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ASSUME makes an ASS of U and ME

Review of: Assume the Position with Mr. Wuhl

   What if you took a college classroom full of glassy eyed history students and replaced their dried up cadaver of a professor with an energetic, witty comedian who knows history? It sounds great doesn’t it? Wouldn’t you love a funny teacher who cut to the chase and told you the truth behind all those myths you heard in school? I’m going to “assume the position” that this is what comedian Robert Wuhl was attempting to do with his HBO special. As a strong believer that history can and must be entertaining in the modern era, I was really looking forward to Mr. Wuhl’s efforts. Unfortunately, what ended up on the screen was a comic willing to abandon facts in order to get a laugh, truth be darned. Example: Mr. Wuhl asserts that New York Governor Lord Cornbury’s (1701) official portrait in the New York Historical Society shows that he was a transvestite. The painting that is shown, however, is a painting of unknown subject or origin; it is obviously not Lord Cornbury. The accusation that Cornbury (an incredibly unpopular and apparently corrupt Governor) was a transvestite came from a story told around 100 years later by a woman who said she heard it from someone else. But let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good joke.

   Mr. Wuhl goes on to explain how Paul Revere is only famous because Longfellow needed a name that rhymed with “hear” and “year,” which shows a dangerous ignorance of Revere’s importance in the early Revolution. He tells how the Constitution is really lame because it begins with what he refers to as a “grammatical f**k up” when it says “a more perfect union” (in truth it was completely acceptable use of the word in the era), and how the Revolution was a bunch of rich white guys who didn’t want to pay their taxes (don’t get me started). By the end of the hour you spend with Mr. Wuhl the “facts” that stick in your mind are anything but facts, and the laughs you have shared are at the expense of truth. Even his story about the entomology of the word s**t is itself utter s**t.  To prove that he is still cool and edgy, Wuhl drops the F bomb, which apparently is to college students what fart jokes are to Jr. High students, several times during the show.

    Robert Wuhl is a talented comedian, actor and writer, but his course in history gets an F+. The plus is because I hope some of his students were convinced that history can be fun; the F is because I fear his students may believe that what they heard is history,

   Assume the Position with Mr. Wuhl was produced by HBO and is available on DVD.




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