Thoughts from the ammo line

Ammo Grrrll has a brief preface to AN OPEN LETTER TO ELLEN DEGENERES Or, Why Do You Think They Call It “Work”? She writes: “I realize from past discussions that not every regular commenter on this column thinks that Ellen is funny. Just because I am a professional who KNOWS funny when she sees it does not mean that I can force anyone to agree that she is. Humor is visceral and deeply personal. You either find something humorous or you do not and I will defend to the death your right to be incredibly wrong. Please read this anyway. Ellen has never been part of Cancel Culture. The issues are important, whether you think Ellen is funny or not. But, she is. AG”:

Dear Ellen,

I am angry about the nasty slander campaign against you. You have met me once but would have no reason to remember me. I worked as a standup comedienne (Susan Vass) based in the Twin Cities area for about 30 years. After a few years in the clubs, I branched into corporate comedy, toured the country, met hundreds of wonderful people, and retired to Arizona ten years ago. Happy, happy, happy.

My husband (Max Cossack, the famous novelist) and I had the great pleasure of attending one of your club shows in Chicago at least 25-30 years ago when we were visiting there with friends. This was long before your talk show. We had a comedian friend in common and spoke for a few minutes at the bar after the show (I was the one in the yellow shirt – haha). You could not have been more friendly and approachable and even sweetly pretended to have heard of me from our mutual friend! Your comedy set was its usual delight and I am proud to have been a “laugh leader” for your set.

Though I am a conservative, my elderly father is so conservative that he makes James Woods look like Rob Reiner, albeit a much much thinner, nicer one. Yet when I visit Daddy in his Assisted Living facility, one of the things he never wants to miss is your talk show. Though I have driven 2500 miles from Arizona to rural Minnesota, that is no reason not to make me be quiet so that he can get his Ellen fix.

Anyway, my thoughts today turn to the vicious personal attacks on you that the Entertainment Media ghouls and professional grievance grubbers are more than happy to air in public. Everyone with even half a brain can trace these attacks to your unforgivable sin of sitting near an object of Forever Hate, i.e., George W. Bush.

But beyond that, what part of “work” do your colleagues or employees not understand? The sacred compact between employee and employer is this, kiddies: you agree to show up most days and mostly on time and do some work; the employer agrees to provide a regular paycheck. That’s it. You are not entitled to be “valued, affirmed, validated” or any other silly therapeutic words inflicted on the body politic, mostly by delicate women and diverse incompetents looking to hit the lottery in a discrimination lawsuit. Never underestimate envy and greed as motivators for bad behavior.

It happened that as I read the vague accounts of your alleged “sins,” I was instantly triggered by the egregious overuse and misuse of the word “toxic.” I am unusually sensitive on this subject because dozens of people I love – wonderful, supportive husband; smart, gentle son; the Daddy who gave me life; young male relatives, kind neighbors and beloved friends — are routinely labeled “toxic” simply for being male. I did not tolerate that kind of blanket smear against black or gay people and I won’t tolerate it against men or masculinity. And so my default position upon reading that yours is a “toxic” workplace environment is massive skepticism mixed with overt hostility.

There ARE actual “toxic” work environments: coal mining wherein thousands of courageous miners over the centuries perished from cave-ins and black lung disease. Shipyards, carpet factories, anywhere asbestos was used. Wherein hundreds of workers died of mesothelioma, a particularly horrible death involving great pain and misery with nothing to be done for it; Nike factories in Third World countries. Wherein youngsters and women slave in windowless, airless factories cranking out obscenely overpriced shoes so that kneeling millionaire ingrates can put their names on them.

Hey, Ellen Show employees: Check out the injury and death rate in the building trades and see if you’d rather be a skyscraper ironworker than being an underappreciated doughnut fetcher or guest scheduler at whom someone once raised her voice. Having someone be “rude” to you, is not toxic. Having someone reject your ideas if you happen to be darker than Ellen is not racist. Grow up, come up with better ideas, or get a different job.

Ellen, I am sorry that you felt it necessary to apologize and to take the accusations at face value. You realize, of course, that groveling never works anyway, right? The mob can never be mollified, particularly if it hopes a lucrative payday is within view. I saw one black guy chiming in who had worked for you for one three-year period and then again for a six-year stretch. Good grief! How intolerable must your reign have been for someone to stay for NINE YEARS and even leave and return? Oh, the humanity!

Instead of knuckling under to the whiners, I wish YOU had just quit. Even though Daddy’s world would be yet more shrunk. You have more money now than you can possibly spend the interest on. Why work with such a viper’s nest of backstabbers and ingrates? Let them find comparable work when the person without whom there is no show rides away into the sunset!

You and Portia could open a Dude(tte) Ranch, a Random Acts of Kindness charity, or just kick back for the rest of your lives. Retirement is more relaxing than you could ever imagine. You famously value being kind and sign off every show that way. Sadly, whenever one is kind to the cruel, that almost always ends with being cruel to the kind.

So one last thing: never forget that, at least for now, we vote in secret. You do not present as a vindictive person, but if you really want a little payback that would strike a blow against Cancel Culture, for freedom of speech, for the right to attend a ballgame with whomever you please, go into that voting booth, pull the curtain, and vote for Donald J. Trump. Our side only uses “toxic” as part of “intoxicated.” We get drunk on liberty as much as on champagne. We’d love to have you with us. Even secretly.

Thanks for all the laughs,
Susan Vass AKA Ammo Grrrll