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Why Are There No Good Conservatives Comedians?

May 25th, 2014

It’s a good, legitimate question. Some answers are based upon the idea that conservatives are simply shut out of the business. “The mainstream media is mostly liberal, so conservatives are not given a chance.” This doesn’t ring true; first, there are plenty of right-wing outlets (not the least of which is Fox), and second, if someone is funny they will find an audience—and an audience pays, which always gets you on the air. It’s not as if there haven’t been attempts to popularize right-wing comedians; they simply have not taken off.

Others respond that “liberals don’t like others making fun of them.” Well, OK, but that only explains why conservative comedians don’t find a liberal audience, and cannot explain why conservative audiences don’t give them all the business they need.

It can’t be that liberals can’t be successfully mocked—watch John Stewart and you’ll eventually see him make fun of Democrats in a way that can evoke more than enough laughter (and scorn) to keep you going.

There’s no way you could convince me that it’s impossible to make enough hay out of video clips of Democrats, MSNBC hosts, and liberals in general saying stuff that could be mocked to fill a half hour comedy show four nights a week, especially if you pad that with takes on media in general and interviews with people pushing something or another. Humor can be fitted to any taste. I once made what I thought was a compelling case as to how Rush Limbaugh could have made a really funny, comic argument satirizing the contraception debate. Instead, he engaged in what amounted to hateful, dehumanizing diatribe—and called it “humor.”

In this way, many right-wing attempts at humor fall disastrously flat. Take this attempt by Fox to produce their own version of The Daily Show:

Pretty much one halfway good joke in there, and it was a really obvious one. Go ahead and look up other videos from the show’s very short run; you’ll find it similarly awful. Not unfunny because of one’s point of view, but simply not funny. Even for conservatives—after all, it flopped even on Fox.

However, the above clip is rather telling in a very important respect: the laughter. Not the fact that the laughter for the video was obviously canned, but the live laughter in particular: harsh, forced, almost angry.

Maybe the difference in humor has to do with a certain mindset. Comedians may often come from backgrounds that include being bullied and outcast, where a person might develop a sense of humor as both a defense mechanism and a way of becoming popular. But this is often tied in with a sympathy for those who are trodden upon, people who are undervalued and at a disadvantage—values more liberal than not. It might be argued that a lot of comedic talent naturally springs from a liberal viewpoint.

The clip from Fox shows the reverse: it comes across as a bully’s humor, even down to the harsh laughter. It does not so much playfully engage in satire and joking as it does condescendingly mock and degrade. This is the kind of “humor” that right-wing talking heads like Rush Limbaugh employ. Liberal humor comes from an attitude where the world is falling apart around you and you need to make fun of it to keep from descending into despair. Conservative humor comes from an attitude where you occupy a position of righteous assuredness and you need to make fun of those you see as different and therefore wrong.

And I think that’s at the heart of it: liberals are more apt to feel pain, conservatives to feel anger. Laughter comes from the need to dispel one’s pain; from anger comes something more akin to taunting—and that’s not funny for people who are not taking the bully’s point of view.

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  1. Troy
    May 25th, 2014 at 21:41 | #1

    it comes across as a bully’s humor

    yeah, atrios used the term “punching down”:

    “Leno’s an asshole because too much of his comedy involves punching down. Ratings demonstrate lots of people like that, but I didn’t. Glad he’s outta there.”

    liberals are more apt to feel pain, conservatives to feel anger.

    not sure this is generically accurate, but to the extent there’s a difference that could explain the difference between conservative talk radio and liberal talk radio, too.

    The economy is unbalanced now, and has always been thus, and joking about it is in utterly poor taste, unless one’s desire is to criticize the status quo, which is not what conservatives want to do.

    Slavery, 98 hour work weeks, kids working in mines and mills, sharecropping, the rich buying up all the available natural resources via railroad land grants and crooked land deals, the rise of abusive monopolies, institutional racism, idiot creationism, laissez faire when the world’s flimflam economy was collapsing in the 1930s, isolationism in the face of German and Japanese expansionism, defense of Southern segregation, warmongering over Vietnam, pushback against ‘women’s lib’, vilifying homosexual partnerships, defending racist assholes like Zimmerman, not giving a shit about global warming . . .

    conservatism is a seething mass of idiocy and, effectively, hatred of one’s fellow man.

    it is the ideology of ‘I’m right, you’re wrong’ (social conservatism) and ‘I’ve got mine, fuck you’ (fiscal conservatism).

    Not a lot to joke about.

  2. Troy
    May 25th, 2014 at 21:50 | #2

    and, hey, like the Tides Center shooter case, gun control worked in California — the shooter had 3 9mm pistols with (albeit many) 310 round clips instead of whatever the fuck he wanted to buy to take out people.

    Whether it’s a fair trade-off to limit the accessibility of “scary guns” like the AR-15 to save 10 or whatever people a year is an open question, plus of course by my reading of the 2nd Amendment, the AR-15 is precisely what is protected, if that amendment is describing an individual right to keep and bear arms, and not concerning the “militia”.

  3. Troy
    May 25th, 2014 at 21:51 | #3

    ^ “10 round clips” in my above.

  4. Tim
    June 3rd, 2014 at 23:56 | #4

    Well, there’s Dennis Miller.

    And there’s that ex SNL gal who used to play an idiot, but she’s no longer a comedian nor funny, just right wing.

    Oh, and Steven Colbert, in character, he plays a conservative idiot, and that makes him funny.

    That’s their inventory. When Bush was President they resorted to using Colbert at one of Bush’s WCD’s. Ripped Bush to pieces, to his face. “you look at the glass half full, not half empty, of course most of it is swill, but hey,…”

  5. Luis
    June 4th, 2014 at 00:08 | #5

    Well, there’s Dennis Miller.

    He’s the obvious standout–but is also noted for having lost his touch after he turned conservative. This is not just liberal fans being offended–most people who agreed with his humor didn’t find him really funny afterwards, either. Maybe his niche cultural subreference humor could not translate well to his new political thrust…

    And there’s that ex SNL gal who used to play an idiot, but she’s no longer a comedian nor funny, just right wing.

    Yech. Victoria Jackson wasn’t really too funny before she became political, and I don’t think she even tried afterwards. Besides which, she became somewhat of a vile lunatic.

    As for Colbert, he was never conservative; he is funny because of his satire of conservatives. If he were serious, he wouldn’t be nearly as funny. Or he would be funny, just not intentionally.

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