Leno, Conan, Simon and Me. Who Gives a Damn?

In 1994 I was living in Los Angeles during the Northridge earthquake. One side of my house fell over taking the brick fireplace down with it, and the staircase collapsed leaving my wife and I trapped in our upstairs bedroom. Somehow we got through it alive, somewhat battered and rebuilt our house and lives. We moved on to less shaky ground in time to resettle in NYC for 9/11. Location is not my strong suit. But in LA after that earthquake there was a real pre-Bush FEMA to assist those who suffered that quake, and although there were deaths, this Haiti nightmare swamps anything I experienced at that time. It is hard to watch and American television is doing a first rate job of bringing it to us so that we must face this terrible event and get involved in helping out. But it doesn't seem to stop our news media from worrying equally about Leno and Conan, Simon and Oprah, and I mean worrying the way a dog worries over a bone, chewing on it, shaking its head over it, growling, running about wildly, and never letting go. Now I say to the media, "Stop! Sit!" and "Lay down quietly for awhile."

I know I am not the only one in America who doesn't give a damn about the NBC late night lineup, there must be a large group of our non-carers who thinks funnymen and American Idol hosts are irrelevant to the point of nausea when we read about them as front page news in The New York Times and elsewhere. When so many thousands have died in Haiti, and so many millions are out of work here in America we are told to worry about the fortunes of men making millions, as if our very lives depended upon who occupied the glorious 11:30 hour on NBC, or if Simon is seated in the snarler's chair on American Idol. As one who enjoyed Jack Parr and Johnny, who served as my generation's sleeping pills, I know that there is a place in the TV pantheon for late night comics, but never before in our history did their hiring, firing, musing and complaining get such prominence, and never at such an inappropriate time.

Trust me, I really don't want to know who Jeff Zucker is and how he screwed up his network. There is a dumb heartlessness and a moral stupidity in the concern over these super rich comics, at the very least a stupendous insensitivity to the real world as we worry about so called "Must See TV." Now, I watched the clowns on CSpan the other day, the rulers of our financial universe, the guys who brought ruin to so many as they prevaricated before the investigating committee and that was must see TV. But Conan and Leno? Give us a break. This is one circus that will fold its tent and move on while the real issues of our time will remain with us. Yes, as humans we need entertainment to take our minds off the everyday woes we all share, and as one who has worked in the entertainment industry I am perhaps biting the hand that once fed me, but this had gone too far. My cure? I would urge President Obama to place a surtax on the millions of Leno and Simon and Conan just as he wishes to tax the bonuses of the wizard financiers, with the money going directly to the unemployed and the foreclosed. Now that would give these funny guys something real to complain about.