News & Politics

Dan Crenshaw Proves That Outrage Ain't the Only Way

I was only vaguely aware of newly elected Texas Congressman Dan Crenshaw before last week, when SNL’s Pete Davidson made him famous by saying he looks like “a hitman in a porno movie.”

“Weekend Update” co-anchor Michael Che tried to call Davidson off, but he went for it anyway. After the past week, maybe next time he’ll listen.

My initial reaction to the joke was just that: It’s a joke. It’s not a very good joke, it’s not a very smart joke, but it’s a joke. Davidson’s role on the show is Awkward Millennial Drug Addict Who Doesn’t Know Anything, and he’s never played it better than he did here. His whole act is one big shrug, like he’s not really sure why he’s on TV either. Giggling at a war hero’s injury is just part of that, I guess. “Whaddaya expect, folks? I’m a big dummy!”

My secondary reaction was to be annoyed that these guys keep getting away with this crap. The double standard is insane. No comedian in a million years would go on SNL and say something like this about a wounded combat vet who was running as a Democrat.

(SNL’s James Downey once said this about writing Obama jokes: “It’s like being a rock climber looking up at a thousand-foot-high face of solid obsidian, polished and oiled. There’s not a single thing to grab onto — certainly not a flaw or hook that you can caricature.” Yeah, the professional comedian actually said Obama is flawless. Well, anything else would be racist.)

And the double standard extends to the reaction to such insults. A lot of people were ticked off about Davidson’s joke, and they had a right to be. But of course, the headlines were all like this:

When a conservative screws up, that’s the story. When a liberal screws up, conservatives’ reaction is the story. Although I guess that’s only true 99 percent of the time.

Now, Crenshaw could’ve reacted to this in the Trumpian way we’ve now come to expect. He could’ve fired back, called Davidson names, claimed SNL is failing,* etc. But he didn’t. He brushed it off, but with a word of advice for Davidson et al. He said: “I want us to get away from this culture where we demand apologies every time someone misspeaks… But I would like him and ‘Saturday Night Live’ to recognize… that veterans across the country probably don’t feel as though their wounds they received in battle should be the subject of a bad punchline for a bad joke.”

That seems like the right note to strike. “Say what you want about me, guys, but maybe it’s not such a good idea to go after veterans like this?”

I assumed Davidson would follow up this week with a smirk and a “Y U mad tho,” but for once he surprised me:

Another big surprise: Dan Crenshaw is funny! Funnier than Pete Davidson, at least, although that’s a very low bar. Politician cameos on SNL tend to be cringeworthy at best, Hillary Clinton at worst. But Crenshaw is a natural. I don’t know how much input he had on the jokes, but he delivered them like a pro. His comedic timing is impeccable. As one Internet wag put it, “Crenshaw reads cue cards better with one eye than most SNL cast members do with two.”

After watching the way he’s handled this whole thing, I really like him. Maybe he’ll end up being just another cruddy politician once Washington gets done with him, but this is a terrific start. He is now my favorite Crenshaw. Sorry, Marshall.

As for Pete Davidson, I believe that his contrition is heartfelt. You might think it’s fake, but he’s not a good actor.

This whole thing was nice. If these two guys can smooth things over like this, it gives me hope for the rest of us. Maybe we can all start treating each other with humanity and respect. Maybe we can stop yelling at each other in restaurants, or tracking people down at home and screaming threats and lies at them through a bullhorn. Maybe it doesn’t need to be like this.

Then I look at the calendar and see that it’s 2018 and all the hope fades away.

*I don’t remember the last time I sat through an entire episode of SNL, but the ratings are good, right? Trump is good for ratings. The more they hate him, the more money goes in their pockets.