Sunday, March 04, 2012


I have to say, even if in some context this advertisement was meant with irony, it is one of the worst — as in, not funny — I've ever seen. Especially as it is meant to promote a funny man (allegedly). It appeared on the Upper West Side of Manhattan many months, if not a year or more after, the New York City mayoral election of 2009. That was the election in which Mayor Bloomberg changed electoral laws imposing term limits to allow himself to run for a third term. 

The election was marked by voter apathy, despite a strong showing by the Democratic candidate, Bill Thompson (who famously said that with another $1 million in funds, he would have narrowly beaten Bloomberg), and, for anyone who cares that great cities flourish within a frame of agreed civic rules and boundaries, the general feeling that the stinking rich incumbent had "bought" his third term. 

The text on the poster states: "I'm coming back, like a mayor extending term limits." Who among Conan O'Brien's weak-brained fans would remember anything about the 2009 election, by the time this poster went up?

O'Brien coming back to your televisual screen suggests something triumphant, an event to be heralded. Most people if asked about American war hero General Douglas MacArthur, for example, would remember one thing: that one day in history (March 1942), he had stood somewhere important (near the Philippines), just after he left (Japanese invading army close at hand), and momentously said: "I shall return." There's a slight echo of MacArthur's great egotistical statement in any promise of a return (not least, Arnold Schwarzenegger's "I'll be back!") 

Whatever methods Bloomberg used to extend term limits to get his third term of office, there was a distinct feeling that he had gone against the democratic will of the people of the city, and that the mayor's goons had railroaded the change in the law through city council by threats, cajoles and bribes that went above and beyond normal politics — especially as, after he had won, Bloomberg had the law changed back again. 

It's one thing to say, "I think term limits should be extended so that I can have another term of office, and in general my experience of being mayor makes me think incumbents deserve three, not two terms, if they prevail on election day." 

It's quite a different magnitude of self-regard to say "I want a third term. Just for me." 

Anyway, "like a mayor extending term limits" just jars with "I'm coming back". It's like crashing a train into custard.

And so: that stoopid Conan ad just pisses me off, every time I see it. It lingers now on the same thin sliver of the Upper West Side (79th and Broadway), perhaps where all three and a third of his fans reside. And chortle at his lame-ass jokes.

There are so many superlatives and egos, personalities and 'world's biggest...' in the Big Apple. Yet the best that could be thought up was "like a mayor extending term limits"? How about "like a baseball hit by Yankee player X," where x is a particularly hard-hitting batter? In fact, I've even seen Conan O'Brien once, years ago, late at night near Rockefeller Center. He is of course, exceedingly tall, and red-haired, like a giant carrot/exclamation point: his physical self speaks for him and his show. No words are necessary!

I can't imagine anyone was racing to take the top roles in this movie, Game Change, about the McCain-Palin 'ticket' in the 2008 Presidential election. ("Let's go see that, dear. I wonder how it ends?...") Poster spotted — where else? — on the Upper East Side. Note the tag line: "Politics would never be the same"; it would have been truer to say that politics have remained depressingly, utterly the same.  

Don't forget, folks: Susan Sarandon: Mother, Actor and Activist. And False Idol.