Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a much younger Will Moredock used to have a few beers with his friends and head out to the local arena for an evening of professional wrestling. That was in the days before the World Wrestling Federation brought a measure of glamour and respectability to the “sport.” In the 1970s, it was just a bunch of fat, sweaty guys nobody ever heard of, choking, punching, and hammer-locking each other in a drab arena with bleacher seating for maybe 300.
Then as now, the truth of professional wrestling is that the real show is in the stands. The guys in the ring are just actors.
But in the stands, the true believers don’t care. In their group frenzy, this becomes a death match between good and evil. They scream and curse, cheer and weep. Somewhere in the minds of these fevered spectators, a psychological transference takes place. The goofy guys in the tights and tank tops come to represent the forces and the personalities in the lives of these working-class stiffs. On a Saturday night, these yeomen could come out to the arena and scream and pump their fists. Unlike in the mill or the warehouse, where they toiled their days away, they could come here and sound off. They might even sway the balance in some little cosmic battle.
I haven’t been to a professional wrestling program in many years, but I did see Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck last Saturday at the North Charleston Coliseum, and it brought back a lot of great memories.
No, the Fox News personalities did not body slam each other in front of the 9,000 faithful fans who packed the house. They were working in a tag-team against a host of absentee villains, including Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Al Gore, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Lindsey Graham, comedian Bill Maher, and MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews.
This was the Bold & Fresh Tour 2010, with O’Reilly and Beck as you have never seen them, doing stand up comedy, facial contortions, voice impressions, and other amusements in a two-hour road show, with Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” as the lead-in music. All they lacked was the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders kicking and strutting during intermission.
In the cavernous space of the coliseum, Bill and Glenn looked like ants on the far away stage, but their images were projected on giant video screens, allowing us to see Beck stretch and pull his face in what he called an imitation of Nancy Pelosi’s. The crowd went wild.
Bill’s humor was less physical and more cerebral than Glenn’s; he paced back and forth on stage with microphone in hand, a la George Carlin, working himself up to deliver the next jab, weaving together humor and policy details and delivering his punches with impeccable timing. “And then the flying monkeys came and came,” he said, referring to the Democrats’ healthcare plan. Nine thousand laughed, including your humble correspondent. “I’ll get in trouble for that,” he said. And the crowd roared again.
If he ever gets tired of the Fox gig, Bill O could go into stand up. He would probably have a pretty narrow fan base and have to share it with Dennis Miller and Andrew Dice Clay. But he’s got the moves, and he’s got the timing.
Glenn’s timing is also good, but his humor is more adolescent, the kind of thing the class clown would do in junior high school: “Lindsey Graham sucks!” he bellowed to deafening cheers and applause.
There was abundant irony last Saturday. Part of it was that the comics repeatedly denounced “the liberal media,” even as they bragged that Fox was the most watched cable network and Rush Limbaugh the most popular voice on radio. Part of it was that in a few days these clowns would be back at Fox News, doing their “fair and balanced” shtick. And their fans and followers would still believe it’s all real.
The ultimate irony, of course, was the theme which Beck and O’Reilly repeated throughout the show, that “the media” and “intellectuals” and Democrats were in a little self-imposed bubble, cut off from the real people, cut off from America. But what I saw around me on Saturday was 9,000 white, white, white faces, mostly older, indulging in their fantasy lives in their own little echo chamber, cheering at the banter and bullshit of a couple of professional hucksters who know how to play a crowd.
These people didn’t look like America to me. America is a lot smarter than they are. As much fun as the Bill & Glenn Show was, I was happy to get back to the real world.
For more, see Will Moredock’s blog a charlestoncitypaper.com/blogs/thegoodfight.