Shane Gillis: The Comedian From Somewhere
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It is a hot summer night at the truck warehouse that is home to Magooby’s Joke House, and 2014’s Baltimore New Comedian of the Year is in need of another cold Bud Light.
Shane Gillis, the Pennsylvania man who was nowhere close to a household name until he had the misfortune to be fired by Saturday Night Live in 2019, and then the follow-on great fortune to become famous for being incredibly funny, does not love the impression he gives as the apex predator of beer-drinking. But he is a week removed from leaving fellow comic Ari Shaffir, no lightweight himself, passed out in intense liver pain on the studio floor of The Joe Rogan Experience because he dared come at the T. rex.
“So who is your trainer? Your trainer has to be incredible.”
“My dad. He’s an alcoholic.”
Gillis smiles, then looks around the comedy backroom crammed with bric-a-brac and pauses for a moment, as if thinking how his dad will feel.
“Nah, he’s just a drinker. But I do have a trainer; I have to work out. Because when you do comedy, all you do is drink. And you can’t just drink. I want to be known as ‘that guy who’s good at stand-up,’ not ‘that alcoholic who goes on Rogan every couple weeks.’”
Gillis talks a lot about his dad, Phil. His father is at the center of his YouTube special, which has more than six million views, as a typical “Fox News Dad.” “A Fox News dad is good,” Gillis tells the Austin audience. “You don’t want an MSNBC dad, complaining about renewables… but a Fox News mom? She smokes in the house.”
The laughter is an acknowledgment of so much of Gillis’s humor — he is able, give where he comes from, of saying the things that hipster Austinites may find themselves incapable of admitting. It’s an acknowledgment that this broad-shouldered, lumbering white guy, birthed by Trumpian Republicans and raised in a place no hipster would be caught dead in, might have a point about the times we live in, who we are and where we are going.
Gillis is actually training at the moment. He’s healthy, he has a hot girlfriend, he trimmed his weight to prep for a world tour as though it’s a prize fight, not just an opportunity to drink a lot of free beer. The old athlete tendencies are coming back to the guy who was recruited by West Point to play football and still puts position players on a pedestal. As a kid, he was a fan of hard-nosed troublemaker defensive tackle Warren Sapp, and nowadays of Quenton Nelson, an extremely talented old-school offensive guard for the Indianapolis Colts. A Notre Dame fan through and through, as a comic he takes the stage with the swagger of Jerome Bettis, the oversized Fighting Irish running back who bullied defenders for the Pittsburgh Steelers for years — he may be fat, but he runs skinny.
It’s fitting, given his potential role at SNL was as a position player — rotating through sketches, fulfilling roles as needed, but never deemed capable of shining on his own. Instead, he’s taken center stage in sketches for his YouTube show with John McKeever, Gilly and Keeves, that are more hilarious than anything SNL has managed in years.
A 2019 sketch produced by the Blaze, where Gillis plays a heroic fireman canceled on live TV, reads as a shortened amalgam of his own experience — his performance in the heat of the flames set aside quickly as a reporter confronts him for confusing a family of Guatemalans for Mexican, using racist language in a text message and, worst of all, footage of him drunkenly saying “I love Donald Trump.” He’s doxxed by the network and let go on the spot by his boss, who prefaces the firing by saying he did a great job.
Ukraine Counter-Attacks in Kherson
The southern city of Kherson, which fell to Russian forces in the first few days of the war, is one of the places Ukraine would need to liberate if Putin’s army is to be repelled. But what realistic chance is there? Many argued that the Russian occupation is a one-way process: that having taken Crimea, Putin would extend his reach northwards and westwards – with the only question being how long Ukraine could hold off an offensive from its far-bigger enemy.
But that conversation is changing, and fast. This morning, the Ukrainian army broke through the first line of the Russian defence in Kherson region – a move that was only recently seen to be beyond the capability of Ukrainian troops. Senior military officials in Kyiv had been saying that they didn’t have the strength, and other Ukrainian forces were saying that they lack the troops and air cover. All of that now looks like a bluff, ahead of today’s counter-offensive.
The game-changer has been the Himars, high-precision missile launchers supplied by the United States. These missiles, crucial in the liberation of Snake Island, have now been used to destroy almost all large bridges connecting Russian troops in Kherson to the rest of the occupying forces: the Antonivsky railway bridge, the road bridge and Novokakhovsky bridge. ‘The word Himars has become almost synonymous with the word justice for our country,’ said Zelensky recently.
There’s no formal statement from Moscow but a Russian soldier has posted a video saying ‘the first line of defence is broken,’ (my translation): ‘they are shelling using tanks, aviation and artillery’. Ukrainian officials say the 109th regiment of the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ has been forced to withdraw from its positions. A fire has been reported in the Beryslav machine-building plant, where Russia had been storing its weapons.
For weeks now, Ukraine’s army has been seeking to destroy the bridges linking Kherson region to the rest of Russian troops. Ukraine would shell, then the Russians then seek to rebuild. But now, only crosswalks remain. This means the Russian army on the west of Kherson is cut off from the supply of weapons and personnel from Crimea.
