Friday, April 13, 2007

Imus: Did the little bell go off?

When you're on the radio doing a talk show, things happen fast. You've got a caller, or a partner, or a room full of people, and everyone is bantering and making wisecracks and trying to top each other and get a laugh. Somedays it's all flowing and somedays nothing works. But you keep doing it hour after hour, day after day. In my experience, there were the moments when I knew we had just done something really funny or poignant, and when we had been really sucky. And now and then, a little bell would go off in your head that the thing you just said might have been over the line, and you would probably be getting some blowback.

If you're Don Imus, I doubt the little bell goes off when you say the phrase "nappy headed hos." This is a show that probably delivered 59 tasteless remarks every day. People expect this level of quasi-edgy standup comedy with a lot of stereotyping, juvenile insult humor, and a general sense that anything goes. I'd bet that Imus is in a state of shock that his great broadcasting empire has crumbled over what he considered a tossed off laugh line. I don't think Imus deserves a star on the "Hollywood Walk of Celebrity Racists" next to Mel Gibson and Michael Richards - those guys showed some real vitriolic, deep-seated hatred with their infamous words. Imus was just making a little joke. Maybe a bad joke, a tasteless joke, but nothing compared to what you'd see in a nightclub or on an HBO special. So in that sense, I think he got "ho"sed, as it were.

There was a lot of talk on the talk shows about all this yesterday. On Ronn Owens show on KGO, a caller suggested it was a plot to take down Imus because he doesn't like Hillary Clinton. Get him off the air before the campaign heats up and he is taking shots at her every day. But I think there might be more traction in the idea voiced by Bob Agnew on the Armstrong and Getty show on KNEW. He suggested MSNBC and CBS might have been looking for an opportunity to cut loose from a big ticket item on their payroll. Knowing a little about how the business works, I wouldn't be surprised if they have somebody in mind to move in and rebuild the audience. Despite all the talk about the influential politicos who listened to and guested on the Imus show, I think they were mostly talking to each other, and it's likely the overall ratings were not that great.

I won't shed any tears for the I-Man. He's got plenty of dough, the nice place in New Mexico, and if he wants to keep working he can join Stern on the satellite radio and call women as many derogatory names as he wants. They probably have a whole daypart devoted to insulting women on the satellite.

4 comments:

hillbilly deluxe said...

I'm probably biased because I like Don Imus. But just like any show it had its good and bad moments. Somedays I tuned in, somedays I turned the dial. But to think of all the things I've heard from (let's just pick one)say, HBO comedy specials, I am simply amazed at this reaction. Staying with the HBO example, everyone at HBO should be fired immediately for the racist and sexist comments I've heard there for years. You say, "well, thats cable". I say BS. Did you ever hear Stern before he moved to staellite? Yet nobody quit advertising, nor did he lose his job. His show is more offensive, sexist and racist in one show than Imus has been in 30 years. Unreal. As Slim Pickens' Taggart says in Blazing Saddles, "...I am depressed...".

Barry Martin said...

All quite true, Deluxe. Great piece of writing here on the REAL problem.

http://www.kansascity.com/182/story/66339.html

Scott said...

If a tree falls in the forest...
I guess the biggest shocker to me was that Don Imus was still on the radio. He was irrelevant 20 years ago. Yes, he'd always thrown a tinge of racism around freely on the show. Forget about HBO, the real concern should be MTV. If the black community is going to be up in arms over what Imus said, then it should also be policing its own, namely the rappers on MTV. It's OK for them to call each other ho's and bitches and use the 'n'-word, but when irrelvant Imus uses it...shut the man down!

hillbilly deluxe said...

If Imus was irrelevant, his audience, guestlist, salary, ratings, and sponsor list, much less the hype surrounding this incident sure doesn't suggest it. But I digress...This overblown reaction serves no purpose but to further divide us. And the moral arbiters? Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton? Wow...THEY are the slur police? Interesting...
CBS was so appalled and revulsed, it took them nine days to realize it. They just couldn't cede the moral high ground to MSNBC, or he'd still be "suspended" right now. If the irrelevant Imus wants to, he'll be back, probably on satellite, with a huge salary (further evidence of his irrelevance). I can't wait to see the next chip fall. Who will it be? A rapper (doubt it), Rush Limbaugh? Wonder if it'll be a slur againt whitey or cracker...don't hold your breath. This argument is very one-sided. Beware freedom of speech, the wolf is at the door...