PSA: Never write about someone you hate, because you might accidentally find yourself liking them. Especially if you do your research, which your really should.
The first episode of that weird sitcom/web series thing I’m working on (referenced in the last blog) has the main character, Nick (an aging rock star who would be in the same 80s star cohort as Bono, Duran Duran, Motley Crue, etc.) up for a Best Original Song Oscar against Bono. I thought Nick vs. Bono would make for a funny one-sided rivalry and the episode would give viewers a clear view of who Nick is and why he’s such a putz (not just for this rivalry, we also learn about some of his other power struggles closer to home and why the local yacht club won’t let him use the conference table any more). And I never could stand Bono (some of my friends will remember me not reacting well to that whole “free U2 album rammed up your iPod’s ass” thing a while back… several years on with Big Tech going off the deep end on the technofascist dick waving front and maybe I see Apple as the real villain there now who perhaps exploited U2 then threw them under the bus when it went sideways), so… piece of cake to write, right?
But… back in my brief time in the Vancouver stand-up scene, I saw enough lefty hacks at open mics railing against Stephen Harper and expecting us to find their rants amusing to know that you gotta do your research and try to be neutral when writing jokes (even if your character hates the target’s guts, as Nick does). Because otherwise you’re just ranting and rambling with no punchline.
Like this one chick I remember, who would always fill her set with “jokes” about “OMG Stephen Harper sucks I wish he would go away” which is at best a set-up, not a punchline. And when she was met with apathetic silence even in East Van where the crowd presumably agreed with her, she would do that stupid mugging for a laugh face until she got at least one polite pity snicker.
And those hacks are never accurate and never funny, but I want my show to be accurate and funny, so… shit…
Comedy is cruelty, yes… but it’s also accuracy and a certain amount of acceptance of the target. Joan Rivers at a roast was funny. Joan Rivers yelling at someone for fucking up her lunch order probably wouldn’t have been (though if anyone could have made sheer vitriol and anger funny, it would have been Joan… I know people say George Carlin in his later years, but honestly, at that point he’d shifted from funny to interesting).
Maybe acceptance isn’t quite the right word. Maybe it’s more like the audience identifying with the target, even if ever so slightly. But, like acceptance, that requires the writer to know something beyond just a vague stereotype image based on the biased media portrayal (or, in the case of Bono, one’s own biases and the biases of one’s asshole hipster/indie music scene friends).
Either way, it requires some basic research beyond the fuzzy memory of quickly turned-off news clips of Bono shaking hands with some truly awful people in the political world or tuned-out ramblings from acquaintances who were obsessed U2 fans going on and on about some obscure B-side for a 30 year old 7” that was only released in Brazil or wherever that they were paying entirely too much for on eBay.
So I did some lazy research on Wikipedia… and I started feeling bad for that $60 million dollar failure on Broadway Bono had… (the wiki for that Spiderman musical reads more like a blow-by-blow summary of a screwball comedy movie written by people who hate Bono’s guts. I mean, who the fuck greenlit there being a Greek chorus in it? Wait, no. Not a Greek chorus. It was a—sigh…—Geek Chorus who functioned as narrators when they were trying to cram in some shit you can’t actually do on stage. Someone should have been fired for that idea. Maybe even flogged for it)… and sure the press portrays him as a pompous white saviour, but at least he’s sorta trying a little to help some people, which is more than you can really say for most of his peers, and when was the last time the press told the truth about anyone or anything?… and OK, so I actually do like “Vertigo” and “Elevation,” so I ordered a greatest hits CD…
And yes, some of the worst people I’ve ever known were dedicated U2 fans. But one might argue shitty people might well adopt the banner of a band with a public image about doing Good Things and being Good People as some sort of shield to hide their own shittiness.
Like the chick I used to know who was an utter cunt to half the people she worked with (the male half) and when one dorky engineering dude paid her an awkward compliment at the company picnic she went ballistic on him, doxxed and harangued him via her LiveJournal, got her cunty allies at work to all pile on in the comments, then came after her non-work friends like me to try to bully us into also piling on and harassing this poor dude on her LiveJournal and elsewhere (I backed away slowly instead… and got treated like shit for it). Then reported him to HR for causing a hostile work environment when he tried to defend himself.
Yeah, that fucking bitch fucking loved U2. And the LiveJournal incident wasn’t even the worst of her behaviour! I guess when Bono gets some funds for some African village to get clean well water that somehow makes her a good person in her mind via some strange sort of algebraic transitive property voodoo because she’s been in the same stadium as him a few times and somehow that wipes away her sins? Fucked if I know, but my brother can rattle off 10 similar cases from when he used to work in a biker bar.
(Kinda runs parallel to the music producer I used to know who once screamed at the studio intern for no good reason then joked with the mix engineer, “Meh, I went easy on the kid ’cause I went to see the Dalai Lama this morning.” And by “saw” he also meant “sat in a stadium while the holy man spoke at the far end.”)
All of which is, of course, irrelevant to the matter of whether the 4 men in the band are likeable people or not. And I’ve spent a fair amount of time these last few months taking note of how fucking insufferable and seal-clapping Duran Duran’s Karen fans seem to be on their Facebook and Instagram (and I’ve loved DD since I was a kid, and they’re almost a fair comparison in terms of fanbase size and demographics), and if we’re comparing fanbases, well, there are those U2 fans who raise money for wells for African villages every year around Bono’s birthday, which seems like a much nicer and more useful gesture to honour their favourites vs the zombified “must… buy… silk scarf… with band logo on it… must… post 30 heart emojis in the comment section and tell them I ordered it… because Simon Le Bon mentioned it in their annual pre-Christmas march shilling pitch… please, Simon, let me suck your cock now…” (It ain’t happening, Karens. Give it up.)
Anyway, then I got nosy/curious even though I already wrote the episode, so I ordered their book U2 by U2. It arrived today and I flipped around and, in about 30 seconds, decided actually Bono’s kinda, well… likeable…
And one of the spots I flipped to mentioned he was apparently held back a year from graduation because he flunked Irish… and here I am, currently trying to learn Irish on Duolingo… so as ol’ Bill Clinton once said “I feel ya pain!”
And in the 30 seconds of flipping through, Bono comes across as funny and—dare I say—humble. Possibly even more likeable than John Taylor of Duran Duran, whose autobiography I’m currently reading.
Never thought I’d see the day where I’d think Bono > John Taylor… let alone actually post that on my blog. The gods do have a sense of humour, I suppose.
And at least I haven’t seen U2 shilling those stupid masks with their logo on them on their Instagram. Unlike some bands with a redundant name, LOL.
So… long story short: if you like your biases, you can keep your biases. Just don’t write about/research people you like to hate and don’t read the social media or autobiographies of people you like to like.