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"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope


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Thousand Flowers tapestry (15th Century) - Beaune, France (detail)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Leftists are funny that way

A friend sent me a link the other day hoping to push my buttons and stir me into ranting; mission accomplished. The article in question is a report from CNN reporter Brandon Griggs - Is political comedy inherently leftist? Well, Brandon - I guess it is if you spend your entire life surrounded by leftists, working at a news organization dominated by leftists, socializing with leftists and attending leftist cultural festivals.
The vast majority of comedians lean to the left. Right-wing comedy is a rarity on the Internet. And Republicans are typically easier to make fun of than Democrats.
But comedians shouldn't take a political stance when trying to be funny.
That was the consensus of a panel of admittedly left-leaning comedy experts at South By Southwest Interactive, the digital culture festival under way in this Texas capital.
OK - first of all, the discussion is being held in Austin; an island of liberals in a conservative Texas sea:
Residents of Austin are known as "Austinites". They include a diverse mix of government employees (e.g., university faculty & staff, law enforcement, political staffers); foreign and domestic college students; musicians; high-tech workers; blue-collar workers and businesspeople. The city is home to development centers for many technology corporations; it adopted the "Silicon Hills" nickname in the 1990s. However, the current official slogan promotes Austin as "The Live Music Capital of the World", a reference to the many musicians and live music venues within the area, and the long-running PBS TV concert series Austin City Limits . In recent years, some Austinites have also adopted the unofficial slogan "Keep Austin Weird". This interpretation of the classic, "Texas-style" sense of independence refers to: the traditional and proudly eclectic, liberal lifestyles of many Austin residents; a desire to protect small, unique, local businesses from being overrun by large corporations; and, as a reaction to the perceived rise of conservative influences within the community.
The occasion for the panel is the South By Southwest Festival. Here's how CNN describes it:
Every March, thousands of young, jeans-wearing techies, filmmakers and musicians descend upon Austin, Texas, harboring dreams of getting noticed and hitting it big. They come not just for the balmy weather or the Tex-Mex food but for South by Southwest, a collection of conferences and festivals that’s considered one of the most influential happenings on the annual cultural calendar.”
I'm just guessing, but there are probably not a lot of G.W. Bush fans in attendance.

CNN goes on:
"Comedy has a recklessness that doesn't lend itself to the conservative lifestyle," said Rory Albanese, an executive producer and writer for "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." "It's the same reason why Christian rock bands aren't as good as regular rock bands."
Albanese was joined on the panel by Carol Hartsell, comedy editor of The Huffington Post, and comedian-author Sara Benincasa, a contributor to Vice.com -- although Albanese did most of the talking. During a freewheeling hour, the trio riffed on everything from the nature of humor online to GOP candidate Rick Santorum's recent comment that President Barack Obama is "a snob" for wanting young people to attend college.
Albanese admitted that after eight years of making jokes about President George W. Bush, it was difficult at first for "The Daily Show" to take aim at Obama. He said Obama's measured statements aren't easy targets for parody.
"There's funny stuff on the left, but sometimes you have to dig a little deeper. I can't say all the lies in politics come from the right. I think a lot of them come from the left," he said during the event Friday. "I do think it's important to try and come at things from all sides. What we do is poke fun at the [political] system, poke fun at the process."
Ah yes, I'm sure it's just so difficult to make fun of Obama. After all, what's funny about an inexperienced, narcissistic social worker who's in love with the sound of his own voice? What's funny about a guy who picks Joe Biden (!), a one-man gaffe machine, as his running mate? What's funny about a guy who says with a straight face, referring to his own nomination by the Democratic Party, "this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal"? A Nobel Peace Prize winner who is blowing Pakistani tribesmen to smithereens with unmanned aerial drones while sending the US Air Force to pound Libya into submission and aircraft carrier groups through the Strait of Hormuz to piss off Iran? Yup, that sure must take some deep digging.

Just for fun, I searched for Obama jokes from late night comedians to see how hard it was to make fun of the President. They make for some interesting reading. Most of the time, when the comics can bring themselves to joke about him, the humour indirectly targets Republicans and pokes fun at Obama for being unfortunate enough to have to govern such an ungrateful country. Here's an example from David Letterman:
One by one the Republican candidate potentials have been shooting themselves in the foot making huge, horrible gaffes and they just look silly. It's gotten so bad that President Obama is now worried he may actually be re-elected.
Here's another from Conan O'Brien:
A man jumped the White House fence, but after a brief chase, the Secret Service was able to talk President Obama into coming back and finishing his term.
Another recurring theme in late night monologues is the use of Obama as a vehicle for making fun of Republicans. For example, four years after G.W. Bush left office, Jimmy Fallon just can't let go:
Rush Limbaugh said yesterday that Obama never would have tracked down bin Laden if it weren't for George W. Bush's policies. Although in fairness, Obama never would have even been elected if it weren’t for George W. Bush's policies.

"President Obama announced that Osama bin Laden has been killed in Pakistan. That's right, bin Laden is dead — just like the Republicans' chances in 2012.
Ha, ha - those are real knee-slappers there, Jimmy.

Griggs continues:
Albanese said the 2011-2012 Republican primary campaign, with such colorful candidates as Rick Perry and Hermain Cain, has been comic gold for "The Daily Show" and other jokesters.
"With all due respect to the candidates, there is the view that all of them are insane. A guy like Santorum, who's taking an anti-college stance? That's funny. I mean, who the f--- is against college?"
Yeah, I guess that would get a few laughs from the slackers and stoners at South By Southwest where all the U of Texas undergraduates in their sixth year of Post-colonial Queer Women's Studies hang out collecting ironic T shirts. I'm sure the guys drinking beer at the VFW in Bismarck North Dakota got a real chuckle out of that one.

Leftist comics are like leftists in general - they live in a bubble surrounded by like-minded people who constantly tell them how funny and insightful they are. When they do venture more than a hundred miles from the coast it's to go to South By Southwest or Burning Man, which are mercifully free of people living the "conservative lifestyle". They look at conservatives like Dian Fossey looked at the Gorillas in the Mist - an alien and primitive species not as intelligent as they are. Those people in fly-over country are so cute when they try to understand complex things like politics, like watching a dog walk on its hind legs.

You know, conservatives don't find this condescension remotely funny.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Do youtube searches for Mitch Hedberg. There's (was) a conservative comedian who was d*mn funny.

Dance...dance to the radio said...

Funny, I don't think Patrice O'Neal was a leftist.

Political comedy isn't inherently leftist. The entertainment industry is inherently biased and only promotes those who toe the line.

Sometimes, you get someone like Fred Armisen, who does a wicked Obama impression, operating out of the vipers nest.