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Why Is Some Art So Bad That It’s Good?

The Disaster Artist– which just earned James Franco a Golden Globe for his portrayal of director Tommy Wiseau – tells the story of the making of The Room, a film that’s been dubbed “the Citizen Kane” of bad movies. Not everyone likes The Room. (Critics certainly don’t – it has a 26 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.) But lots of folks love it. It plays at midnight showings at theaters across North America, and it’s a testament to a movie’s awfulness (and popularity) that, years later, it became the subject of a different movie….

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Culture 

In 1968, When Nixon Said “Sock it To Me” on Laugh-In, TV Was Never Quite the Same Again

We’re living in a golden age of presidential comedy on television. Presidential candidate Donald Trump hostedSaturday Night Live in November 2015, igniting a firestorm of controversy about the benefit the appearance might give his campaign. Hillary Clinton had appeared on the sketch comedy program the previous month, as Bernie Sanders would in February 2016. Impersonations of Trump, Barack Obama, Clinton and others have been the mainstay of late-night comedy for years, not to mention politically-charged monologues from such television luminaries as Stephen Colbert, John Oliver and Samantha Bee. It may seem normal…

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How Late Night Handled Trump’s Physical

Tuesday night, checking late-night television for vital signs and symbols, I began with “Conan” (TBS), where an angsty Conan O’Brien wandered a redesigned stage set. “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s very collapsed,” he said, in a prelude to celebrating a new intimacy with the studio audience. He pilfered a pair of sunglasses and made a clammy attempt at being ingratiating. Then he turned to the news of the day: “President Trump had a physical.” Earlier on Tuesday, the White House doctor had held a press conference to publicize the findings of…

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The End of the Awl and the Vanishing of Freedom and Fun from the Internet

Blogging, that much-maligned pastime, is gradually but surely disappearing from the Internet, and so, consequently, is a lot of online freedom and fun. Before I came to The New Yorker, my only professional writing experience was at blogs, places where a piece like this one, about disappearing blogs, would’ve been either eighty-five words or three thousand, and the lede would have been abrupt and vividly unprofessional, like a friend grabbing you by the collar at a bar. The image above the text would be some low-cost visual joke—a screenshot, or…

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Culture 

The TV Show ‘Black Lightning’ Gives the Superhero World a Jolt of Social Justice

The night of the “Black Lightning” world premiere kicked off with a star-studded “red carpet” event—the carpet was actually black, in honor of the show, dappled with little yellow lightning bolts and bearing the title in large block capitals. It was the evening of Saturday, January 13, the start of Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend; the venue was the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The culmination of two days’ worth of “DC in D.C.” comics-themed festivities (the bulk held at the nearby Newseum), the rollout of “Black Lightning,” whose African American title character first…

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Culture 

The True Story of “The Assassination of Gianni Versace”

When Ryan Murphy, the producer of TV shows from “Glee” to “American Horror Story,” began a new anthology series on celebrated criminal cases, his “The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” a celebrity-filled recreation of the trial, received nine Emmy Awards and two Golden Globes. And while the bloody murders at the heart of that case were never showed in the 10-part series that aired in 2016, the lavish new installment of the series “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” that premieres tonight on FX begins with…

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