Lori Day meditates on the apparent exclusivity of the left in mainstream political comedy.
I know this may come off a tad polarizing, but I think liberal male comedians are funny as hell and they have no equals on the other side of the aisle. I stand a greater chance of seeing Russia from my house than spotting a genuinely funny conservative comedian anywhere in the continental United States.
There are so many hilarious liberal comedians. Think of the perpetually baffled Jon Stewart with his sharp tongue and soft heart; the slyly satirical Stephen Colbert masquerading as a conservative to dish up a heaping serving of irony; the smirky genius of Bill Maher, who never worries about being popular; enraged and frustrated Lewis Black, always on the verge of a primal scream; politically savvy Chris Rock, who takes no prisoners when it comes to issues of race; and the late George Carlin, who had the greatest gift on Earth for cutting through BS.
The list is endless.
But where oh where are the conservative political comedians? Rush? NO. Glenn Beck? GOD NO. Bill O’Reilly? SAME ANSWER. Fox News? YES—but they aren’t trying to be funny.
The current GOP candidates are drop-dead funny, but they also aren’t trying to be. They’re the manna from heaven that falls into the laps of left-wing talk show hosts who have the easiest job in the world these days.
I knew that I needed to do my homework and get out of my own media silo because there must be some amusing Republican comedians out there that I just don’t know about. I decided to consult The Google. While I believe that notable conservative comedians must exist, I swear, searching online for them was like trying to find Bigfoot. I scrolled through link after link, but the deeper into the pages I went, the more obvious it became that I was unlikely to find any big names.
The most entertaining thing about the whole process was that well before I came upon any links to obscure right-wing comedians, I had to get through a whole bunch of Google queries that asked some version of “Why aren’t there any conservative comedians?” I realized quite a lot of people were wondering the same thing as me. Most of them sounded completely flummoxed.
So all this got me thinking. Why don’t there seem to be many well-known Republican comedians, and why are they entirely absent in Tea Party Land? The Dems have Jon Stewart and the GOP has … Rush Limbaugh?
Just noticing something here. Stewart is on television, and Limbaugh is on radio. There seems to be a left/right pattern along these lines. Why do conservatives dominate the airwaves, while liberals are masters of evening television comedy?
I think it’s because radio format is just perfect for yelling into a microphone and ranting about Muslims, gays, feminists, blacks, immigrants, the ACLU, baby killers, and scientists. It’s an equally ideal medium for the legions of right-wing acolytes awaiting instructions on how to think and who to hate. So maybe this is all hilarious if you get a chuckle out of material such as, oh, frothing-at-the-mouth racism or sexism, but I like to think better of most conservatives.
Over here on the left, this twilight zone of radio twaddle is not such a great medium for those who prefer to observe the world on their own terms and use humor to explore—and survive—the absurd.
While full of its own brand of nonsense, liberal political humor is whip-smart, satirical, and self-deprecating. Liberal comedians understand that laughter helps turn the pressure valve just a little bit clockwise. And it had better be all of these things for those of us attempting to cope sanely with today’s political circus.
As Keith Olbermann says at the end of each of his evening talk shows, “Congratulations on surviving another day of this crap.” No, congratulations to you, Keith, for helping us survive it with your witty, intelligent, respectful relationship with your audience, who, like you, don’t suffer fools lightly. Thank you for not talking down to us or propagating bigotry. Thank you for being so goddamn funny when today’s political world isn’t. And thank you Current TV for hosting Countdown with Keith Olbermann. Who said Al Gore didn’t have a sense of humor?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying there are no conservatives who are funny or have an appreciation for humor. Of course there are. I just don’t see them using it publicly.
(On a side note, I’ve recently acquired more Facebook friends back in the red state of my birth than I had actual friends when I was in school there, and lots of them lean right. OK, so their teabagger rants often make me hide or unfriend them, but hey, at least they’re funny!)
Although there are not many conservative comedians who are well known in mainstream America, Dennis Miller just came to mind. He was a Democrat back in the days of SNL, but he is now the conservative go-to guy for Fox News when they want an infusion of comedy beyond what they are already providing their viewers through their interchangeable cast of blond spokesactresses and anchormodels, and the occasional talkingmustache. Miller, although a famous face, has decidedly lost his edge, if he ever even was that funny. And I seriously can’t think of any other conservative comedians who are household names.
Here’s the thing: there are tons of liberal issues that might make excellent comedic fodder for conservatives if they could put aside the need for red-faced screaming apoplexy in their radio studios and lighten up a bit. For example, they may feel that workers having collective bargaining rights is a crime against humanity—and that topic certainly lends itself to radio show tirades—but how many more conservative voters might be reached with a humorous look at unions? I take that back. I never said it. Never mind.
Please allow me to leave you with the best example of liberal humor I’ve encountered this year. The thirteen seconds from 8:38 to 8:51 did almost kill me, leaving me kicking, convulsing, and hypoxic in the fetal position on the floor. That image is on the house—you’re welcome.
After a workout like that, I survived the crap of another day, and so can you.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Indecision 2012 – Mercy Rule Edition|
—Photo CSMonitor/Jason DeCrow (AP)