The Ballad of Rachel Maddow, J.R. ‘Bob’ Dobbs, and Eddie Chiles


Subsequent week, Alex Wagner takes over the MSNBC slot as soon as held by Rachel Maddow, who now broadcasts solely on Monday evenings. (Wagner will deal with the opposite 4 nights of the week.) Let’s mark the event by dusting off the story that Maddow as soon as declared her favourite. It wasn’t a super-serious phase. It is a type of little gadgets that is there to make individuals chuckle as a lot because it’s there to make a degree. However jokes could be revealing typically, and this one encapsulated essentially the most aggravating component of The Rachel Maddow Present: its host’s capability for unearned smugness.

It was 2010, and Carl Paladino was the Republican nominee to be governor of New York. In the midst of the marketing campaign, he periodically stated some dumb issues, as he’s wont to do. He additionally had garden indicators that stated “I am Mad Too, Carl!” This reminded Maddow of all of the occasions she had seen the face of J.R. “Bob” Dobbs—the messiah of the tongue-in-cheek Church of the SubGenius—alongside the slogan “I am Mad Too, ‘Bob.'” Clearly, she declared, there was a technique to all these Paladino gaffes. His marketing campaign, she concluded, is a SubGenius-style artwork mission.

She tells the story in a winding means, launching with a montage of Paladino proclaiming himself mad earlier than she delivers a lecture on the historical past of “city avenue artwork,” which culminates together with her introducing the “ubiquitous” picture of Dobbs. We then get a overview of varied embarrassing Paladino moments, with a specific give attention to his incapacity to again up his claims that Gov. Andrew Cuomo had cheated on his ex-wife. The “I am Mad Too” bit is the punchline dropped on the very finish—the wild proven fact that’s presupposed to all the pieces collectively:

Now, I do not wish to dwell on the truth that her chief beef with Paladino right here entails his suggestion that Cuomo was an adulterer. Sure, it is fairly simple to consider that the Republican was proper, provided that Cuomo ultimately resigned within the face of credible fees of sexual harassment. However Paladino did not precisely do a convincing job of creating his case, and it is honest to go after him for that.

Nor do I wish to dwell on her description of the Church of the SubGenius as “iconic Nineteen Nineties-era American city avenue artwork.” The first SubGenius pamphlet truly got here out in 1980—however certain, the group was nonetheless round within the ’90s. And whereas “avenue artwork” was by no means actually the middle of the mission, it was definitely part of it. It is an odd solution to describe the church, but it surely’s not what makes this piece of tv so memorable.

No, the memorable factor is that punchline. The entire joke of the phase is that Paladino had someway stumbled into by accident recycling a countercultural slogan. That is what lets Maddow undertake that let-me-tell-you-some-historical past tone at the start of the story, and that is what’s presupposed to justify all of the smirks alongside the best way. However the joke is a bust, as a result of Maddow did not probe that historical past sufficient. When she acknowledged that phrase from some graffiti she’d seen within the ’90s, she ought to have taken a second to kind “I’m Mad Too” into Google, simply to see if there had been any prior artwork.

Ever hear of a Texas oilman named Eddie Chiles? He based the Western Firm of North America. He used to personal the Texas Rangers. And within the Nineteen Seventies, he began doing fiery radio editorials. Riffing on Howard Beale’s famous line from Community—”I am as mad as hell, and I am not gonna take this anymore!”—he constructed a complete persona on how mad he was. His radio spots would begin with an announcer saying, “What are you mad about at present, Eddie Chiles?” The reply often concerned liberals and/or massive authorities.

Eddie Chiles button

And what slogan did his followers embrace, shopping for it on bumper stickers, buttons, and baseball hats? “I am Mad, Too, Eddie!”

The Church of the SubGenius was based by a few Texans. Once they dreamed up the phrase “I am Mad Too, ‘Bob,'” they have been spoofing a slogan that was throughout their house state within the ’70s and ’80s. Paladino is not a Texan, however that does not imply he would not have heard of Chiles too. At their peak, the person’s commentaries have been airing on 650 stations across the nation—and when you did not hear the spots themselves, you continue to may see the tales about them on TV and in retailers like Time and The Christian Science Monitor. Or possibly you simply noticed the bumper stickers. They have been no less than as ubiquitous as “Bob” was.

Whether or not or not the slogan was the candidate’s concept, his marketing campaign clearly bought it from the identical place the SubGenius crew did: from Chiles. The one query for me was how a lot Paladino’s common “I am mad!” schtick was a riff on Chiles, how a lot it was a riff on Beale, and the way a lot it was a riff on Howard Jarvis, the California anti-tax crusader who additionally preferred to borrow Beale’s line.

Look, I really feel a bit ridiculous fact-checking a joke, particularly once I’m doing it 12 years late. So far as I do know, Paladino’s individuals did not hassle to right the report. (It is not like they’d be doing their man any favors by calling consideration to the phase.) And the SubGenii have been completely happy to take the publicity, chatting in regards to the story on their Hour of Slack radio present with what was, by their requirements, solely a small dose of snark. (“It is truly Eighties iconic avenue artwork.”) In the case of cable-news fuckups, that is about as innocent because it will get.

But it surely’s the Maddow present in a nutshell. Scroll again as much as that video. Watch the glee with which our host delivers her punchline, that smug certainty that she is aware of a bit historical past that may make somebody look silly. If solely she had identified a bit extra historical past, she might need averted wanting silly herself.

(For extra editions of the Friday A/V Membership, go here. For one more one involving a cable host wanting silly, go here. For extra on the Church of the SubGenius, learn chapter 9 of my e-book The United States of Paranoia.)

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