Celebrity Apprentice: Dual Deception

Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth. —Oscar Wilde


The public life of a celebrity is close to that of a puppet: a figure, rendered to broadcast certain cultural tropes as directly as possible, is made highly visible to distract from the engineering of the handlers behind the curtain. Every naturalistic gesture is considered, every moment meant to be viewed, to be judged. Whether the hands that manipulate the figure are the same ones that crafted the puppet, or whether the puppet is subject to the dictations of an unseen team, it exists outside the realm of the personal and the authentic. The puppet is a considered reflection, a being in pursuit of an ultimate goal of becoming an icon, an emblem carved into the cultural ceiling of our collective church of fame.

The saturation of access to celebrities has made it possible to separate the puppets from their handlers, to tangle their strings and see their blank-eyed duplicity fall limply to the ground, allowing us to howl with laughter as the puppeteers scramble to regain control over the marred image that results. Whether through Twitter overshares or viral videos of our once-revered puppets drunkenly singing into a cheeseburger, the awkwardness and pain of those exposed nerves of truth have become the soul of new media. They are the life force of that lumbering circus giant, reality TV. To see this high-wire moment of scrambling to maintain the puppet, literally borne out in an improv puppeteer performance last night on The Celebrity Apprentice was mind-blowing.

And meta: Trump is nothing more than an aggrandized puppet master to this sad and downtrodden cavalcade of B-list celebrities. The Celebrity Apprentice is his chance to snatch these puppets from the hands of their puppeteers/handlers/managers and sit with them in his small theater, one doll in each hand, cackling at his own Punch and Judy routine as his children sit by, grateful that his sadistic pleasures have an outlet that doesn't affect them. This week, he stirred the teams to an awkward pitch before even starting the challenge by asking them who they'd want on their team, and then switching Clay without any regard to the requests. Later, in the boardroom, we watched him carefully pull the strings of conversation this way and that to make the desperate, would-be apprentices turn on each other. His lavender-haired son (who always seems to have blood just inside his lips, as though he bites his tongue continually) and eerily beautiful daughter Ivanka gave practiced performances, manipulating the celebrities and later voicing their judgement of the poor moppets' very souls to Trump, as dispassionately as if they were judging wines at a tasting.

These celebrities are in an untenable position where they must satisfy two audiences at once, and in doing so, like a puppeteer turning his back, reveal the mechanics of their illusion to one audience or the other. They must present a sympathetic, "real" self to the reality audience, and a no-nonsense, capable, and "professional" self to the audience of their peers/team/challengers without the layers of managers and stylists and handlers that make the professional self possible. This task is similar to asking a puppet to rise from the ground and start performing without any physical aid, simply because we believe in its reality.

Lisa understands the commerce of uncomfortable truth better than anyone. She is trying to satisfy the duality of her role by keeping two masks on hand and switching them schizophrenically. One minute she is the tells-it-like-it-is insult comic, making a completely unnecessary aside about Debbie Gibson laying a "four-alarm dump" to win the sympathy of the men on the team (who she mistakenly assumes are as violently misogynistic as she is). Then, in the boardroom, she thrusts on the shoddily constructed mask of the Crying Clown, a heartbroken jokester who's sad because she made a "girl" cry. See?! Her hatefulness is the big floppy puppet, but the puppeteer is a sensitive clown...that is the illusion she attempted to pull over on us last night.

Lisa, you fool no one. You don't care about making people laugh OR cry, you care about upping your per-appearance fee for a job you apparently despise. (Her constant griping about doing stand-up comedy for the last 22 years like it's a prison sentence—that's not someone who loves comedy.) Somewhere along the line the most primitive part of Lisa's brain seized on Dayana and wired her pleasure centers to seeing Dayana feel as sad as Lisa is inside. Whatever mask you assume, Lisa, the bitterness in your brain is like a writhing nest of poisonous snakes that occasionally shoot out through your eye holes.

