The FCC Soak SNL's Cork

Discussion in 'Politics' started by rgelite, Apr 12, 2004.

  1. rgelite


    This past Saturday, April 10, Janet Jackson (yes, of superbowl wardrobe fame) was the host on Saturday Night Live. Naturally, there were the expected puns and references regarding her and her family.

    But I thought the show found its historical stride when Lorne Michaels, his writers, and the cast decided to stick it to the FCC and this current administration's Puritan sense of decorum. While I'll be the first to admit (having watched the show non-stop since its inception in 1975) that most of it has been abysmally stupid for years, I hope you were able to catch this one skit because I think it was a diamond in the rough, especially in today's context of 7-second delays and media CEO's falling over each other in fawning apologies to Congress. SNL is one of the few shows remaining that still airs live, without delay.

    The set was a winery in Italy; all the players sported thick Italian accents as winery employees. Janet and a few others were part of a tour group that had just entered the last room in the winery where the corks are inserted into the bottles of wine. When she asks the obligatory question, what's the most important part of the process of getting the cork into the bottle, the focus of the skit soon became clear--and got pounded into the ground with some very clever writing (and accents). SNL has always been masterful at beating the proverbial dead horse, most of the time into boredom, but occasionally with brilliance.

    Here's a synopsis. The actual skit ran nearly 10 minutes. The examples below are only a few of the many they explored.

    We learn that the most important part of this last process is to get the corks to fit into the bottles just right. And that involves soaking the corks so that they expand and fit well. We see that all of the employees in this room are men, except for a couple of women, one of whom is "grandma" who has no teeth. All are very happy with their work. And all of these employees are expert at "soaking cork" (said with a thick Italian accent where the "r" in cork articulates from the back of the throat and is nearly silent). They are expert "cork soakers."

    Some like to soak the big thick corks; others, the long thin corks. One prefers to soak the dark corks. The younger of the two women claims that ever since she started soaking cork, she's the most popular girl at school. Grandma remarks that ever since she lost her teeth, people have commented about how much her cork soaking ability has improved. One employee ruefully relates that his wife had been a terrific cork soaker when they were dating, but that now that they're married she's doesn't do it that often. On one occasion, when it seemed to two of the male employees that the other needed some help in soaking his cork, they both relate how on a whim they decided to soak each other's corks. As one told the tale, "Wasn't that back in the late sixties, maybe '68?" to which the other replied, "I thought it was a bit later, perhaps '70." To which they then both agree that they once soaked each other's corks probably between '68 and '70.

    And on and on...

    I laughed so hard my eyes teared; I'm glad I taped it because I'd missed a few of the follow-up lines--they just kept them coming. It was on par with the writing of the skit "Colonel Lingus" from a year or two ago. It was near perfect in execution, and doubly so with Janet Jackson playing the naive tourist asking these normal questions and getting back in every instance a new and more hilarious and (to the John Ashcrofts and Michael Powells of the world) more outrageous answer. She even lost it a couple times and had to catch herself at the last second. Kudos to the regulars on SNL who didn't miss a beat. They were very good.

    In this age of governmental interference, where adult standards are routinely set by what children should see, where body parts must be covered on Justice Department statues (while a movie of incredible violence such as "The Passion" is lauded by the very same people who so obviously hate sexuality), I found this past episode of Saturday Night Live to be refreshing, hilarious, and (despite their successive years of mediocrity) a very welcomed testament to the irreverent SNL of the 1970's when the show first began.
  2. I concur with your comments about the decline of SNL. I don't have a problem with the FCC crackdown, however. Frankly, I think one should be able to scan the AM radio spectrum without being assaulted with nonstop comments about sexual parts, perversions and functions. I think the Super Bowl show was a disgrace, and totally merited a huge fine and maybe license probation. At the same time, I don't have a problem with the SNL skit. Why? Because it was an adult-oriented show that aired at 11:30 pm and the skit depended on cleverness rather than coarseness.

