Sunday, November 8, 2009

Blogging Larry King, Pt. 1 (Fort Hood, Domestic Abuse, Obama's Brother)

No words.

Everyone's always known that Larry King was the squishiest of big-name interviewers. But he used to be something more than a complete joke. Remember when he had Ross Perot and Al Gore on to debate NAFTA? (I do and I was 8 at the time.) These days, though, Larry is quasi-senile, his producers are insane, and the result is the most dependably hilarious 60 minutes of television since, I don't know, fucking I Love Lucy. Larry's probably been this nuts for years but I started watching him religiously after this summer's double whammy of the Jermaine Jackson interview and the Ashton/Diddy/Seacrest/Fallon Twitter episode. A few traits define Late Larry:

  • A penchant for having on crazy and/or retarded guests.
  • A complete suspension of disbelief or critical thinking as these crazy and/or retarded guests say crazy and/or retarded things.
  • Blind celebrity-love.
  • Great trust in highly dubious "experts."
  • Bizarre levels of inanity - inane questions, inane subjects, inane musings.
  • Inadvertent surrealism.
Anyway, my obsession with latter-day Larry is such that I've decided, now that I have a handy DVR, to start blogging the best bits from each Larry episode. I start with his second episode on Fort Hood.

Fort Hood

The Fort Hood episode was fairly subdued by Larry's standards, but we did get a few great moments of unwitting self-parody. The episode kicked off with an interview of a neighbor of the officer who shot the assailant; the subtitle under her head read "SHE KNOWS FORT HOOD HERO COP." (One of the best parts of Larry's show is the crazy subtitles.) Larry, naturally, asks what she thought when she heard her neighbor was the hero cop. The neighbor, being a well-intentioned but clearly dim young Texan woman, says that she wasn't surprised at all because her hero cop neighbor had previously deterred some juveniles from breaking into a house, and then gone to the heroic extent of warning residents in the neighborhood to be careful of marauding juveniles. Midstream into this story, Larry inexplicably goes, 'Wow!" And when it's all over, instead of being like, "um, what does that have to do with anything," he goes:

So she was the heroic type.

Next up, Larry had a man whose "SON LOOKED SHOOTER IN THE EYE" (and who also was wounded). Larry sensitively asks whether he immediately thought of his son when he heard about the shootings; the man, for the first time in the history of post-mass-murder interviews, says no because it was a base of 50,000 and what was the chance his son was one of the victims? Then, in typical "something just isn't right up there" LK fashion, he asks:

We understand he was scheduled to come home for Thanksgiving and then go to Afghanistan. Can we imagine that's all changed - well, he'll still get home, won't he, for Thanksgiving?

Dad says he's sure his son will. Next, after some reporters whom Larry effusively congratulates on their great reporting, we get "MEDIC WHO TREATED HERO COP". Much to Larry's disappointment, the medic didn't get a chance to talk to hero cop because she was unconscious, but the medic does tell an involved tale of putting a torniquet on the woman's leg. To which Larry quoth:

That's what great medics do. Thank you, Francisco.

Then we have the sister of one of the victims. Why she's chosen to put herself through the gauntlet of an emotionally insensitive Larry King interview, who knows. Larry opens with "when did you find out that Jason had been killed?" Which he follows with "he was just 22, right?" And to really rub it in:

Do you know, Leila, you can expect someone who goes in the Army, goes to Iraq, OK, you're hardened for the worst. But you certainly never expect him to die at his base, right? Never.

Amazingly, Leila does not sue Larry for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Finally, Larry caps things off with the duo of General McCaffery and Wesley Clark, who know absolutely nothing about what happened or base security in general, but proceed to argue over whether we should all be afraid of Muslims now. Typically, Larry, who never questions his interviewees' veracity or judgment, acts oblivious to his guests' raging debate because acknowledging it might force him to pick a side. Wesley, once a Democratic Presidential hopeful, actually muses on "what it would take for you to feel comfortable now" serving with Muslims and darkly hints that we're "just scratching the surface of the enormous conflict that must be so present in so many people around this country and around the world." McCaffery says that this is a completely isolated incident that we can learn nothing from whatsoever. Larry just thanks these two "outstanding servants" for showing up.

Domestic Violence

This episode starts with a great premise - let's get four mildly famous battered women (or sisters of famous dead battered women), including Robin Givens, together to watch clips of Rihanna's interview with Diane Sawyer and offer their expert commentary. But it never really picks up the absurdist steam you'd expect. Though at times Larry's attempt to subject Rihanna's interview to some sort of Perez Hilton-meets-deconstructionism analysis yields up some gems, as when he actually asked Mary Murphy, reality TV judge on "So You Think You Can Dance," and a oneitme battered spouse, this question:

Do you think [it was] worse for her than you, or apples and oranges?