Lisa's neurotic hatred of Dayana reached its zenith when she lambasted Dayana for wanting a job "in front of the cameras"...as if Lisa wasn't painfully aware of the reality cameras that were filming them that very minute, with her makeup as carefully applied as dressings to a wound. Penn and Clay deserve a little tsk-tsk for not speaking up for Dayana to Lisa's crazy face. It's clear that Dayana has become a punching bag with the face of the world sewn onto it for Lisa's twisted psyche.

Aubrey O'Day mirrors Lisa's contempt for her female teammates, although she had the good sense to side with Theresa in the boardroom, giving the show, which is heading into its last weeks, a female majority. But any notions of solidarity were completely undermined by a series of horrifyingly condescending remarks, including:

1. Theresa is not a quick thinker.

2. Theresa has a childlike spirit and brain.

3. Theresa gives all the ideas in her head to the team and all of them are worthless.

Theresa's mask of calm stayed in place. Theresa has clearly made a lot of progress in dealing with her temper.

To speculate about who deserves the dubious honor of not getting fired is to not understand the stakes of this series. The real game here is to see how well these figures can wield the faded puppets of their once-impressive personae as they continue to batter each others' egos.


QUESTIONS:

– Did y'all recognize improv genius Colleen Smith?! She was teaching Arsenio and Theresa and if you collected everything she said to them about improv it would be equal to taking two improv classes.

– What is Lisa's problem with Dayana? Did you hear that she called her a racial slur in a recent interview?

– Aubrey O'Day: Seriously condescending, right? Should Lisa have turned her over in the boardroom?

– Didn't you kind of wish that you could see Arsenio and Clay Aiken do puppet improv together? Clay was seriously impressive.

Comments (15)
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I posted this a few weeks back:

"Aghh, Lisa really annoys me with her ranting about Dayana, good lord, she is just an angry old hag that sees in Dayana all she couldnt ever be. I, like Arsenio, googled many of the "celebrities", and found out about Lisa that she is a bully and a big mouthed angry biatch. Now, I will never understand why ppl thinks that being Though = Ruthless, that's how I think Lisa sees things, she wasnt graced by nature with good looks, kindness or candidness, so she resourced to use her mouth in the worst possibly negative way, she one day woke up and decided "I will be ruthless, that way I will hurt ppl before they can hurt me, I wont even give them tha chance to be nice to me, becasue I simply don't care", oh poor Lisa, has big selfesteem issues, so she fixes her hatred in miss universe because is the easy target, soft mouthed, pretty-dumb beauty queen, and she was so convinced by her own first impression of her, that won't even consider for a second that she was wrong!!!"



I still think the same, and are pretty sure it will stay that way.

About the racial slur against Dayana, it's just sad; Lisa, I'm sure would never ever call Arsenio the "N" word, so I wonder, what makes her think that the word "Sp*c" is less offensive than that? Well, is not, she just doesn't give a damn, and to quote Mr. T, I pity you fool!!!

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-Didn't notice.

-Nothing about Lisa surprises me. She's a despicable human being. Sad, pathetic, and about as funny as ...no, not even that funny. She's an unhappy individual who may possibly need psychological help.Her irrational hatred towards Dayana once again came full force when she exploded for no reason. Unprovoked and all, and then got pissed that no one agreed with her.

-Aubrey and Lisa can go bungee jump off the Brooklyn bridge and dangle there until decency slaps them in the face twice over.

-I did. I like the bromance that is Arsenio and Clay. Claysenio. Arslay? No?
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I think Lisa had a good chance of winning initially, but she's portrayed herself to be beyond emotional and irrational in her hate of Dayana. She explodes at others for no reason, you have to wonder about her mental state. I don't see Trump giving it to an unstable person. Aubrey may be creative, but her juvenile attitude and immaturity overshadow everything. I don't see her winning either. Both women are only there for the drama.



