Politicians are the new comedians
The “Real Men” TV show on MBC’s Sunday Night lineup often gets the response, “How can you call this real?” Viewers often find the show distant from the reality of military life. As a former “Stage for Friendship” producer, I have an answer: “Real Men” is not a program about reality in the barracks. Investigative news shows deal with that.
But will the Military Day special documentary “This is Military” show the real aspects of the armed forces? I bet not. The Ministry of Defense would not cooperate with any program that reveals the real facts of the military. What they want to show is not real Army life but a positive portrayal of it. So if you want to experience what the real military is like, you should join it rather than watch television or make visits.
The goal of variety programming is to make viewers laugh. Comedians do anything to make people chuckle. Sometimes they cross the line and get suspended or kicked off the stage. Sometimes, they are forced to move to another stage. But in the “Real Men” program, whose purpose is to make people laugh, the most frequently heard line is, “don’t laugh.” The celebrity cast members try to keep a straight face and not get on the nerves of the instructors. The instructors also have a hard time. “Why should I deal with these celebrities in front of the camera?” The stars are there to make people laugh and the real soldiers must control their laughter. The producers ask the instructors to show the real training while the military authorities want to make sure the military is packaged well. Real comedy is the discrepancy between the people who want to show good things and the people who want to see the real things.
“This is the real comedy indeed,” people say whenever ridiculous things happen in politics. And this comedy is “ridiculous,” not “funny.” A specter of comedy looms around Yeouido. This time, the old comedy segment “Bongsunga School” seems to have returned, featuring all the ridiculous and silly characters.
Here, you may wonder why “Bongsunga School” ended. Was it not educational? In fact, the school was rather chaotic but full of creativity. None of the students were enslaved by grades, and each had personality and energy. The teacher called everyone by name and gave everyone a chance to give presentations. What students want in their classroom is neither warmth nor coldness. All they asked for was fairness. Why did the school close? Because it could no longer make people laugh. Perhaps, politicians have taken the job of making people laugh from the comedians. Their comical acts have made silly clowns jobless.
*The author is professor of culture and content studies at Ajou University. JoongAng Ilbo, May 18, page 35
by JU CHEOL-HWAN