I’m pretty picky about who I think is allowed to make fun of America. John Stewart: fine. Journalists: hard to tell when they’re joking. Foreigners: not cool. An American making fun of American stereotypes is funny (Dave Chappelle, for example), but anyone not lovingly satirizing the grand ol’ U.S. of A. is kind of offensive.
Unless, of course, it’s actually funny.
If Tracey Ullman wasn’t so dead-on with her impersonations of celebrities, politicians and regular American folk, the British expatriate (now officially a U.S. citizen) might have gotten some criticism from yours truly. However, her new show, “Tracey Ullman’s State of the Union,” on Showtime is about as accurate as it is hilarious. She is indeed making fun of America, but using the same ingredients as our favorite American comics (recipe: 3 parts love, 2 parts brutal honesty, 1 part excellent David Beckham impression). Watching a Brit making fun of Nancy Pelosi and outrageous celebrity behavior may feel unpatriotic at first, but come on in, the satire’s fine!
Our extravagant lifestyles, obnoxious adherence to basic human rights and not-so-clever Head of State make us a punch line hard to pass up, even by those on our own soil. Ironically, humorists seem to be the only ones getting it right: Stewart/Stephen Colbert and SNL can do no wrong in the eyes of young Americans when it comes to critiquing American politics and current events. So it’s time for us (U.S.) to allow a few non-biased comedians to help us make fun of ourselves (though, unless you knew it beforehand, you may never have known Ullman to be from the mother country).
In her hour-long show, Ullman portrays American life the way it really is: a little bit dirty (we have lots of farm land) and really cheesy (we also love cheese). Ullman has said she toured America for inspiration and that all of her characters are based on real people. Some of them you may recognize (Arianna Huffington, Dina Lohan and Victoria Beckham) and others you know must exist somewhere (a woman who serially marries men on death row, an overzealous reporter and an immigrant worker). All of her sketches are woven artfully together with common themes and American ideals, and include singing and dancing (did I mention the great Beckham bit?).
Ultimately, Ullman seeks to create portraits of American life that are authentic (not always flattering) but all in good fun. The show is funny not just because Americans are ridiculous (although some are), but because humans are, in general, ridiculous creatures. “State of the Union” isn’t just about mocking the powerful and powerless citizens of the U.S. It’s about the human experience, which happens to be funnier than we often imagine.
Allison Baker is an English senior, pop-culture enthusiast and Mustang Daily columnist.