Knott Political: The Hanging.

So, Thursday was the first day of the Halloween Haunt. And as always, it’s the best day to go. Although, I guess if you could know the traffic beforehand, a later day might be better, especially if you were willing to spring the extra $200/person for the VIP access to the mazes. You skip right to the front of the line. And if there’s anything better than no lines, it’s taking cuts in front of everyone else. Heh.

I’ll put up more of a review later, but I wanted to get this down: Every year, the Halloween Haunt turns its stunt show in to “The Hanging”. Basically, it’s the regular stunt show without the western motif, and with lots more fake blood. Also, instead of cowboys, the prime players are dressed up as cultural icons. It’s usually tasteless, borderline amateurish–fake punches really look fake–and it’s more than a little crude. And I don’t mean that, necessarily, in a good way.

The idea is that they hang the most offensive person in society. Since it’s meant to be funny, this is usually a pop-culture icon. I consider myself lucky if I’m aware of who the person is. I do get the movie references, or most of them (it took me a while to process the “Zohan” reference, so quickly had I forgotten that movie even came out–was it Sacha Cohen or Adam Sandler?).

I don’t really get the music references. I’m sort of, like, “Is that Amy Winehouse?”, “No, wait, that’s Amy Winehouse!”, “Well, who was that person five minutes ago?” Since I seldom go with anyone who’s more up on pop-stuff than I am, I can’t ask. The Boy seems to shun that sort of thing and The Flower is still too young. I did recognize Hannah Montana, I think. (The other thing is that it’s the same dozen stunt-folk changing in-and-out of costumes, and some of the impressions are very weak. Has anyone else noticed that there’s this recycling of Clinton wigs for McCain? What hell? McCain’s hair is a wispy combover!)

The whole thing is like a gross-out comedy movie, where some of the jokes land and some don’t, but the next one’s along pretty soon so you aren’t bored.

This year, expectedly, was political themed. And, actually, given the recent market meltdown, it was almost quaint. They had Javier Bardem fighting alongside of Santa Ana Smith (Indy), which felt odd because No Country For Old Men feels like it was a lifetime ago. (And I just re-watched it on cable a couple of times.)

But they hung…oil company executives. These were represented by people wearing the logos of Chevron, Texaco, etc. This was accompanied by the (admittedly funny) line “You really wanted to go to Universal Studios, but you couldn’t afford to fill up the gas tank!” (Of course, we drove past Universal Studios to get to Knott’s.)

Meh. I’m usually underwhelmed by the ultimate victim. And I guess people really believe that it’s all those mean old oil company guys are to blame for it all. The ultimate oil guy, by the way, was represented during the actual hanging part by Daniel Plainview. That was both odd and old. (But I kept wondering if that’s what I missed about the movie: Maybe you have to assume from the get-go that Plainview is pure evil, and that his actions are evil, and the very process of drilling for oil is evil.)

The political figure who got the most stage time was none other than John McCain. He did a lot of fighting, mostly with Hillary Clinton (who was the butt of most of the jokes in the first 5-10 minutes of the 30 minutes show). At one point, they had McCain and Clinton fighting, with Iron Man taking McCain’s side. (Hillary kept turning Iron Man off, though.)

Sarah Palin got a walk on. This actually underscores one of the weaknesses of the hanging. Right next to “clap humor” at the bottom of the humor scale is “referential humor”. Where they cross is right at the bottom when some late-night hack refers to a partisan talking point. Referential can be funny, of course, either through scale (think Tom Cruise being Austin Powers, or Orson Welles in The Muppet Movie), through accuracy (this involes the joker saying just exactly what you’re thinking, which can overlap into “clap humor”), or through sheer randomity. (During an episode of MST3K, Catalina Caper, a typical ‘60s beach dance scene ends with the camera panning up into a starless night sky, and Crow says, “Meanwhile, deep in the impenetrable void, John Paul Sartre is a-movin’ and a-groovin’.”)

Bush and Cheney also got a walk-on. No sign of Biden.

Anyway, McCain couldn’t kill Hillary; Obama showed up to finally do her in. Then McCain and Obama duked it out for a while. Neither was shown as a clear winner, and neither was killed.

Which I suppose is a sort of cruel neutrality.

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