William Shatner, 21st Century Buddha

Shatner is more popular than ever because he no longer takes himself so seriously.

William Shatner’s hilarious send-up of Sarah Palin’s resignation speech is making the rounds, and deservedly so. It’s an instant classic, but it’s also quite touching.

For years after Star Trek ended, Shatner spent a good bit of time trying to persuade the public that he was a great actor. Perhaps the greatest and most pathetic example of this was “The Transformed Man,” a spoken word album that probably set the record for unintentional self-parody: many of the tracks had Shatner doing Shakespeare. The harder he tried, the more laughable he became.

And then, some time in the early 90’s, he decided to play along with the game. I first noticed it during those ads for priceline.com. Shatner’s job in those ads was to make fun of William Shatner. And it worked — brilliantly. After a few years, priceline tried to move to a new ad campaign but it couldn’t because everyone loved old Bill so much. So he came back, and parodied himself by pretending that his replacement would be Leonard Nimoy. He did much the same thing with cameo appearances on Saturday Night Live. His character in the first Miss Congeniality was pretty much the same thing, as well as Denny Crane.

That’s what is so great about the Shatner Palin send-up. He is also parodying himself, and genuinely seems to be enjoying it. He’s at peace with himself. Captain Kirk has beamed down to Planet Nirvana.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.