I'm just glad that the rest of the contestants have made it really entertaining, and I'm hooked. I'd like to see Arsenio and Clay or Penn and Clay in the finals.



Lily, I really enjoyed your recap. You were spot-on on many points. I look forward to more recaps!
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Almost assuredly Lisa Lampanelli will be in the finale (though my other initial pick of George Takei is long gone). She's about the only competent one besides Aubrey. Her complaint with Dayana is that Dayana's out of her element; they simply always have Miss Universe since The Donald owns the thing.

And it was nice to see Seinfeld "Wig Master"/CYE Larry's Producers choreographer Patrick Bristow.

But as to Lisa 'griping about' stand-up, the writer couldn't be more wrong. She's not bitching about doing the work; she's bitching that people who've done far less work try to act like they should be showcasing their comedy/improv skills ahead of Lisa.
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Seriously, Lily, I wish you wrote ALL of the reviews for TV.com.
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it's pretty clear what "the apprentice" has devolved into.



No longer is it seriously trying to find the "person" who is the most successful leader and team player.



If you cause enough commotion, you stay another week. If you try to play with dignity (as Paul Senior uncharacteristically did) you get eliminated. Period.
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True. George Takei sure was shown the door quickly.
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The only problem with your premise is that George really sucked at being Project Manager & deserved to get the boot. Paul, as well, altho effective on other challenges, did not step up this week at all.
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Watch The Apprentice UK, which actually takes the premise of the "game" seriously. Talented young business people compete to become partners with a millionaire based on an idea they develop themselves.
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/ Viper is definitely Lisa, a truly nasty piece of work. She'd throw her own mother under the bus. She'd steal a child's juice box and blame it on someone else. Ouch, I'd hate to be near someone like that, insults aside she oversteps the bounds, reminds me of those monkeys that throw sh#$ at people. Kill them with kindness is a phrase this person doesn't understand.
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The picture of Lisa as a snake is perfect. I don't care about how much editing is being done in this show, Lisa has some serious issues. I was never a real fan of her comedy because I don't find that making fun of people/hurting people is funny. She should make fun of herself in her act because she'd have plenty of material for that.



Aubrey - now there is someone that I could go on and on about for pages but I won't. I had no clue who she was before this show and would never care to see again after it's over. The only thing that would have made the picture of her better would have been if you had put 2 heads on her. She is the epitome of a two-timing, backstabbing b***h. She can't stand if anyone gets attention if it's not her. When she has made a positive comment about someone (very far and few between), it's very short-lived. She is someone that really needs her last couple minutes of fame and she's going to take it anyway she can. Her jealousy of everyone on the show (male and female) is laughingly obvious.



I do think that seeing Clay and Arsenio doing the improv together would have been great. These are 2 guys that actually know what this show is about and are playing it well. I also think that anything they, or anyone else that has said anything about Aubrey, was right on the money. Every week she shows more and more that these guys have been right on.



Great article!
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Now THAT'S what I call a review! Great job Lily, how you managed to articulate the essense of this truely horrible but compulsive show so well I'll never know but you did.
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I just joined TV.com so I could say how beautifully written and thoughtful your "recap" is. Kudos.
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1) She looked familiar, but I couldn't place her.



2) It would be more surprising if Lisa DIDN'T use a slur to describe somebody, whether she's being interviewed or not. She's a bigot, and not a 'pretend' bigot either, but the real deal, and that's how bigots think and speak. Last night, Clay repeatedly defended her on twitter, only to have her pay him back today by telling another radio interviewer that he's a "manipulative queen."



3) Huh? Lisa wasn't with her in the boardroom... Confused now...



4) Yes, Clay was amazing, and it would have been much more fun to see him working with Arsenio instead of carrying Lisa's dead weight to victory.
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I can't stand Lisa Lampinelli. I am sure sure some people find her brand of comedy funny, but I aint one. However I can see her winning the entire thing
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