When Your Own Satire Bites You in the Ass

Writing satire is not easy, especially when you’re supposed to mock real people. To get a real idea how dangerous it can be, take a look at this alleged Barack Obama gem. It’s actually written by “actor, writer, filmmaker, comedian, and author” Albert Brooks, and it’s supposed to mock Vladimir Putin’s recent New York Time op-ed.

Of course Putin deserves all the mocking he can get. What he doesn’t deserve is this writer’s ignorance because it turns the entire joke on its head and leaves the reader gasping for air for all the wrong reasons. Let’s start with this epic line:

Mr. Putin, we put a man on the moon and you barely got a monkey home safely.

Did you hear this? It wasn’t a tsunami splashing. It was half of Russia simultaneously pissing on the floor laughing. You know, once upon a time, when Americans still bothered to properly fund their educational system, people actually knew that the first man in space was Russian. It was NASA who struggled with monkeys. The Russians rarely considered using those animals because, to every American’s surprise, Russia is actually not located in the tropics and monkeys aren’t freely available for space tossing.

Trashing the Russian space program and claiming America’s got the upper hand is hilariously tragic not only because historically Russians were way ahead in almost all aspects (first satellite, first dog, first man, first woman, first spacewalk) but because today America cannot send a single astronaut in orbit without relying on Russian rockets. Of course, people like the author of this tragic attempt at satire, are the same ones who let their own country’s space program deteriorate so much that when people say moonwalk, they think of Michael Jackson, not of Neil Armstrong. Funding wars around the globe is much more important than space shuttles.

It’s one thing to put down exceptionalism, but before you do that, you at least have to produce one Broadway show, or make one commercial airliner, or invent one type of salad.

This is the saddest point of the article. I know that refuting it would be useless because the author would probably never understand why. The Russian Broadway is called Bolshoi Theatre and is slightly classier. It was also founded in 1776. Russia has been making commercial airliners for ages and their salad is among the most popular ones in Europe even though it was invented by a Belgian guy.

So yeah, very funny. It would have been funnier if the author opened Wikipedia and read a few things about Russia to being with. There’s a lot of real stuff to mock but none of it is in this article.

9 comments on “When Your Own Satire Bites You in the Ass

  • Dear Yanko,
    I am astonished by how well you’ve written this article. It is precise, balanced and well intended. Please keep up the good work. One day hopefully, articles such as this one will be appreciated by a larger audience, more than the mediocrity that it is, sadly, described by them.

  • Watching Albert Brooks since the 1970s, when he made a little sketch called, “In My Room”, I took this whole “me as Obama” as complete satire. In fact, satire within satire, as you say. Certainly there are Americans who would write this, but probably not Albert Brooks without a tongue placed firmly in cheek. It happens to the best of us, but I think satire got the best of you on this one.

      • The most humorous part of the pretend Obama text is the fact that he is trying to be superior from a position of ignorance. The casual insulting of China and Russia are chuckle causing just as much as the display of general stupidity. I love the ecotaunting line on “little square death traps”. Now that’s a carefully wrought flick on the ear! The rest is really self parody rather in the line of George Dubya Bush’s “there’s no word in french for enterprenure”. That was self parody wasn’t it?

  • Hi there, I really love your work, and your blog is great – but I think you got a little ahead of yourself here. Maybe you could allow the author the benefit of doubt: he does come up with a line of typical American prejudices after all – it is a satire, and for me at least it was dead clear in this instance (although I am Hungarian): Obama, instead of nailing the bugger on the head starts ranting about hotel rooms and air conditioning and food and the weather and throws in the most typical American stereotypes – among them the space program shit or (holly f…ck!) the Broadway shows. Where is the problem?

    However, I must admit, I do find it funny when Americans mock the Russian space program: see any applicable episode of The Big Bang Theory – the US lost hell of a lot more people to their Space Program than the USSR/Russia, still it is an often recurring stereotype that “the Russian screwed something up again”. You will find the same in the recent block buster Gravity, or my favourite in this line of stereotypes, the Red Planet, in which the Americans are desperately srewed by their own ingenuity and the survivor actually escapes in an old Russian lander while continuously mocking Russian technology (the lander even displays stupid messages, just for all to understand that Russian space program is stupid).

    (Oh, and by the way, Russia did have access to monkies even though it is not located in the tropics :))

    • Hi, I completely understand the desire of the author to satirize all Russian shortcomings but I don’t believe he consciously embraced a stereotypical stance the way you suggest. I would love to see real examples and comparisons. I’m not sure whether the author was aware such examples existed or not but my gut instinct (to use a Bushism) tells me he wasn’t. I’m not picking on obscure details in his points, I am simply trying to show that his whole argumentation is profoundly ignorant. And an ignorant satirist is like a blind bus driver. It’s fun to look at him driving from a side but hard not to feel sorry for his passengers. ;)

      • Dear Yanko, I think you are still missing the point: I believe he does not satirize Russian shortcomings but American stereotypes… and he conviniently puts them in Obama’s own words to Putin. I think the reason for your discomfort is that you missed the actual direction: the target here is Obama and the American stereotypes and much much less Putin.

        • Yes, I understood that you think this is a – how should we name it – satire in satire? :) But I don’t see it that way, mainly because I’ve read far too many similar statements from profoundly ignorant people and this one doesn’t sound different either in its tone or in its metaphors.

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