Some time ago I put this tweet out into the world:
Wouldn’t have guessed our post apocalyptic societal factions would map exactly to former hosts of The Man Show but here we are.
It was seen by dozens of people. This isn’t a good tweet. It isn’t particularly funny or insightful if you don’t have an active memory of a very dumb show that last aired in 2004. What was The Man Show? It doesn't really matter. Just know that the Wikipedia entry include a section called “Notable Juggy Girls” along with a list of skits that Jimmy Kimmel later had to apologize for. It was bad television and I’m embarrassed I remember it at all.
Nonetheless, I was able to draw perfect metaphorical parallels between this forgotten misogynist cultural blip and the evolving subcultures of our society in decline. Also, I’ve been inside for fifteen days straight and I’m beginning to see a lot of patterns that previously eluded me. This is, as they say, “fine.”
Should a single dumb tweet have spawned an entire article? Obviously not. But hey, our great Republic is literally on fire and being run by a string of dumb tweets, so here we go.
Adam Carolla offers a look at an alternate reality where Adam Sandler isn’t likable. Or funny. There’s no good answer for why he’s famous other than the fact that he possesses the most marketable trait in the era of social media and lockdowns: the ability to never, ever, under any circumstances, shut up. He even touts a Guinness World Record for most downloaded podcast of 2011. Nice.
On The Man Show, Adam was known for his snide delivery of casually misogyny, which makes sense, given the show did little else with its premise. But now, in our present hellscape, Adam has taken his rightful place as the prototypical slobbering Covid contrarian. You know, one of those delightful pricks who missed a couple haircuts or was forced to spend time with his kids and now thinks its fine if the olds and the sick are sacrificed for the convenience of the many. Open the economy. Bring out your dead.
Carolla is one of those guys who think that acknowledging the dangers of the pandemic is an act of cowardice. We don’t need to mask up, we need to man up! He just did a set in Texas and he’s fine, so who cares about your dead relatives? It’s the dumbest possible train of thought to draw a parallel between rugged self-reliance and ignoring a clear and present danger, but “dumbest possible” is everything in 2020, so maybe Carolla’s just following the zeitgeist.
His type likes to toss around caveats as to why their point of view isn’t actually terrible. Don’t buy it. What separates Corolla from the antivaxxers, the birthers, the conspiracy dopes of every flavor? Nothing really. It’s all the same strain of selfishness. Your life gets altered, and to deal with the anxiety you latch onto a belief system that offers structure or makes you feel in control. The sad truth is that most of us have experienced this in some form or know someone who has. A friend or relative that gets pushed over the edge of eccentricity by a facebook meme and starts believing in lizard people. Times are tough, not everyone is dealing with it in a healthy way.
If you follow Carolla’s friends in the media-sphere you’ll come across examples of their embarrassment at the mention of his name. Kimmel was asked by Howard Stern about the dangerous message of his former co-host and he launched into pro-level topic avoidance along with the body language of a denial so strong it looks like he’s trying to snap his own neck. It’s kind of relatable. It’s the same reaction we have when a friend brings up a relative’s increasingly disturbing comments on social media. “Haha, yeah, well you know, he’s been posting a lot…”
How many steps is it to go from an acerbic contrarian to appearing on Tucker Carlson’s show to decry “a nation of cowards?” I guess it’s just one. Oh well. In the new world Adam Carolla will be coronated as leader of the wackadoos, adorned in tinfoil armor, launching barbed insults from a hermetically sealed podcast studio. Adam Carola is the Shitlord of The Toxic Zealots. Oh what a glorious day!
Did I spell that correctly? Jimmy has the energy of your most boring friend from college. Did you even know that guy’s last name? What’s he doing now? Probably posting about fantasy football. He seems like a good person, but it takes a lot of mental energy to remember that he exists.
Jimmy looks like a machine learning algorithm generated the star of a Buffalo Wild Wings ad. How did he end up with a Late Night show? Well the official rules are pretty clear: every white male character on the Guess Who board game has to be on air before other demographics can be considered. We already had the tall guy, the sweaty hungover guy, the dude with a round-ish face, and the funny one.
