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Jewish World Review August 12, 2003 / 14 Menachem-Av 5763

Steve Young

Steve Young
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Lib judges will be the ruin of civilization

at Least The Comedy Part | I should have seen this coming. It was just too good. Did I really think these damn liberal judges would allow the Bill O'Reilly induced, Fox News Channel's suit against Al Franken using the Fox trademarked slogan, "Fair And Balanced" in the title of his just released book, "Lies And The Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair And Balanced Look At The Right"?

In a case that people falsely believed was just Bill O'Reilly's actual thin-skin showing; that his hammering on guests who lacked his power over the volume control and who disagreed with him, showed his heretofore bravado as just the same weakness that he ascribed to his quivering opponents. Nothing could be further from the truth. That would be a ludicrous as saying Fox News leans right. This was a simple case of trademark infringement.

Yet Judge Dennis Chin, an obviously leftist, said that the book is a parody protected by the first amendment. He actually said the case was an easy one to decide as it was "wholly without merit, both factually and legally." What about comically?

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This case had months of potential side-splitting laughs written all over it. This was considerably better than the California recall. This was going to be an overflowing hotbed for clever satire. The recall is just burlesque. Too easy. Even Dennis Miller, Fox's answer to HBO's Dennis Miller, had a difficult time spinning more than a four syllable adjective without first admitting, "Sorry folks. Arnold, Arianna, Coleman. Recall material is sinking faster on the raillery scale than my self-imploding relevance."

The recall is Chevy Chase to this case's Johnny Carson, "Unhappily Ever After" to "Seinfeld," Garth Brooks to Albert Brooks.

Andy Rooney would never have to write another commentary. The Fox News legal department was writing it for him. We'd all be Art Buchwald.

Even Dave Barry and Carrot Top could've been funny. Nah. I'm kiddin'.

But now, with a single deft blow to the humor-plexus, Al Franken and his Penguin Publishing's ability to run off another million copies during a protracted court battle has been quashed in mid-giggle. Perhaps next time Fox's legal team will just deposit the cash directly into Franken's account.

But it could have been grand.

Who will ever forget Bill O'Reilly's fully-controlled, sharp-tongued "Shut up! Shut up!" rebuttal to Franken's "increasingly unfunny"attempt to paint the No-Spin One an ungodly shade of evil. Tsk-tsk. At a book expo yet.

We weren't mining comedy gold here. We had struck pure plutonium.

Tell me that Vince McMahon wasn't salivating at the potential. The O'Reilly vs Franken war had WWF, sold-out stadium tour written all over it. Not since Jerry "The King" Lawler pile-drove Andy "The Bleeder" Kaufman's head to the mat has blood-lusting and comedy mixed so organically.

This would have been so much more than William Buckley letting the hyperboles fly in his legendary tit for tat with Gore Vidal or Timothy Leary throwing Lucy's Diamonds at Gordon Liddy. Not only would the laughs have been unrelenting, but it would have set up a whole new realm of concert programming.

Just imagine: Rush "ESPN " Limbaugh vs Janeane "Balls of Hercules" Garofalo or Tim "Not In The Hall of Fame" Robbins vs Sean "Guest Interruptous" Hannity. And you don't have to be a top dog to get on the lineup. Consider Al Sharpton vs Alan Keyes in a fun-filled presidential hopefuls with the best soundbites but no chance debate tour.

But that ACLU-butt-lickin' judge put an end to it all the fun. And now as Fox in Shecky's clothing goes whimpering off to consider it's next brilliant legal move the comedy writers of the world will actually have to start working.

Now let's see. The answer is "Cruz Bustamente." The question: What does one do first before trying to pick up the Lt. Governor?

Damn you, Judge Chin. And damn your hatred of our constitutional rights to damn funny material.

JWR contributor Steve Young, Prism Award winner and Humanitas Prize nominee for his television writing, is contributing editor at the Writers Guild of America's "Written By" magazine. He is the author of "Great Failures of the Extremely Successful: Mistakes, Adversity, Failure and Other Stepping Stones to Success," "The 130 Tales of Winchell Mink," Harper Collins (Winter, 2003) and the director/writer of "My Dinner With Ovitz." His website is Comment by clicking here.

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© 2002, Steve Young