The Mailbag: Pat Robertson, The Beaver, Andrew Coyne’s satire problem

Scott Feschuk makes fun of answers your most pressing questions

Welcome to the Tuesday Mailbag on Wednesday, where humourless religious reactionaries are encouraged to react to the reference to God herein by ensuring their response is wildly out of proportion, that it misses the point entirely and that it wishes upon the author an eternity of hellfire and damnation. (A question of my own: Could I request a recurring loop of The Nanny in hell, or do I have to actually sit next to Fran Drescher?)

Remember – there are no stupid questions, except for the question of whether Barack Obama is boned.


Dear Scott:

Pat Robertson’s been in the news for saying that stuff about Haiti and the devil and whatever. It reminded me: Don’t you usually tell us about Pat Robertson’s annual conversation with God. Did God stand him up this year? I NEED TO KNOW. – Darren V.

Darren –

I was a little disappointed by Robertson’s most recent chitchat with The Man Upstairs. Usually, Pat’s God can be relied upon for at least one high-impact, attention-grabbing, pants-wettingly terrifying prediction: a high-casualty terrorist attack on American soil, a devastating hurricane conjured as payback for letting some gays have spouses, a reboot of the Rambo franchise starring Andy Dick.

But not this year. This year, during His annual Christmastime chinwag with Pat, the Big Guy apparently said only that “there is a cloud of God’s wrath over America.” This “cloud” hovers there because Americans “have forsaken the Lord” by banning school prayer, permitting abortion and failing to hunt Ryan Seacrest for sport. (I made up that last one, though we all suspect God was thinking it. God’s that British judge, right?)

Let’s be frank about it: Being forced to live under a cloud of God’s wrath – that’s a pretty vague prediction for 2010, isn’t it? It’s also pretty unsettling, and I’ll tell you why. It’s unsettling because only a couple weeks after God issued His warning, Haiti was hit by a 7.0 earthquake. And I think we all know what that means.

According to Robertson’s prophecy, it means that God missed.

Listen, it happens to the best of deities. On a map, Haiti looks pretty far from the U.S. – but when you’re trying to smite a nation from way up in heaven it’s like trying to thread a Subway turkey melt through the eye of a needle while riding a camel that’s riding a rollercoaster. Which, FYI, God could totally do with His eyes closed if He weren’t distracted by Andy Dick, who’s locked himself in his dressing room and is refusing to come out until God agrees to let him play Rambo as an effete leprechaun.


Dear Scott:

Today’s episode of The Price is Right featured a contestant who had clearly been selected because a) she has a huge rack; b) she wasn’t wearing a bra; and c) she likes to bounce and wiggle a lot when something exciting happens to her (for example, being selected to be a contestant on The Price is Right). Has The Price is Right always been this awesome? – Not Stephen Colbert


That wasn’t a “she,” and I’ll thank you not to criticize my choice in undergarments.


Dear Scott:

Were John Baird and Paul Wells separated at birth? – Tceh

Tceh –

Actually, they were attached at birth. Some bungee cord, a little space-age industrial adhesive and this act was ready to hit the road! But then the dimly lit salons of Coney Island began to lose their allure and the market dried up for their conjoined blend of jazz analysis and tantrums.

John and Paul were eventually separated for good – last Tuesday, if memory serves. The time was right. They were still fun at parties but it was becoming a real pain to find two-headed sweaters in their size, especially since the untimely bankruptcy of Gap Siamese.


Dear Scott,

Are you attending a Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament rally this Saturday? Any tips for those that do? – sea_n_mountains

sea_n_mountains –

I just hope to God there are enough people scheduled to speak at the rallies. There’s nothing worse than getting to a protest rally and discovering there are only 30 to 50 people scheduled to speak. And then you have to stand there and endure the crushing disappointment of each of them speaking for only twice their allotted time, and having the gall to repeat only 95% of what the previous speaker said. You get to the five-hour mark and you begin to think to yourself dejectedly: Dammit, this thing might eventually end! And we’ve only done the “Hey, Hey, Ho Ho, somethingsomethingsomething has got to go!” chant 1,765 times!

