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Glasses On!: Why do the French love our Jerry Lewis, yet ignore our Frazzles the Squirrel?


Frog 'N' Squirrel

By Bill Forman

A Frenchman in Capitola: You don't have to be a right-wing nut to hate the French (although I'm sure that does help). You could, instead, be Garrison Keillor, who fumed all over the front page of last Sunday's New York Times book section in an unexpected tirade against author Bernard-Henri Lévy, who just happens to be appearing in town at the Capitola Book Café on Feb. 5.

The Woebegone humorist is surprisingly humorless in his attack on Levy, describing the hottest Euro-Brainiac since Jacques Derrida as "a French writer with a spatter-paint prose style and the grandiosity of a college sophomore." Keillor spends the next 2000 words collecting quotes from Levy's American Vertigo: Traveling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville, all of them carefully chosen to appear pompous and banal at the same time.

But what really seems to be getting under Keillor's skin is not that Levy is no Alexis de Tocqueville (whose American sojourn Levy is emulating some 175 years later), but that Levy seeks out America's most grotesque elements and then draws conclusions about its culture from them.

"In more than 300 pages, nobody tells a joke. Nobody does much work. Nobody sits and eats and enjoys their food," mopes Keillor. Then again, who would want them to? Isn't that Keillor's whole shtick: wistful portrayals of mundane small-town eccentricities that leave us feeling all warm and whimsical?

"Don't let the door hit you on the way out," mutters Keillor, before his essay's parting shot: "For your next book, tell us about those riots in France, the cars burning in the suburbs of Paris. What was that all about?" He's right, of course--Levy is no Toqueville; but then of course Keillor is no Will Rogers either.

More Crazy Delicious: While Saturday Night Live feverishly tries to match the phenomenal genius of its 'Lazy Sunday (Chronicles of Narnia Rap),' the rest of us can take a step back in time and pay a visit to The Lonely Island website, where SNL cast member Andy Samberg and writers Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer worked the Internet as an L.A.-based comedy collective before breaking into the big time. There's plenty to enjoy here, but the truly godlike genius resides in episodes of 'The Bu,' their spot-on piss-take of prime-time teen soaps.

In fact, why not take Müz's 'The Bu' Challenge? Watch the opening episode, the one where a 3D-glasses-obsessed Frazzles (The Lonely Island's even more insane resurrection of Tex Avery's cartoon character Screwy Squirrel) keeps escalating his interruptions of a dramatic scene between two tormented Malibu teens. The female lead, by the way, is perfectly played by Scrubs' Sarah Chalke, although she's replaced in some episodes by an Asian man in drag and an oversized drunken muppet. It's that kind of show.

Anyway, get through that one episode without a single chuckle (or, for that matter, burst of laughter), and you'll win, well, nothing actually. Apart from our quiet concern.

Bernard-Henri Lévy, Feb. 5 at 7:30pm, Capitola Book Café, 1475 41st St., Capitola, 831.362.4415. The Lonely Island Website, www.thelonelyisland.com

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From the February 1-8, 2006 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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