The thing about Jimmy is that he’s likable. He’s as edgy as a bearded potato, but who doesn’t like potatoes? Great side-dish. Pairs well with anything. He’s just trying to get through the end times like the rest of us. You know, keep his job, make some jokes, avoid too much controversy, casually point out that maybe we shouldn’t let the most vulnerable members of society die face down in the mud.
These days Jimmy traffics in the sort of talk that gets you labeled a communist operative, but you can tell that he isn’t looking to start trouble, he’s just trying to be a decent, throwback version of an American every-man. The problem is that today’s “every-man” may differ slightly by region. In some states it’s your masked-up neighbor holding an outdoor football viewing party. In others, it’s a AR wielding Nazi who’s actively seeking violent confrontation. It can be tough to appeal to both, especially since I stole the first example from a Pepsi commercial.
That leaves Jimmy where it leaves a lot of us. If you are privileged enough to have even a semblance of a normal life at this point you just sort of smile, nod, pretend things are great and regularly donate to a senate candidate in a faraway place while holding back tears. You want to be a good person, but you also don’t want to be the victim of a hate crime. We’ve made it this far, maybe if we keep our head down long enough the tyrants will relent, society will rebuild, and those Matt Damon jokes will be topical again. Until that day, Jimmy is the leader of The Survivors, those of us who are trying to be one of the good guys, but have no interest in dying a hero.
It figures that the funniest member of this group would be the least famous. You probably forgot he was even a host. In case you don’t keep up with alcoholic touring comedians, Stanhope is a legendarily offensive drunk, who is also objectively good at standup. Stanhope exists as a living counterpoint to all the moaning bro’s who complain that cancel culture is ruining comedy. If your entire bit was based on shock and awe, you haven’t necessarily been cancelled, you probably just failed at writing jokes. Stanhope is filthy and mean and patently offensive, but he’s also occasionally self-aware and understands how much work needs to be done to justify the sleaze.
His weird career on the fringe is poignant compared to the other former hosts, who clearly, desperately want what he has: a sharp wit. Instead they fall back on controversy, fluff, or the final stop on the train to self-debasement: the right wing podcast. It seems like Doug could have done any of these things with aplomb but instead dedicated himself to saying things so offensive in public that according to his Wikipedia page, he’s inspired multiple acts of violence.
When all our idols have collapsed and our leaders have fallen, when survivors like Jimmy Kimmel have been conscripted or exterminated, Doug will remain. He’s mayor of the backwater town that seems like backwater oasis until you realize they’re all cannibals or hunt each other for fun. Doug’s the mayor by default. Not because he wants to lead but because he’s best suited. He was apart from society for so long that he forgot what normal looked like before normal ceased to exist.
You can find Doug somewhere in the desert, drunk, muttering clever barbs to a growing cohort of people that have completely given up, the leader of The Lost Cause.
He Who Must Not be Named
Its Joe Rogan!
Rogan’s podcasting empire has made him ubiquitous among bros of a certain age. He’s the Walter Cronkite of CrossFit. He’s PewDiePie for wife-guys. He’s the former host of Fear Factor. He’s also the primary news source for America’s middle aged men and the face of a massively popular content farm that Spotify just licensed for millions of dollars.
Joe’s cultural imprint is huge even though traditional media avoids his existence, probably out of cowardice in the face of a fan base that is extremely vocal and can evangelize his brand of “open mindedness” so aggressively that it becomes a standing contradiction. Even other god-tier podcasters who actively dislike Joe will only complain about him with vague references. It’s a little weird.
Rogan has amplified himself to the point where recently his fans seriously wanted him to moderate a presidential debate. To his credit, he couldn’t be worse than the wet napkins who typically read questions off the prompter, but Joe isn’t a journalist. He’s not even a comedian. His qualifications boil down to “good at talking” which for some reason a sizeable portion of the population now equates with leadership and expertise. If weapons-grade mansplaining is the currency of the day then Joe has all the marbles.
Rogan’s politics are often described as “a little difficult to pin down” which appears to be exactly how he likes it. You can’t get tangled in a belief system or restrictive moral standards when the content train never stops. The old media landscape has been torn asunder and this carpetbagger has product to move. He’s hocking branded t-shirts and performance supplements to acolytes with some very strong beliefs that Joe may or may not espouse. He’s the voice of the wasteland, holed up at the end of a road to enlightenment paved with pure bullshit. All hail the Wizard of Pod.