For Ukraine, this is the first piece of good military news in a long time – but will come at a cost. The offensive will cost more lives of Ukraine’s soldiers than defence. Citizens had earlier been asked to evacuate the region or to stay in the bomb shelters during hostilities. For their part, Russian commanders started leaving the right bank of the Dnipro river weeks ago.
Anti-Semitism Makes a Comeback
When we talk to our parents about all this, they’re baffled. They lack the vocabulary to make sense of what’s going on. They don’t get that the language they devised in the 1960s and 1970s—the language of inclusion and tolerance and everyone being free to be yourself—is now being weaponized against their own children and grandchildren.
What they know is the old-fashioned antisemitism of the right. This can be deadly and horrific: The Tree of Life massacre in Pittsburgh, in which 11 Jews were murdered as they prayed. The attack by another white supremacist six months later, at a synagogue in Poway, California.
But for the time being, that violence is on the margins. And the vast majority of Americans abhor it and support prosecuting it. In 2022, no Jew is worried about being attacked by the Klan on a country road.
No, what Jews in 2022 fear is being visible as Jews on the streets of Brooklyn. What Jews in 2022 fear, especially if they’re in their twenties, is outing themselves as a supporter of Israel and losing all their friends. What we fear is being called apartheid lovers and colonizers and white supremacists—and how those powerful smears might affect our futures.
To be fair, it was hard for many of our Jewish peers to see this, too.
“Antisemitism from the left is hard for young people to see, because young people a lot of time align with the left,” a Jewish woman who recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania told me. “Left-wing activists only describe Zionists and Israel, so it’s hard for young Jews to see how it threatens Jews in America.”
But we knew this wasn’t just about Israel. Why else were we always getting called Nazis?
In college, we lost a lot. We lost friends. We lost our sense of belonging. And unbelievably, some of us lost that feeling of being permanently American. But we gained something as well: a fascination with the Jewish story.
Soon enough we all came, in our own times, to face some questions: How was this changing us? How was the thinning out of our American identities deepening our Jewish ones?
Time to Pull Teens Off Social Media?
Around 2012, something began to go wrong in the lives of teens. Depression, self-harm, suicide attempts and suicide all increased sharply among U.S. adolescents between 2011 and 2019, with similar trends worldwide. The increase occurred at the same time social media use moved from optional to virtually mandatory among teens, making social media a prime suspect for the sudden rise in youth mental health issues.
However, social media use remains virtually unregulated among minors. So, given the federal government’s failure to reign in Big Tech’s influence on our children, it falls to the states to pass laws to protect our kids from the emotional and social fallout of unrestricted access to social media.
The failure stems mainly from U.S. Supreme Court decisions that limited Congress’ power to regulate the internet to protect children. In addition, the laws Congress has managed to pass — such as the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which was supposed to allow parents to control the interaction between websites and children — have failed to exert any meaningful influence on children’s technology use.
In a new report, “Protecting Teens from Big Tech,” we detail six policies that state legislatures should pursue if they are serious about ending the epidemics of suicide, anxiety and depression ushered in adolescents’ unfettered access to social media.
These suggestions may be controversial, but the problem of teen mental health has become so concerning that bold measures are needed.
1. Enact age-verification laws
States could pass an age-verification law to require social media platforms to verify the age of any users in that state so that no minors under the age of 13 could create social media accounts. Under current federal law, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act prohibits internet platforms from collecting personally identifying information about children ages 13 and younger, making it the de facto age for social media. Increasingly, however, children younger than 13 are gaining access, and these younger children are more vulnerable to the harmful mental health effects. Age verification would help ensure the current age limit is effectively enforced.
2. Require parental consent for minors to open a social media account
States dissatisfied with the current de facto age of 13 for social media could take a further step. States could prohibit a social media company or website from offering any account, subscription service or contractual agreement to a minor under 18 years old, absent parental consent. When individuals join social media websites or use most commercial websites, they agree to terms of service, which are binding contracts, so it is a reasonable regulation that parental consent would be required.
3. Mandate full parental access to minors’ social media accounts
States could also pass laws requiring social media platforms to give parents or guardians full access to all social media accounts created by minors between the ages of 13 and 17. Full access would ensure that parents have control of their minor child’s account settings so they can restrict its privacy, review friend requests and know exactly what their child is doing online.
While parents can currently utilize various for-purchase parental control apps, certain platforms, like TikTok, are not able to be covered, or parents are unable to fully monitor all aspects of the account. Government intervention is needed to provide full access, and to empower all parents, not just those able to afford a private option.
Items of Interest
“The only true atheists I’ve ever met were people in revolt. It wasn’t enough for them to coldly deny the existence of God—they had to refuse it, like Bakunin: ‘Even if God existed, it would be necessary to abolish him.’ They were atheists like Kirilov in The Possessed. They rejected God because they wanted to put man in his place.”
— Michael Houellebecq
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