Mary thinks it's maybe apples and oranges. Robin manages to be the least sympathetic domestic violence victim ever, constantly reminding us that Mike went on to eat Evander's ear, and at one point clapping for something Nicole Brown Simpson's sister said - who, by the way, reveals her myopic class biases when she says that most women used to think that abuse couldn't happen to them, but when they found out that Nicole got battered, they realized it could happen to affluent people too. As if most women are affluent or something, or maybe just the ones who matter. Larry attempts to sympathize with all these whiny abuse victims, but eventually shows his true colors and asks:

A famous psychiatrist once said to me - and I wonder how you would all react to this - he said, "If you come home at night -- you are a man -- and your wife hits you with a lamp, and you come home the second night and she hits you with a lamp, and you come home the third night, and she hits you with a lamp, on the fourth night, if you come home, who is nuts?" So that we relate to. If you are hit all the time, granted, the hitter is wrong - again, why do you come back to get punched?

The women are so shocked that they don't know what to say. Then Larry adds in a doctor to the mix and asks her "have we had a definitive study of the violent person?" What? The doctor says there are lots of different kinds of violent people. Larry says he just meant domestic violent people. Like that makes his question any less retarded.

Obama's Brother

Mark Obama Ndesandjo is one of those people whose remarks, as nutty and incoherent as they read in print, sound a million times more demented on TV. The guy just seems like he's done a ton of drugs. He sounds a lot like the SNL guy who does Obama, if that guy swapped brains with Jermaine Jackson. It's not even like he's going up there with some rational plan to cake off Obama and sell tons of copies of his book, because the first thing he emphasizes is how that book is a work of fiction with no insights into his brother or the Obama family. Even Larry seems to half-realize that the guy is nuts. Mr. Ndesandjo explains that his book is of no interest to the Obama-curious reader at all, but rather is a novel with three important messages, namely

1. Domestic violence.
2. Starting from scratch.
3. The power and the spirit of service.

These messages, Ndesandjo says, are not just about the Obama family. Rather, "they run across all countries, all regions.... all religions." Again, you really need to see the video because in between each word he takes huge pauses in a futile attempt to gather his thoughts, pauses that can only be the product of a lifetime of heavy drug use.

After that, Larry asks him what effect being beaten as a child had on him. Typically inane Larry question made to seem almost brilliantly rational by Nde's colossally off-point answer. Ndesandjo starts his answer like so:

Let me -- I guess one thing I would like to share, Larry, is that, just to recap a little bit, my life has always been about self-expression, whether it is through music, calligraphy, writing, and so forth.

Calligraphy. Then, for the next two minutes, Ndesandjo muses on how "there are things that are sometimes extraordinary situations that can occur in a man's life," among which "could be, it could be, it could be" the loss of a job or falling in love. When these things that are sometimes extraordinary situations occur, Ndesandjo seems to be groping towards, the abuse victim begins to reflect on his sucky childhood. To which Larry can only blurt out in exasperation:

And the effect on you was WHAT??

This shouting seems to trigger some coherence in Nde, who, on cue, promptly regurgitates memories of seeing his mother being beaten in Kenya. Very vivid memories:

you -- you see the light. There's like a golden -- the light of the lamp in the living room, and you hear thuds -- and I have mentioned this before in the interviews -- and YOU CAN'T PROTECT YOUR MOTHER!

'Wow,' Larry says. Nde begins to cry. After a commercial break, Larry says that they have limited time on the satellite (??), so he just wants Nde to give some quick comments on whether he and Barack have discussed their father. Nde will have none of it and instead goes on one of the great lunatic rants you'll ever see on cable television:

I want to just get back to one issue, and that is that my brother talked about having a difficulty in terms of relating to people, and I think this is very true, because what happens is that when you are in such situations, your skin -- you become hardened to emotional attachments to people. And in the book, while the book is an autobiography -- excuse me, is a novel that is semi-autobiographical -- it has strong parallels with my father, with my mother, with me, and also my grandmother. Now, I just wanted to say that what happens is that sometimes -- because you're not able to connect with other people, you do things which are very strange -- for example, when you fall in love. In the story there is a character called David, and he falls in love with Spring. And what happens is that they butt against each other; they seem to break apart. And it's because of dumb emotion and dumb emotion. And then what happens is that David discovers his father's diary. Now, I have not discussed my father with -- with Barack, but I do know that we have had similar thoughts, and we have had similar -- I think similar reflections on certain things, but I -- Barack and I never had the benefit of a diary which could explain the fullness of, for example, my father. I thought my father was just a bad man for a long, long time, and I shut a lot of things out of my life. And then what happened is that I felt that there had to be good in him. There had to be good in him - and so I wrote this diary in my book because that would fill out the good parts.

Larry, constitutionally incapable of uttering a "what the fuck are you talking about" or the broadcastable equivalent, can only say that he's very anxious to read Nde's book.


Anonymous said...

Thank God somebody found this interview as hilarious as I did. I've never seen anything like it in my life. I was in disbelief throughout the whole thing. Thanks for the commentary!

manny said...

i too, saw the LK interview with Obama's brother. i don't share your insensitive braggadocios account of it, chump. everyone in front of a camera doesn't always sound like they're reading from script. yea, he rambled some. maybe, the kind of ramble cause by someone who made a habit of kicking the shit out of his mother. ha..ha, funny, huh?