Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Genius of Andy Rooney

At the age of 90, Andy Rooney is a new media genius. For the past 33 seasons (33 seasons!), Rooney has been the resident crank on CBS's venerable news magazine "60 Minutes" and during this time he has established himself as the wry, grumbling conscience of American culture. Now, as the media landscape expands at a rapid clip and information is disseminated and reconstituted by millions of different sources, Rooney stands alone as a shining example of how to maintain total control over one's media presence.

Today, a person's image can be hijacked and re-purposed at a frantic pace--just ask Sarah Palin, who went from hockey-loving GOP savior to clueless, "oh, geez" MILF in a matter of days last year. The only real way to combat the wired wildfire of our digital age is to be You better than anyone on earth can be You. This is what Andy Rooney does so well. Even if someone can conjure a spot-on Andy Rooney impression, it's still not as enjoyable or wonky as watching the real Andy Rooney do his famous "60 Minutes" monologues.

Here's a recent clip (via TheAwl) in which Rooney says emphatically, "You can do everything on your computer now"...

There have been celebrities in the past that have successfully taken their image from the hands of the mediaverse but most of them have done so because they have so irreparably damaged their identities as to render the media attention no fun. Amy Winehouse, for example, was able to effectively take her name off the cover of Us but only because her repeated drug use (and the repeated documentation of it) turned from being a shame to just being sad. (Lady GaGa is the only current celebrity that comes to mind that achieves a Rooney-esque ability to outdo the critics and imitators).

Rooney's trademark desk slump and baffled delivery make him both an instantly recognizable icon and a figure that is so utterly himself as to remain above the fray.

Of course, Rooney's steely ability to control his image doesn't necessarily keep people from doing impressions. Here's Jimmy Fallon's recent, very funny take on the master...

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