by Julian Spivey
Young viewers across the country were traumatized this week when the feud between Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Big Bird of "Sesame Street" came to a head ... literally.
On this week’s episode of the long-running PBS children’s show, that now broadcasts its first run episode on the HBO Max streaming service, Big Bird opened the episode with his usual smile on his face, but the gruesome sight of Cruz’s severed head in his hand.
Big Bird, the eight-foot-two inch yellow giant canary who made his “Sesame Street” debut on the very first episode of the show in 1969, spoke right into the camera and said, “let this be a lesson that if you come for the Street, you best be prepared to tussle.”
The Republican Sen. Cruz had fired the first social media shots at Big Bird on Sunday, Nov. 7 when he retweeted Big Bird’s tweet about receiving the Covid-19 vaccine with the statement: “Government propaganda…for your 5 year old.”
“Sesame Street” is paid for in part by the federal government with half of its $8 million budget split between the Office of Education and the Office of Economic Opportunity.
Big Bird has been helping kids from the U.S. with vaccine fears since at least 1972.
Some parents worried that the move from PBS to HBO and later HBO Max could lead to a less wholesome show due to frequent HBO shows featuring mature language, sex and nudity and violence - like the Emmy-winning and fan-favorite drama “Game of Thrones.” Some of those fears were proven dramatically with the horrific image of Cruz’s head on screen.
At the time of this reporting Cruz’s dismembered body has not yet been located, but the head was recovered in Oscar the Grouch’s home/trash can.
by Aprille Hanson-Spivey
Gabriel Iglesias admitted during his “Beyond The Fluffy Tour Go Big or Go Home” to the University of Central Arkansas in Conway Nov. 2 that a key ingredient in his comedy was not being divisive -- avoiding politics, religion and sports. But it doesn’t mean his comedy didn’t have some edge to it, attacking cancel culture from several different angles, but in a way that kept the audience laughing.
It’s been quite a number of years since I’ve seen any comedy specials of Iglesias and the first time attending his stand up. There were less food jokes than I expected -- after all, he basically coined the “I’m not fat, I’m fluffy” phrase that people still use today -- but of course, food was brought up. In one story, which still has me rolling, he talked about getting his COVID-19 vaccine at a drive-up clinic. He was also very quick to point out he wasn’t advocating or not advocating for the vaccine, treading very carefully on a variety of topics, almost unnecessarily. I do think comedians are under a very specific microscope, which he lamented during his set, but I also think he may have worked a little hard on explaining how everyone should just do what they feel is right. Now, he brought up several times how UCA monitored what he was allowed to say, so that might have been part of the reason. I really hope the campus didn’t muzzle him too much and truthfully, that may just be part of his comedy -- to razz the colleges a bit when he does stand up in that kind of venue.
Iglesias explained that while he was waiting following his shot, a woman walked up to his car and started yelling at him for getting vaccinated, saying he had no idea what he just put in his body. Which of course led to the one-liner, “Bitch, I eat bologna.”
Iglesias is also always strong when he’s doing impressions -- whether it was imitating a Hollywood studio exec or the reactions of his Black male and female fans when they meet him. Yes, I’m aware, that could very well be cringeworthy and get him “canceled.” He was aware too and basically told us all to relax, but in a funny, comedian-inspired way. And it was hilarious, without a hint of malice.
While Iglesias didn’t want to be divisive, he had no problem taking on the idea of cancel culture -- basically “canceling” someone’s celebrity status or opinion if it doesn’t conform to what society views is the right opinion. Sometimes, it makes sense. Other times, it’s a little overkill. It’s clear that Iglesias feels it’s too much. For example, he tagged Chick-fil-A in a tweet about getting his two Chihuahuas -- one, who is 17 and has lived that long because of pure rage, as he explained -- some chicken nuggets. It unleashed a firestorm, as he had no idea the company’s stance on LGBTQ issues. The story was less funny, but a more reflection and I do think the constant stories about being irritated about cancel culture clouded his comedy a bit.
Iglesias voiced Speedy Gonzalez in the new “Space Jam,” which was almost threatened by cancel culture, with some feeling Gonzalez was racially insensitive. But, he was quick to point out, at least in his family, it was accurate and having the representation of a beloved Mexican-based character was important. Iglesias did almost benefit from cancel culture, when his friend Kevin Hart was removed from his Oscar-hosting gig. He had submitted his jokes to see if he could host it and based on his opening line of how it’s another example of a Mexican stepping in to do the job, he would have been fantastic.
He broached the topic of his split from longtime partner Claudia Valdez, when her son Frankie, now in his early 20s, asked him not to make him the focus of his comedy anymore.
The stand-up was funny, but I think also -- and maybe even more so -- therapeutic for Iglesias. He got to share about the pitfalls of his life throughout the last couple years, while gently, but firmly arguing against things he thought were not right in society. It was a tightrope balance, as he admitted most of the cancel culture crowd were likely college-aged students.
The two openers Martin Moreno and Alfred Robles, were the perfect blend to ease the crowd into Iglesias’ set. It was certainly a set worth seeing, but at a certain price point. Or better yet, catching it during his next Netflix special.