Exasperating internet pundit Cenk Uygur (pronounced Jenk YU-gur) has been self-documenting his unconventional career for years. In Mad as Hell, his many behind-the-scenes photos and videos from his early years in public access television and satellite radio eventually flow into director Andrew Napier’s footage of Uygur’s rise from YouTube fame to MSNBC fill-in slots and his career apex: a short-lived slot on Al Gore’s Current TV.
But if Napier hadn’t shown up with a camera, Uygur would likely have continued filming himself, because his “firebrand” commentary is only ostensibly about politics; it’s mostly about projecting the world onto his own ego and making it Cenk Uygur–shaped. How else to interpret the actions of a man who named his own son Prometheus Maximus Uygur? Who once, before an interview, introduced Connie Chung as “the irrepressibly sexy Connie Chung”? Who gives ridiculous football-coach speeches about his show’s status as the “number one online news program in the world” to staff that don’t believe him?
Napier captures Uygur’s techs in the control room wincing, pinching the bridges of their noses, holding their foreheads — many confide that deep down, they know he’s full of shit. Politically, Uygur’s positions never seem to matter: A conservative Republican as a young man, he transformed into a liberal in the mid-1990s, but his self-projecting style never changes.
The hypocrisy of wanting a show on MSNBC, the network he criticizes in scorched-earth terms, never occurs to him. Even his team misses some of the irony: “It would be great if we became huge, but then we’d become a bunch of assholes,” says Wesley Clark Jr., while wearing an Ed Hardy T-shirt.