Aug 8, 2017
   Character Assassination as "Comedy"   

Read the original review on www.splicetoday.com.


Last Monday, writer Chris Beck posted an article about Andy Kindler's 22nd annual State of the Industry speech at Montreal’s Just For Laughs comedy festival. But it may also be part of an ongoing performance-art piece about irony and self-awareness, because this is at least the fifth article Beck has written about Kindler's unhealthy obsessions. Each article links to Beck's previous article on the subject to support his position, as if it were an unbiased outside source rather than a Ukrainian nesting-doll of brutal self-owns.

Beck repeatedly quotes Kindler in a bizarre attempt to use his own words against him, which is immediately and irrevocably undercut by the fact Kindler's jokes are explicitly self-deprecating. "The room wasn’t full,' says Beck, "as Kindler himself was to point out, joking about his 'Half A House' tour." This one sentence is a microcosm of the entire article: Beck presents Kindler's self-awareness as a weakness, thus revealing his own weakness to be a complete lack of self-awareness. One can easily imagine Beck chastising George Carlin for saying the seven words you can't say on television on television, or engaging in a multi-year Twitter feud with a Rainier Wolfcastle bot.

In paragraph three we finally get to the reason the article was written: Beck is an atheist and doesn't like it when fellow atheist Ricky Gervais gets criticized. Of course, if Beck recognized that that's all this is, it would be a short, dull read rather than an ouroboros of projection and unintentional self-satire. "Maybe the speech should’ve been re-named 'The State of Ricky Gervais,'" Beck writes, "to reflect Kindler’s obsession with the British comedian." Based on this you might assume that a majority, or even a significant portion of the address was directed at Gervais, when in fact he spends more time talking about CNN's History of Comedy and the most time talking about how the speech isn't going well. A more incisive writer might suggest that the speech be re-named "The State of Andy Kindler" or "The State of The State of the Industry Speech Speech." But this article isn't really about Kindler's obsession, it's merely a poorly-made camouflage tarp covering Beck's. When somebody rambles about a bunch of unrelated topics for almost an hour and all you hear are the four times he mentions one subject, it's not the speaker who's fixated, it's you.

Beck posits that jealousy may be at the root of Kindler's obsession with Gervais, without suspecting that he has just revealed the source of his own obsession with Kindler. Why does somebody who's built a career on being unsuccessful get to give the State of the Industry address while somebody who's actually unsuccessful can only write angry screeds about it every year online? Also, says Beck, "Gervais couldn’t respond because Kindler blocks him on Twitter, which is ironic given that Kindler’s tweeted hundreds and hundreds of insulting and often dishonest tweets at Gervais." Getting angry about things you hate despite your best efforts to ignore them isn't irony, that's just Twitter. Irony is scolding someone you tweet at incessantly for tweeting at someone incessantly. Super-bonus turbo irony is providing instructions to find all the tweets Kindler has sent at Gervais, which can easily be modified to plum the depths of Beck's obsession with Kindler: "The sheer volume of the invective (you can find it by typing “from:andykindler @rickygervais since:2012-01-01 until:2017-04-20” into the Twitter search field) represents a stunning investment of emotional energy." That it does, Chris, that it does.

Beck lauds Gervais for not responding to Kindler's tweets, and that's true, he doesn't respond on Twitter. Instead he links Beck's articles on Facebook and other sites, and even replies to Beck's tweets at Kindler. Rather than the unbiased commentator he portrays (and probably believes) himself to be, Beck is actually the third wheel in a bizarre hate triangle, a proxy who says all the things Gervais plays at being too "above it all" to say. Beck is the expendable messenger dispatched to be beheaded on behalf of the king, the Sean Spicer to Gervais' Donald Trump.

After a couple paragraphs of just pointlessly paraphrasing Kindler's speech, he begins paragraph six by saying "I got the feeling that Kindler was just going through the motions while gearing up for an assault on the object of his obsession, and that’s what happened." Now, if you're like me and listened to the speech after reading the article, you might've expected that what he spent 45 minutes "gearing up for" would last more than three minutes, including the asides about how it wasn't going over well. You might even have assumed that there would be a bunch of stuff Kindler said that Beck didn't quote. But instead what you would discover is that Kindler spent a very small percentage of his time talking about Gervais, while Beck dedicated 90% of multiple articles to talking about Kindler talking about Gervais. And while Kindler repeatedly admits he has a problem, Beck shows no signs of recognizing his own, much larger problem. It's a blind spot big enough to build a farm, raise a family and die in without ever seeing the outside world.

I'm not going to wade into the atheism debate, so I'll just say that as an atheist I wish people like Beck and Gervais would shut the fuck up and quit making it harder to be an atheist. As a reviewer, I'll say that this entire section was poorly written and unconvincing. In this article, Beck describes Kindler calling Gervais a "New Atheist" and ascribing their anti-Muslim views to him as "character assassination." But click two links down Beck's rabbit hole and he was defending New Atheists like Bill Maher against Kindler's claim that they have anti-Muslim views. As Beck states, "Gervais has never said a word against Muslims on Twitter or elsewhere," which is true. Instead he tweets about how religion causes terrorism and then goes full "very telling you'd think that" when people connect the nearly-conjoined dots. And Maher, well....

Beck's other articles include such nuanced gems as "The Poisonous Cult of Intersectional Feminism" and "The Cult Of Diversity: An Ideology Without Foundation". His entire journalistic archive is a collection of bold proclamations that aren't supported by the body of the article. Even the Contact page on his website states "This is a contact page with some basic contact information," but there is no contact information. These sorts of seemingly divine gifts make me wonder if God does exist after all.

Ordinarily I like to end these things by twisting the writer's closing sentence around to read as self-criticism, and it would take no effort at all to characterize this rant as "cowardly and irresponsible." But Beck projects so hard that you can substitute the names in just about any sentence he writes without changing any other words and if anything it becomes even more true:

"The fact that [Beck] is a hypocrite makes his behavior even more deplorable."
"A quick look at [Chris Beck's] Twitter account will give you a taste of what a shrill man he is."
And since he mentioned Twitter: "[Chris Beck] once again acting like a petulant child on Twitter. He desperately wants [Andy Kindler's] attention." (In this one he tweets a screenshot of Kindler tweeting a screenshot of a Gervais tweet.)
"He cherry-picked a couple of lines from [Kindler] to make him look like a fool, but he just came off sounding like a petty guy."

That he did.

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