6.24.97

What happens when Morton Downey, Jr. and Joan Rivers have a love-child and equip it with tornado-proof hair? Ruby Wax, that's what. For the uninitiated, Ruby Wax is Fox's new chat-show diva, bustling into prime time with a foul mouth and unkempt persona, daring the Fourth Network to bleep her at least twice a sentence. Ruby is now what passes for outrageous, and let's just say outrageous has seen better days.

Not that the show isn't somewhat appealing. Last night Ruby interviewed Lisa Kudrow, Bret Butler and John Goodman, and behaved disarmingly enough to give fluff-piece viewers a vague notion of what these people might actually be like; Kudrow seemed goofy with youth and blondeness, Butler seemed tough and unhappy, and Goodman seemed painfully shy. That's a helluva lot better than, say, NBC's Human Chin does on a good night.

But much of Wax's schtick is about ten years late. Is it hilarious any longer to watch Americans make fun of Japanese tourists? Or to see Ruby and Kudrow trying to get Buckingham Palace guards to giggle? Or to hear homophobic asides at every turn? (typical moment: Wax kisses Butler on both cheeks, then turns to the camera and says, "We're not lesbians." Huh?) Ruby is obviously trying very hard to be wild and crazy. She touches guests incessantly, laughs like a hyena, talks about sex. Gosh! Fox found an interviewer who isn't afraid to curse a lot, or go ga-ga over Jean-Claude Van Damme's pecs!

The most shocking aspect of this show is that it barely registers on the Shock-O-Meter. Didn't we all go see Private Parts? Howard Stern's been doing this---and, save us, much better---for a dozen years. Watching Geraldo take left hooks to the mustache, now that was shocking. Seeing a middle-aged Jewish woman vamp her way through a tango, that's nauseating. And yet Ms. Wax is sold on the basis of her offensiveness? People, please. As Dennis Miller once said about Andrew Dice Clay: "What are we getting so excited about? It's Fonzie with Turet's Syndrome."