Amusing Times

I’m listening to the amazing podcasts by Ricky Gervais, star of Office and Extras, brought to us by Guardian Unlimited. Ricky and mate Steve Merchant prod the empty space inside Karl Pilkington very round head about monkey news and “the penile habits of Papua New Guineans.” It’s weird and hilarious and popular.

Could you imagine The New York Times doing this? I can’t. Any American paper or news organization would fret over brand and credibility: “Well, who’s fact-checking and copy-editing this monkey news?”

But in Britain, I imagine the Guardian editors coming up with this idea and saying, “Brilliant, let’s have a go!” The Guardian respects its readers-turned-listeners enough to get the joke and getting Gervais to amuse them is quite the coup. So this opens all sorts of horizons for a newspaper as news-and-entertainment venture.

When you think about it, why shouldn’t The Times have produced Seinfeld: sophisticated New York jokes for sophisticated New Yorkers? ntourage would have been a hit for the LA Times. Maybe the Washington Post should make the sitcom based on Ana Marie Cox’s book. EBut don’t get stuck in my sitcom rut: Just make a podcast, like Gervais’ or a vlog like Rocketboom or simply promote those who do. Maybe your credibility is about sharing the good stuff. Maybe your brand is about becoming a gathering place for people of intelligence who share interests and taste…. and a sense of humor.

On second thought… Newspaper people are not, as a rule, a barrel of monkeys.

(Full disclosure: I write a column for the Guardian but they don’t pay enough for me to suck up to them. I just like the Gervaiscast.)

: A QUESTION inspired by this comment: Who should play Maureen Dowd in the sitcom that is The Tiems?