    I'm not in favor of government -directed moralizing, although no one seems to get too excited when liberals do it, but neither do I want my neighborhood to be taken over by sex shops, strip clubs and streetwalkers. It's a question of taste and I think the same concerns apply to the public airwaves.
  3. rgelite


    I agree that we ought to be able to enjoy living in local neighborhoods that align with our personal values. A couple points, though.

    First, it IS government that exacerbates these problems when it moralizes beyond the boundaries of providing remedies for the infringement of individual rights. As I've posted before, my view is to abolish all drug laws, including those pushed by MADD and others of that ilk (to name just one class of outrageous legislation)--laws that penalize before a crime occurs that infringes on someone else's rights.

    Second, my sensibilities include noting the hypocrisy of those who allow hundreds (thousands?) of daily excursions of TV drama into shooting people in the breast (to their dramatic death) but goes postal when a breast is bared. The simple solution without all the overhead of government nor the psychological cesspool of permitting anyone but my real ones to think, let alone act, as if they are my parents is to simply change the channel. Or avoid it altogether. And when you can't, well, life is risk. No actual harm was committed against anyone, including children, who watched that stupid halftime show, and there are more important things for a government to be doing than concern itself with such trifles.

    Lastly, and on a similar note, it was an error to even create an FCC in this country. The various radio frequencies should have and should be simply privatized, to have those property rights negotiated, used, and affirmed like any other property rights. That the airways are "public" is a premise I will not concede. I do not even really know what a "public" airwave is (other than a clever collectivist notion of how to define something in order to control its content).

    That said, I agree with you that the SuperBowl half-time show was atrocious. I did not watch it. I was, of course, treated to one of silliest aspects afterwards for a week by the major news networks. And then on C-SPAN as CEO's begged like kick dogs, rather than remembering who works for whom and expecting this Congress to kiss their feet instead. And now, as the pendulum swings even more to absurdity, having people fear for their jobs (and losing them) for stuff they've done for 15 years, suddenly now deemed inappropriate by current administration.

    I'm writing this for myself, not to debate. This topic has gone around for decades. I understand their are both religious and secular viewpoints that would disagree with me. I'm not here to convince anyone otherwise; I'm merely stating my view and respecting you for yours.
  4. There are many uneasy tradeoffs between property rights and public benefits. Should property owners along a scenic highway be allowed to construct unlimited numbers of billboards? The law has struggled with these types of questions for eons, and an enormous body of land use law has arisen. It is appealing to say govenrment should not intervene, but that ignores the externalities that unbridled useage can create.

    In the case of the FCC, I tend to agree with you that the concept of "public airwaves" is something of a collectivist fiction, one that has been abused to justify giving away extremely valuable rights to use spectrum to private entities. This is what happens when we put government incharge of allocating resources instead of letting the market work its magic, and it should be a warning to those who advocate such things as socialized medicine.

    I do see a role for the FCC however. While I would just auction off broadcast licenses to the highest bidders, some regulatory control is warranted over their use. By analogy, we could let private damage suits deal with the consequences of unsafe driving rather than have traffic police, but we have judged that to be an inefficient way to handle an obvious threat.
  5. rgelite


    Good points, although the billboard issue might be solved easily enough (as with similar conundrums) by respecting the ownership rights of those whose property must be taken for roadways, with some contractual consideration given for esthetics on the remaining boundary property, if it's that important to the legislators. (The fair alternative would be to honor the property rights and take (and pay for) all property within view of the roadway, if the middle-ground prohibition is not to the original owner's liking.) I find that many problems arise when one party wants something for nothing; it's made worse when one of them has the legal entitlement to use force in its negotiations. And esthetics are among the trickiest. One's person's grand vista is another's possibility for development.

    And yes, we agree that system creation breeds efficiencies that by their nature have to exclude some behavior. That's life, too.
  6. So did I just from reading your post. I missed the show, so thanks, rgelite.
  7. rgelite


    Glad you enjoyed it. :D

    I did a quick google on "soaking cork" Sunday morning after the skit and found 5 references, all of them industrial, none of them related to SNL. That's 5 on the entire Internet. Bet that number starts to rise quickly in the next few weeks.

    Like the "Colonel Angus" skit before it (link below), it won't be long before you'll be able to read the entire transcript.