I started this article thinking I was going to churn out predictions for 2010. Then I began to race ahead on some tangents, and realized I had lots more material for columns. So for this week, we will evaluate how I did on my predictions for 2009. Then, next week, Sort 411 will analyze all the ways that Adolph Hitler is similar to Barak Obama (Hint: Zero ways). Then by Sort 412 I will have some real predictions for 2010, and it will still only be January 11th. I've been later on deadlines than that. Then by the 18th I'm either answering your letters again or, if I'm not getting any, I'm kicking back. That's up to you.
Interested readers should turn back to Sort 368, which ran December 30th 2008 with my predictions for 2009. Decide for yourselves whether Dear Jon has a crystal ball, or is just really brilliant and insightful.
True, I did not say that the international crisis that would be an early test for Obama, would be the inability to bring the Olympics home to Chicago. But I did agree with Biden that he would have such a test. I DID say, very specifically, that liberals would feel betrayed by the Afghanistan troop surge and treat it like a surprise to themselves. Go and see for yourself, and then read Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury strips from Christmas Week of 2009, nearly a whole year later. And how about Miley doing that stripper act on top of an ice cream push-cart? Or the Cincinatti Bengal receiver killed during a domestic dispute? Believe me, I'm not glad I'm uncannily accurate. But read the article for yourself. That it went public before January 1, 2009 is a matter of fact.
Given my track record on accuracy, I wonder why the networks aren't beating down my doors to hire me on as a talking head, a pundit, a wonk. The reason is that no one is really interested in reasoned forecasts based on habits and public statements, because to hear that human behavior does not change much, is really boring. Apparently it is SO boring, fewer than 1000 readers have accessed Sort 368.
I don't know for sure if any Jihaidst dumb-@$#%s have drawn the cartoons that I predicted, however, I heard this joke two weeks ago: "What's the difference between Obama and Hitler? Hitler got the Olympics." (For more on this theme, come back next week.)
As a joke that one's not bad at all, because of course the humor in it is the complete absurdity of comparing these two men. Ergo, I laughed when I heard it. I like to laugh at jokes when they are funny. I was watching a re-run of Lewis Black the other night. Wow, that man is funny. For passing himself off as an angry, jaded, Washington-insider intellectual, sort of a wonk-on-speed, he is wrong about a lot of stuff. I laughed because the jokes were funny. For example, he said stuff about the Old Testament and blasphemed God, feeling he had the right to do that because he was Jewish and the Old Testament was "his" book. He could not have been farther off-base with the things he had to say about it. But wow, was he funny.
So why wasn't I offended? For the same reason Bill Maher the angry intellectual lapsed-Catholic doesn't get to me either. Humor is just like other forms of theater; you have to suspend your disbelief to enter into the world of fiction being produced on the stage. Some of those fictions can be pretty elaborate, even those established by a single comedian in a monologue, but if you are smart enough to keep up with Maher or Black or Cosby or even Bill Engvall, you can see reality from within their schtick and laugh yourself sick. This is a great gift. More people should practice it. Unfortunately right now the comics are getting lined up on partisan lines, and people are taking the attitude that boy oh boy you better not be caught laughing at the wrong thing OR ELSE!
It occurs to me that maybe, just as movies, television, books, restaurants and theatre all have critics, that stand-up comedians should have critics too. Give me national syndication, six figures and an expense account, and I'll base myself in Chicago. A lot of comedians blow through here. (A lot of them just blow.) But what would make me a good critic is that I'm an easy laugh. Just ask my mother-in-law. She was REALLY quiet during most of Black's act.
What makes me a good evaluator of comedians is also what makes me uncannily accurate with my annual predictions: Like comedians I have low expectations of human behavior.
There is a reason that comics don't have critics, of course. An act dies when the laughs die. It's cruel and it's merciful at the same time. But now there are so many comics, and so many venues, maybe the time has come. Let me know if you're interested, Rupert. Just comment below and we can open negotiations.