Something conservatives lack when it comes to politics is humor. Everyone takes their politics seriously, but conservatives, whether of the home-spun or Paul Ryan variety, pride themselves in being serious and straightforward. It is this iron(y) deficiency that makes for a stolid political class and an almost completely humorless pack of pundits.
Of course, what a person finds funny does largely hinge on what one’s political ideology is, but given how far right conservatives have moved, once potential comedic allies have surely waved them adieu as they journeyed further right. Comedians like Nick DiPaulo and Andrew “Dice” Clay are who I have in mind here.
The fact that Limbaugh can’t tell the difference between a joke and racism or misogyny is not a mistake. It is the consequence of lacking the other vital component of humor, empathy. Humor requires a nuanced view of humanity–the ability to see the contradiction in motive, appreciation of paradox and one’s own schisms. That kind of intolerance of ambiguity is the signature of the conservative brand. Rush, however suffers from a kind of ideological egocentrism (in the Piagetian sense). Although I’m sure Rush thought he was riffing, it is likely he believes that Fluke and all other women on birth control are sluts. <
To be fair however, Limbaugh isn’t by trade a comedian–Rush is a preacher. His shows, when I’ve heard them, will come on right before or after radiovangelists. Sermon, rather than comedy is the political fodder of choice for conservatives, because righteousness is the most valuable currency among them. Stewart and Colbert thrive on the same, but it plays an ancillary role–a framework in which the comedy can exist. I wouldn’t, nor do I think most liberals would, tune in for an hour a night for some plain-old tub-thumping. It also has the feature of being regularly self-critical to party–something I seldom see FOX engage in.
Liberal comedians too fall prey to the same game of sacrosanctity. As DiPaulo tells the Daily Caller,
“Janeane [Garafalo], to me, has just gone off the rail. I can’t even take her seriously. It kind of hurts to see. I was never close friends with her, but I watched her come up as a female comic in Boston and I always appreciated the balls she had on stage. But she wasn’t really preachy back then. I still consider her a marginal friend, but I hear the sh*t she says and, you know, just want to ring her neck.”
Roseanne Barr’s most recent foray back onto the stage too felt like preachment. Being screeched liberal platitudes from the 90’s was no less irritating than watching an hour of Hannity. That kind of comedy is desperate, fails to be self-effacing, and is typically laden with the double standards with which identity politics and feminism are rife. George Carlin is the comedian who most lives up to anything like ideological fairness, bashing patriarchy and feminism, Evangelicals and “P.C. campus liberal a**holes,” and the “d**kless lunatics in the NRA” and “mindless Hollywood c**ksuckers [against guns].”
Neil Cavuto of FOX news recognizes himself that the term ‘conservative comedian’ is an oxymoron, and continues to prove it with the video and interview of Steven Crowder, a comedian that is much more energetic than he is funny. Dennis Miller is the resident FOX News comedian, and I suspect that FOX’s and Miller’s meeting was rather providential, given FOX’s need for one and Miller’s slipping into obscurity. Miller’s comedy used to be fairly independent in its ideology having knocked H.W. Bush on SNL, so I cite his need for a job as evidence for his pull to the right. He is still capable of striking an honest blow, but typically his references are more intelligent than his political insights.
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