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'30 Rock': Master of Puppets

October 30, 2009 |  7:16 am

There’s at least one positive thing I can say about last night’s “30 Rock”:  Larry the Cable Guy didn't show up. In this week's disappointing episode, Liz and Jack went on a road trip to Kenneth’s hometown—Stone Mountain, Ga.—to find out what “real Americans” find funny. They head to a local comedy club, where “Rick Wayne” (played by the real-life puppeteer and Comedy Central star Jeff Dunham) is performing.  His insult-slinging puppet quickly shatters all Jack’s illusions of the kindness and simplicity of middle America.

Now, before I continue, a confession: Even though he’s got the biggest video ever on YouTube, I had no idea who Jeff Dunham was until two weeks ago, when a (completely aghast) friend sent me a clip of his “Achmed the Dead Terrorist” bit from Jay Leno. Call me a coastal elite, but I was in shock that this guy was on national TV.  He’s offensive, to be sure, but what’s worse was that he just struck me as painfully unfunny.  I’ve always assumed that everyone hates clowns, mimes and puppets, but I guess not.  Maybe even more so than politics, evolution or "pop" versus "soda,"  there’s a divide in this country between what people think is funny.  What’s that all about?

So it was a bummer last night when he showed up on my beloved “30 Rock,” the least funny part of a sub-par episode. I couldn’t help but wonder if his inclusion was the result of pressure at NBC.  Did they force Dunham on the show for a momentary blip in the ratings? Or was this just another super self-aware joke about the state of the comedy world from the “30 Rock” writing team? In any case, it seems like all the jokes about the “real America” are getting a little tired. “30 Rock” should embrace what it is, and stop worrying about what it isn’t.

Elsewhere on last night’s episode, Tracy was in a panic, convinced that he would be the next celebrity to die after two others bite the bullet. They always die in threes, as everyone knows, so Tracy tries to kill (in his own hilarious, non-threatening way) Betty White and Jimmy Fallon.  Meanwhile, Jenna makes obvious attempts to ingratiate herself to the writing staff, who in turn are trying to find out where all the slutty, drunk girls hang out on Halloween.  The answer: with the gays.

All in all, I thought it was a letdown of an episode.  But on the bright side, it looks like everyone’s favorite “Top Chef” host and literary ex-wife, Padma Lakshmi , will be guest-starring in a few weeks.  It might just be enough to make me forget the whole Jeff Dunham thing.

What did you think of this episode?  Am I overreacting, or was it pretty lame? Do you think Jeff Dunham is funny?

Best Joke:  The first celebrity that Tracy tries to off is Betty White, but she’s wise to his scheming. “Is this a ‘rule of three’ call?”  She’s also reading Jimmy Carter.  Love her.

Nerdiest Reference: 
I can’t be sure, but I think Cerie’s Halloween costume—“I’m a Italian senator”—was a Berlusconi joke.  Can someone please explain?

Most Meta Moment:  Kenneth says “He died doing what he loved: blogging on the Huffington Post.”  Alec Baldwin is a prolific blogger.

Meanest Thing Jack Said to Liz:  “Good god Lemon, your breath.  When did you find time to eat a diaper you found on the beach?”

--Meredith Blake

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Photo: Kenneth gets into the Halloween spirit, but keeps his tie on.

Credit: NBC