor of Texas in between gigs with his band, “The Texas Jew-Boys”).

And when it comes to comedically inspiring figures, no one can top Sarah Palin, and in fact she topped her own very colorful record at the recent Iowa Freedom Summit.  Her oratory was almost a song in itself – so here’s a musical setting of mostly verbatim quotations.

Lauren Mayer: Celebrating Fox News – No, Really!

Left-leaning satirists have always had an interesting relationship with right-wing media like Fox News.  On the one hand, as liberals we are often dismayed by the partisan tone of their coverage, just as I’m sure conservatives are irked by MSNBC.  On the other hand, as satirists, we are truly grateful for the endless inspiration- face it, Stephen Colbert’s entire persona for his recently ended show was mocking the typical Fox News blowhard anchor, and anytime The Daily Show or Rachel Maddow wants to call out right-wing hypocrisy or inconsistency, there is almost always a clip from one of the Fox hosts to make their point.  And not that I put myself in the same league as those illustrious figures – oh hell, why not?   Writing a weekly song can be difficult enough, but the hardest part is finding a topic – that is, until Fox comes up with yet another colorful turn of phrase or oddball guest “expert.”

However, in all the months I’ve been doing these songs, I never thought I’d see Fox back down from one of their way-out-there-but-easily-debunked claims.  So last week’s apology/retraction of the Muslim ‘no-go-zones’ story deserved a unique musical celebration:

Lauren Mayer: What War on Christmas?

Bill O’Reilly et al. like to paint themselves as victims of a secular conspiracy to destroy the meaning of Christmas.  To hear them tell it, our founding fathers based the Constitution on a mashup of the bible (only selected portions, mind you, none of that keeping kosher stuff) and the Burl Ives ‘Frosty The Snowman’ TV special.  So any attempt to reflect the diversity of our country around this time of year is not only unAmerican, but it threatens the very existence of the holiday they are thus compelled to defend.

Maybe if they got out of their studio once in a while, they’ll get a sense of just how well Christmas is doing versus any other holiday.  Even here in the godlessly liberal/socialist Bay Area, every mall, business, or residential street looks like an elf’s wet dream, festooned with tinsel, red & green baubles, and enough mechanical reindeer & inflated lit-up snowmen to completely confuse my dog every time I walk her.  (Not to mention the fact that Christmas has totally taken over Thanksgiving, and is probably going after Halloween and Labor Day next . . . )

Meanwhile, Bob Geldof has trotted out yet another rendition of his classic/monstrosity (depending on your perspective), “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” this time to raise awareness of Ebola, but continuing in the same vein of overblown rock anthem as expressed by patronizing Westerners.  (Apparently, just in Nigera there are 3 times as many Christians as in England, so it seems like they don’t need Geldof’s song to enlighten them.)  So in that same spirit, here’s my own overblown anthem in an effort to raise awareness of the existence of other holidays.

Lauren Mayer: Costco Vs. Walmart

I often struggle to reconcile my progressive values with my love of shopping.  I don’t want to patronize companies whose policies are at odds with the environment, LGBTQ rights, fair treatment of workers, and so on, but I also love a good bargain.  (My ultra-liberal husband gets weekly updates on which businesses we should avoid based on a wide variety of criteria, making it almost impossible to find an acceptable retailer or gas station!)

But fortunately, it turns out that there is a retailer which is ‘good and good for you,’ where we don’t need to sacrifice our own needs for those of the community – and it even manages to make great profits while espousing progressive values. In any head-to-head comparison with Walmart, and Costco comes up on top regarding employee benefits & wages, ratio of executive to average worker pay, overall customer satisfaction, AND profit.  Meanwhile, there are all the stories lately about Walmart forcing employees to work on Thanksgiving, spending a fortune on lobbyists while paying employees poorly, and making taxpayers pay to compensate for those lousy wages and huge executive bonuses, not to mention the pitifully small fraction of a percent the Walmart heirs contribute to any kind of charity, and the Scrooge-like requests for employees to donate canned food to their equally underpaid colleagues.

Isn’t it great to be able to feel morally superior while getting a great deal on everything from toilet paper to tires?

Lauren Mayer: Weren’t We All Immigrants, Once?

One of the best scenes in Blazing Saddles is when the railroad workers negotiate with Rock Ridge to help build the ‘false front’ town that will fool Hedley Lamarr’s evil army.  The racially mixed workers want to be repaid with land in town, and at first the townspeople object to including various ethnic groups.  Eventually they agree to accept the Chinese and African Americans but “we don’t want the Irish.”  However, when Sheriff Bart insists, the group’s leader finally says, “Oh, prairie sh*t, everyone!” and a happy ending ensues.

Apparently, not much has changed in 40 years (I know, those of us who remember when that movie first came out are OLD), as far as some people’s reactions to President Obama’s recent executive actions on immigration reform.  Right-wing stalwarts like Michele Bachmann and Steve King project a ruined country overtaken by illiterate criminals, and even saner politicians are accusing Obama of acting like a tyrant, emperor, king, or dictator, when multiple Republican presidents (including ‘Saint Reagan’) did basically the same thing without any protest.

Meanwhile, there are very few of us in the country today whose anceestors weren’t immigrants at one time, so to help everyone chill out a bit, here’s a relaxing musical tribute to immigration . . .