This is a summer of strange celebrity juxtapositions.
First we had Angelina and Brad having their baby in Namibia, of all places, then actress Daryl Hannah protesting the closing of an urban L.A. farm from atop a walnut tree. Now this: Ann Coulter, the ice princess of arch-conservatism, sharing a couch with George Carlin, a crown prince of ’60s iconoclasm.
This odd coupling took place June 14 on “The Tonight Show,” though it didn’t set off the fireworks many may have expected, or hoped for. (The live audience, however, clearly included fans of Coulter. There was loud applause for her retorts, and only a few noticeable hisses.)
In the culture wars, opposing forces often parade their colors rather than join the battle. At best, the audience is entertained by one side and dismissive of the other. Enlightenment is another question.
But neither Carlin nor Coulter was on the show to pick a fight. He sat politely next to her on the couch. His only quip: “I never thought Ann Coulter would make me move to the right.”
Both were there for the same reason most everyone appears on talkshows these days: to tubthumb.
Carlin, who has reinvented himself several times in a 50-year career, voices a ’60s-style minivan in Pixar’s “Cars”; Coulter is flogging her latest book, “Godless: The Church of Liberalism.” The pic is No. 1 at the box office; the book is a bestseller.
It being latenight broadcast TV and not HBO or “Meet the Press,” these two word warriors were there to twirl rather than hurl their weapons.
For Carlin the appearance on Leno marked his 140th appearance on latenight TV, going back as far as Steve Allen and Jack Paar. Looking grizzled but fit, the comic regaled the aud with a Beat-inspired monologue cataloguing every cliche, ad slogan and tech tagline in the current vernacular.
“I’m a high-tech lowlife, a top gun bottom feeder, an alpha male on beta blockers, and out of rehab and in denial…” he quipped in his rhyming, rapid-fire riff.
Given the vituperation on the radio airwaves today (and his own potshots on HBO specials) Carlin’s shtick for Leno’s aud came across as more paean to personal defiance of the odds than political diatribe.
For her part, Coulter appeared cool, collected and on point, seemingly bent on making the most of her exposure via the mainstream media she professes to loathe. Though demure and dolled-up, she didn’t quite seem to get that she was on latenight TV and not “Hannity & Colmes.”
Turning a Leno joke about her on its head, she said she was like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” having, she claimed, “just dropped my house on the mainstream media.”
Whether calculated or not, the thin, tall, blond Coulter comes across as a brainy Paris Hilton. And like Hilton, she appears impervious to criticism and single-minded in her pursuit of self-promotion.
Coulter expressed surprise that her critics have focused on her description of 9/11 widows as harpies — her statement “I’ve never seen people enjoying their husbands’ deaths so much” has raised the most outcry — rather than on the fact that she calls her liberal opponents “godless.”
Her point? Apparently, that you can’t respond to such victims, and that putting such victims forward is a liberal strategy to stifle debate.
Why does current political discourse have to be so nasty, Leno wondered. Coulter countered that it was not more civil in the old days — just more of a monopoly of the liberal establishment.
Like Dan Quayle, she said, “I wear their contempt as a badge of honor.”