I can’t get on board with this argument. “Stuff White People Like” is far from a perfect thing, but I don’t think its fault lies in not getting satire right. Also, did Arsenio actually ever do that joke?
Sternbergh is annoyingly smug, but as someone who’s a bit baffled that some of her smart friends think SWPL has lasting appeal, I think he’s got a fair point about the masturbatory element:
Instead, with this brand of comedy, the goal is to comfort, rather than challenge or disturb, the audience. (Other things widely known to be funny-because-they’re-true: Britney Spears is a bad mom; cats are standoffish, while dogs are blindly loyal; women love shopping, while men can’t get enough sex. Are you with me? The ladies know what I’m talking about!)
That said, I don’t know if Arsenio ever did that joke, but I know it’s the foundation of Tracey Jordan’s act, and the fact that Sternbergh dropped a 15 year stale reference when a current one was readily available doesn’t bode well for the overall relevance of his argument.