Imus again. I'm sorry, but it's a " developing story. " So my opinions are developing, too. I saw Imus being interviewed by Matt Lauer this morning. He keeps making the point, " Ours is a comedy show. "
I first started listening to Imus when I was in the advertising business in Hartford. He and Howard Stern were the " Shock Jocks " on WNBC. I loved their irreverance and it inspired me to write ad copy with that kind of edge. One 30 second radio spot I wrote and produced wasn't run on the radio station on which we had bought time. It was pulled and the radio station executives had a meeting to discuss its " appropriateness. " I can't recall the details of the spot, but I do recall that it had some biblical chararacters making some remarks you wouldn't find in the bible. It was a " humorous " spot.
The spot eventually ran and it probably offended some listeners.
I wrote a lot of ad copy in the nine years I was in the business. My forte was humor. I'd do almost anything to get a laugh. If someone was offended, I'd think: Oh c'mon. It's humor! That was twenty years ago. Before the dawn of the Age of Irony.
David Letterman is the God of Irony. If you take anything he says seriously, you " Just don't get it. " Offended? Grow up. You're taking this way too seriously. When Imus says, " It's a comedy show, " he's using that kind of defense.
But is it a comedy show? Sure he has Bernard and the Cardinal, Rob Bartlett's cast of characters. But the real stars of the show, for many of us listeners, are politicians, historians, journalists. People who are as funny as a heart attack.
It's convenient now for Imus to wrap himself in the banner of comedy. Before the Rutgers things broke, would Imus have characterized his program as a " comedy show? " Or a variety show with some humor and much serious discussion about children with cancer and autism, the war in Iraq, global warming, mercury poisoning, etc. etc.
Imus begins his suspension next Monday. MSNBC and CBS, by doing this, are doing two things with which I strongly disagree.
It's robbing the market, i.e., we listeners of the chance to vote with our fingers. We can't choose not to listen to something which isn't on the air. We can't turn that dial.
And it's giving people like Frank Rich, John McCain, Jeff Greenfield, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Chris Matthews, Tim Russert - the usual suspects, the regular guests, a pass. They won't have to decide whether or not to go on a show that's not on for two weeks.
That said. I just watched the press conference at which Vivien Stringer and the Rutgers team members spoke. I hope Imus watched that. As I did, I could not imagine how I would be feeling if I had said what he said about these women. The I Man must feel awful about this. Will he change his ways?
If he does it's over for him. His dark side is the side that's kept him going for decades. Without that dangerous edge, Imus in the Morning is going to become Imus's worse nightmare:
Another Today Show. All happy talk all of the time.