Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Want To Make Political Humor That's Funny? Target Self-Importance And Hypocrisy.

I try (not always successfully) to avoid politics.  As a young Michael Jordan once noted after being asked to endorse a Democratic candidate, "Republicans buy shoes too."  But one thing I have noted is is the liberal (in the US political sense, not the classical "The Economist" sense) tendencies of most comedians and humorists.

Frank Rich tackles the topic of the missing conservative comedians in his recent New York magazine piece:

"Conservative comedy is hard to find on television once you get past the most often cited specimen, Dennis Miller. But is this shortfall the fault of a left-wing conspiracy to banish brilliant dissident talent from pop culture’s center stage? As a conservative Christian stand-up, Brad Stine, has argued, people think “the left is funnier than the right” solely because the right hasn’t been “given the same options.” Or are conservative comedians languishing in obscurity because they just don’t have the comic chops to compete with Colbert, Jon Stewart, and their many brethren? What do conservatives find funny, anyway? Is the very notion of a conservative comedian an oxymoron, given that comedy by definition is often the revenge of underdogs against the privileged? If the powerful pick on the less powerful, or worse, the powerless, are the jokes doomed to come off as bratty, if not just plain mean?"

Rich lays out in gory detail numerous failed (and frankly, embarrassing) attempts at conservative humor.  I didn't even realize that Fox News had tried to produce a "humorous" Daily Show/Colbert competitor, "The 1/2-Hour News Hour," the worst-rated program ever according to Metacritic.

Of course, conservatives have no monopoly on unfunny political humor.  Plenty of formerly funny liberal comedians gave into their preachy sides and become dour party-poopers (this means you, Janeane Garofalo, Senator Al Franken, and Keith Olbermann).  My favorite comment on this phenomenon may be The Onion's 2004 piece on the formerly comedic talk show host Bill Maher, "Bill Maher Spends All Night Arguing With Republican Hooker" (mildly NSFW).

The real secret is well known to bipartisan takedown artists like The Onion and South Park: target self-importance and hypocrisy.

Attacking a person for their beliefs isn't universally funny, because doing so implicitly attacks the beliefs of a significant chunk of your audience.

But slamming a person for being a blow-hard or hypocrite?  That's something everyone can enjoy.

Don't like Alec Baldwin?  Don't attack him for his liberal politics, make fun of the hypocrisy of visiting Occupy Wall Street, then shilling for Capital One.

Tied of hearing Al Gore's voice?  Point out that the global warming crusader made a fortune selling his startup, Current, to oil-funded Al Jazeera.  Excelsior!

It's the equivalent of the gift that keeps on giving for liberal comedians, the seemingly endless stream of conservative homophobes who are revealed to be secretly homosexual.

Comedy has always thrived by poking fun of the powerful; if there really is a vast left-wing conspiracy, conservative comedians should climb down off their high horse and aim for that rich target.

P.S. Since this is a post about comedy, here's the funniest video of all time.

UPDATE: I figured it would be good to provide a list of comedians who are Republicans:
  • Drew Carey
  • Adam Sandler (well, he was funny once upon a time)
  • Vince Vaughn
  • Larry Miller
  • Yakov Smirnoff (I guess he doesn't like Communists)
  • Joan Rivers (residual loyalty to her grade school classmate, Abraham Lincoln)
  • Jim Belushi (insert your own "brother" joke here)

No comments: