I’ve always been a fan of Jon Lovitz. I’ve always had a similar sense of humor, generally found absurdity and comedy in the same types of things. I remember back in high school when he was on Saturday Night Live trying to get his “Liar” character voice down in a perfect imitation.
When he got flak for going after Obama on taxes – while on stage in his comedy club – he rose back into my consciousness and I started to realize that perhaps there was even more nuances to him than I imagined.
Don’t get me wrong: I tried my hand at stand-up comedy for a couple of years and I have a great respect for those who decide to make a living at it. You simply can’t be a comic and be stupid. You just can’t last; you’ll get eaten alive. I knew from the characters he created and the types of subtle, obscure things that he satires, that there were depths and subtleties to his talents.
But most people in show business are absolutely idiotic when it comes to politics. To this day I have a hard time watching anything Matt Damon is in, and my skin crawls every time I see Alec Baldwin. The notion that people who get paid to write the words other people write have any standing on politics – and that people listen to them – is a sickening perversion of the status they are afforded in society.
Lovitz, though, wasn’t trying to make a comment on policy. He wasn’t making sweeping generalizations about the motivations of groups of people. Instead, he was objecting to a specific criticism that he felt was leveled at him, personally.
After listening to the clip, I wanted to hear more, so I went and downloaded the entire podcast. I realized two things. First, the clip of Lovitz’s Obama rant was about 2% of the entire episode, and second, I wanted to hear all of the episodes.[Side note: I found the episodes to be extremely entertaining and gave a tremendous insight into the ‘everyman’ kind of guy Lovitz is. Either he really is the greatest actor who ever lived, or he really is a down-to-earth, introspective, and high class guy. At least, I have a great deal of respect for his respect of other people, as well as refusing to name names when he disliked or disagreed with people.]
Lovitz, in case you didn’t know, struggled to make it as a comic for years before making it onto SNL. About 3 years ago, he opened up his own comedy club, trying his hand at being an entrepreneur. As I said, I tried my hand at standup for 2 years before coming to the conclusion that I didn’t want to run the gauntlet of living in poverty for a dozen years before maybe making it. I also ran my own consulting company for 7 years (as it turns out, those two timelines overlapped completely).
So, I understood Lovitz’ frustrations, even if it was a much smaller scale, with Obama’s idiotic claim that “if you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Someone else made that happen.”
This, of course, coming from a person who has only worked for 6 months in the private sector, calling it working “behind enemy lines.”
What’s worse, it’s the eerie echo of Elizabeth Warren – yes, the fake Indian Elizabeth Warren – who claims that there “is nobody in this country who got rich on his own — nobody.”
It’s understandable that Lovitz (and me, and a whole bunch of other people who have tried to be entrepreneurs in their lives) would bristle at these words.
Why? Because neither Obama nor Warren earned their success.
Lovitz is wrong when he says that the things that Obama has done in his life are amazing. What’s amazing is that he’s managed to get other people to create his success!
Elizabeth Warren’s entire success was not based on her academic merit or her ability to be a rockstar researcher. Instead, she cheated her way through her entire career by claiming to be something she wasn’t.
In fact, apparently she recognized that she was going to be able to get mileage out of accepting the jump-start of her adopted status in the mid-80s, when the “Victim Profit Motive” began its full swing.
For Obama’s part, he’s never really held a job where he’s actually had to produce anything. His teaching schedule was remarkably light and his ‘performance’ in the U.S. Senate was practically non-existent.
There’s even good grief that he couldn’t be bothered to write his own book about his own father.
For crying out loud, this is a man who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize a month after taking office, something that Lovitz satires with piercing skill in light of Obama’s recent comments.
Thing is, neither Obama nor Warren did earn their success, so it’s understandable that they would assume that nobody did.
The entire debate is frighteningly (and maddeningly) parallel to an exchange in Atlas Shrugged between James Taggart and his future bride Sheryl. James, who has just taken credit for his sister’s hard work and success is ranting about the success of Hank Reardon, who spent 10 years developing a new type of steel despite James and his Washington political cronies’ best efforts to stop him. Sheryl has been conned into thinking that James earned his success, and is genuinely confused as to why he would be upset by someone else’s success.
[James] turned to her abruptly, the words exploding as if a safety fuse had blown. “He didn’t invent iron ore and blast furnaces, did he?”
“Rearden. He didn’t invent smelting and chemistry and air compression. He couldn’t have invented his Metal but for thousands and thousands of other people. His Metal! Why does he think it’s his? Why does he think it’s his invention? Everybody uses the work of everybody else. Nobody ever invents anything.”
She said, puzzled, “But the iron ore and all those other things were there all the time. Why didn’t anybody else make that Metal, but Mr. Rearden did?”
“He didn’t do it for any noble purpose, he did it just for his own profit, he’s never done anything for any other reason.”
“What’s wrong with that, Mr. Taggart?” Then she laughed softly, as if at the sudden solution of a riddle. “That’s nonsense, Mr. Taggart. You don’t mean it. You know that Mr. Rearden has earned all his profits, and so have you. You’re saying those things just to be modest, when everybody knows what a great job you people have done—you and Mr. Rearden and your sister, who must be such a wonderful person!”
“Yeah? That’s what you think. She’s a hard, insensitive woman who spends her life building tracks and bridges, not for any great ideal, but only because that’s what she enjoys doing. If she enjoys it, what is there to admire about her doing it? I’m not so sure it was great—building that Line for all those prosperous industrialists in Colorado, when there are so many poor people in blighted areas who need transportation.”
“But, Mr. Taggart, it was you who fought to build that Line.”
“Yes, because it was my duty—to the company and the stockholders and our employees. But don’t expect me to enjoy it. I’m not so sure it was great—inventing this complex new Metal, when so many nations are in need of plain iron—why, do you know that the People’s State of China hasn’t even got enough nails to put wooden roofs over people’s heads?”
“But . . . but I don’t see that that’s your fault.”
“Somebody should attend to it. Somebody with the vision to see beyond his own pocketbook. No sensitive person these days—when there’s so much suffering around us—would devote ten years of his life to splashing about with a lot of trick metals. You think it’s great? Well, it’s not any kind of superior ability, but just a hide that you couldn’t pierce if you poured a ton of his own steel over his head! There are many people of much greater ability in the world, but you don’t read about them in the headlines and you don’t run to gape at them at grade crossings—because they can’t invent non-collapsible bridges at a time when the suffering of mankind weighs on their spirit!”
She was looking at him silently, respectfully, her joyous eagerness toned down, her eyes subdued. He felt better.
Obama and Warren echo Taggart’s missive, angry with those who earn their success because they did not.
In comedy, just like owning a business, there are far more people working against your success than those who are trying to help you. Anyone who has ever tried to freelance, be a graphic artist, or a web developer knows that every day is a battle just to get paid at all.
The government, for its part, has been doing anything except helping businesses. More than 4200 new regulations were created by mid-2011, costing billions in compliance, meaning that if you want to start a business you have to make sure you’re up on the 13,000 new pages where you can get shafted (not counting all the previous pages where you can get shafted).
As Lovitz points out in the followup- and last, sadly – podcast – he merely is pointing out what other people are thinking (albeit saying it in a humorous way). It’s understandable that he’s going to get kickback from those who either can’t understand or refuse to understand, those James Taggart-wannabees.
One last thing of note. Lovitz, by nature of his training and experience, is no stranger to criticism and likely has a thick skin. But he still seems genuinely surprised at the attention he’s getting on this topic. Reading through the flames he’s received is sobering. As I read through the vitriol, the unfocused hate, the unadulterated willful ignorance that is spewed towards him, I’m absolutely amazed at his ability to continue to take the high road and remain a high class act.
Mr. Lovitz, I’d love to buy you a beer some day!