Comedy From the Idiot's Point Of View

I haven’t written much about The Jon Dore Television Show, now in its second season, but it’s doing well in the ratings, and is a fairly decent show of its particular type, though it’s not a type of show that I love to watch regularly. Dore, who created the show after his successful gig on Canadian Idol (oh, the CTV synergy!), plays himself as a complete insensitive moron who is nonetheless convinced that he is in fact a good, gentle soul striving to be better in a world that lets him down. Every week, he vows to learn more about some issue or cause, and does so through a mix of mockumentary interviews with real people; when he tries to carry out what he’s learned, he winds up doing things like holding a woman in front of him as a human shield.

The show is influenced by The Sarah Silverman Program and Borat, but also the mock-interviews on The Daily Show some episodes really come across as a longer version of a Colbert Report piece, where an idiot TV guy goes into the world to learn about some issue, and asks real people incredibly stupid questions that demonstrate his own refusal to believe that there’s anything wrong with him or that there are any real gaps in his knowledge or understanding. But Sarah Silverman seems like the biggest influence, right down to the use of some other word or phrase where “show” would do just as well.

What makes these shows very much of our time is that they show idiots who go out among “serious” people and create havoc — but we’re not supposed to like them for it. Traditionally, when you have an idiot among people who take themselves seriously, the audience is rooting for the idiots. The Three Stooges walk into a wealthy dowager’s house and cause trouble; we like the Stooges and we like that they’re shaking things up. But Sarah Silverman doesn’t want us to like her character, and Jon Dore doesn’t either. The comedy aesthetic here, and I think it’s a legitimate one, is like a Groucho Marx scene where Groucho is portrayed not as a charming scamp but as a horrible, insensitive jerk oblivious to all the pain he causes people, and where the fun is in the transgressiveness (look at what these morons can get away with).

Cartman from South Park is a bit different because he usually gets his comeuppance — not always, but often enough that you know there’s an old-fashioned moral centre to the comedy. That’s why he’s from a show that started in 1997, and Sarah Silverman is “now.” Or was last year. I can’t keep up.