07/26/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Media Notes from All Over (Belatedly)

Media Notes from All Over (somewhat belatedly)

First, about that New Yorker cover: to quote Steve Martin, comedy isn't pretty. As a satire practitioner myself, I have to ask: who's going to define what's acceptable and what isn't? It's a conundrum as old as Lenny Bruce, whose "black humor" tested the boundaries of Acceptable Humor Standards (where, say, "Disney" has a score of 100 AHS and that joke told in Aristocrats 0.08) of the time. (Christ and Moses...)

If the New Yorker cover is unacceptable satire, who decides what comes next? "Free speech," Abbie Hoffman said, "is the right to shout 'theater' in a crowded fire." For goodness' sake, Jonathan Swift wrote an essay about eating children!

If the New York Times or CNN had commissioned the drawing, ethicists would rightly grumble, but this is the New Yorker we're talking about--the grandfather of all humor magazines. (Stop reading this blog and go find some Robert Benchley. Please.) You try being clever 52 times a year. Satire, as the saying goes, is what closes on Saturday night. It's hard to please everybody.

Nonetheless, trying as hard as it possibly could to broaden its appeal, the Washington Post has been soiling itself all week with the 12-part Chandra Levy story. The average installment has run about 900 words. 900 words! The Post's prize-worthy series about lobbyists Cassidy and Associates clocked in at over four thousand per. What possible reason could the Post have for stretching this salacious story over 12 days, plus Internet extras? I can't imagine...