You win again, status quo.


Dear Scott:

Your face inexplicably ends up on the cover of The Beaver. What would the title be? – Andre

Andre –

Hold on: why would the presence of my face on the cover of The Beaver be so “inexplicable?” Are you saying The Beaver would never devote a cover article to a thoughtful survey of the life of History’s Greatest Breakdancer?

The real story here is that after decades of continuous publication, The Beaver magazine is being forced to change its name. I’m not making this up. Turns out the word “beaver” also has a completely different meaning that I’d tell you about except that I’m a guy and now I can’t stop giggling.

Beaver. Hilarious.

Anyhoo, turns out the magazine’s name is, in the words of its publisher, an “unfortunate double entendre” that was harming sales because subscription solicitations would get caught up in email spam filters, presumably along with pitches for other venerable titles such as Amateur Woodworker, Discovery Girls and House & Erection.

The good news is that the problem is solved, a new name has been chosen and there’s no further risk of any “double entendres.” So let’s all take a moment to bid farewell to an esteemed Canadian institution, The Beaver, and wish the magazine well in its new incarnation as The Vagina.


Dear Scott:

Why has it been so difficult for Mr. Coyne to have his satire properly recognized? – David_M.

David –

Satire is an old and tired institution, like democracy and Morley Safer. It can’t keep up with more modern and “with-it” approaches to making a point – such as sarcasm, air quotes and yelling.

In this day and age, people don’t want to have to think, reason or mull. Ask any kid: Mulling is the second-worst thing he or she could ever imagine having to do (Worst thing: texting a vowel). People today want to know immediately when someone is trying to be clever, and they want to know the precise manner in which they are trying to be clever. They don’t want you to make them work to figure it out. What are you trying to be – clever?

If Andrew Coyne insists on trying to resuscitate this dead and buried literary form, he should drop a subtle hint at the outset of each piece to indicate that he is in fact poised to be satiric. Nothing too garish. Perhaps a discrete, tasteful opening line such as: HELLO EVERYBODY!!! ARE YOU READY TO LAUGH AT MY SATIRE?!???!


Dear Scott:

After the power outage during the Liberal caucus meeting, Jane Taber quoted an “insider” as saying, “people were tripping and falling. No one got hurt. Amazing how we rely on our vision for co-ordination.” Who is this anonymous source, and why are they releasing such obviously classified information? – Stephanie

Stephanie –

It’s simple: they had no choice. Mere mortals are utterly powerless to resist the probing queries and dazzling journalismosity of Jane Taber. They try but they can’t help but confess uninteresting details of unimportant events.

Let me explain it to you this way: If Canada’s Secretary of State for Democratic Reform were to wake one morning to discover he’d been made Secretary of State for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec (an actual job, by the way), Jane Taber would be there to blow the lid off the colour of the window treatments in the room in which the Secretary of State fell to the floor and wept at his insignificance (honey beige).

Sadly, this style of journalism – sorry, “journalism” – sorry, “journalism <wink>” – does not come without a heavy cost. In recent years, top researchers have discovered that an increasing number of Globe sources are finding their Taber-granted anonymity has become… permanent.

That’s right: Taber’s sources are losing their identity, and they’re losing it for good. Three or four off-the-record citations in the Globe’s Ottawa notebook and you risk being forever known to one and all – even to your immediate family – only as “senior Liberal insider” or “super-senior extra-insidery Conservative poobah.”  You leave for work one day as “Daddy” and you walk in the door at night to joyful cries of, “Yay, former leading Conservative strategist is home!”

Hang tough, double-senior Liberal insider3. You may have lost your identity, but at least we know you lost it in a room with a mahogany table and a fruit tray that was heavy on the pineapple.

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