Why do I like Andy Rooney and his goofy commentary?
My car was stopped at a red light on 10th Avenue in Manhattan, when (The) Andy Rooney crossed the street. He caught my eye and said, “I look much better in person.” Since he was “in person,” the remark made no sense at all, right? But, sort of funny.Then I thought about his commentary on “60 Minutes” and realized that most of what Andy Rooney says makes no sense. I refer to Rooney’s style as “guilt trip entertainment.” That is, we watch it knowing it’s meaningless, but television is famous for mindless content and nothing’s more mindless than some of the things Rooney talks about: the various sizes of packaged olives or the clutter of obsolete stuff that one hoards in the kitchen drawer. He’s done both subjects, and I will have to admit I enjoyed his rantings. The fact is that television has trained me to dumb down my entertainment needs. Reality programming was the final touch, the “coup de grâce” (I’m resorting to French?!) of my sense of logic. Hey, have you ever seen the “Jersey Shore” character, “The Situation?” If it took brains to breathe out, that guy would explode. Well, Rooney’s monologues make about as much sense as world affairs in general and he is actually entertaining. He mirrors the world’s lack of logic. Who knows, maybe someday he’ll analyze the meaning, or lack of meaning, of a possible Sarah Palin presidential run. The irony of Rooney’s commentary is his time of origin. He goes back to “the good old days” (remember them?), when America was number one in industry, intellect and education, before we fell through the cracks and fell behind the development of most of Western civilization. We’ve fallen behind in mathematics, engineering, literature and even entertainment, where violent body counts dominate both film and TV viewing. But Andy launched his career when we were still on top. He was involved in World War II and entered the world of media in the days of Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite. Yet, he’s become part of the dumbing down process of news as entertainment. These are echoes of a film called “Network,” in which a TV news anchor’s nervous breakdown involves the transferring of news over to the entertainment division. The anchorman freaks out with shouts of, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!” But, hey, Andy is indeed entertaining and maybe sort of mad, take any meaning of the word. Fact is, I find myself smiling as that Celtic curmudgeon hits the screen. Bill Lee is a cartoonist who lives in Sharon and New York City.