Brad Berens laments the loss of shared moments in media. He has a point, but I think he attributes too much importance to shared media experiences. A few years ago, I too was convinced the echo chamber effect was quite pronounced, but I saw a glimmer of hope when I took a look at some data from Claria that showed that even political blog audiences cross-pollinated points of view a lot more than I thought possible. I figured that if lefty and righty bloggers and blog readers - who would be my leading suspects as far as crystallization of the echo chamber effect goes - can voluntarily expose themselves to alternative points of view, other folks probably can and do as well. I haven't worried about the echo chamber effect much since.
While I'm at it, since I find it incredibly annoying when people take issue with tangential examples I use in my articles instead of attacking my main point, I figure I'll annoy Brad by ridiculing him for shutting off The Aristocrats after 20 minutes. Like Brad and his wife, I watched this at home and not at a movie theater, but unlike Brad, I LOVED it.
I first heard about the movie from my cousin Al, who appreciated it for what it was - not a comedy, but a documentary about the function that the aristocrats joke performs. At its core, the tragically unfunny joke represents a great way for comedians to compare comedic chops. It's a joke that comedians can take a great amount of latitude with, and the comedy comes from the setup. In the end, the joke is on the person who the joke is being told to, as they sometimes wait 20 minutes for a punchline that punctuates a truly shitty joke. The value is all in the setup, and a truly funny comedian can keep the listener engaged and expecting a big finish. Take Bob Saget, for instance. Most people think of him as a guy who would never say a dirty word in his life. In the documentary, he tells an over-the-top version of the joke that is completely out of character for him, and thus, funny as hell.
That's what it's all about.