Conservative comedians an extinct breed?
A friend emails me and asks if there are any conservative comedians/commentators:
BTW, are there any conservative equivalents of comedic folks like Jon Stewart (Bill Maher, Al Franken, et al.)? Seem to be a lot of liberal ones. I'd like to laugh from the other side too once in a while. Is the closest thing South Park, which lobs satire at everybody...?Great question! Had me stumped for a bit. It's true Hollywood and the entertainment industry are dominated by those on the left side of the political aisle. Self-avowed, breast-beating conservative entertainers (let alone comics) are few and far between, probably reflecting a minority's sense of self-preservation through self-censorship (keeping their mouths closed and sidestepping discussions of politics in their workplace, where being branded as a conservative could mean career suicide).
But think about it: most people probably wouldn't immediately think of conservatives as being especially funny people anyway. One might think of conservatives (the ones who aren't viewed as downright evil) as being dour, serious, stern, and lacking a funny bone--like those Saturday Night Live parodies of the no-nonsense policy wonk, or the grasping, rapacious businessman, or the fundamentalist Christian finger-wagger. Or you might more charitably picture conservatives as amiable but fuddyduddy redneck Red-Staters, unable to really relate to, care about, or appreciate what the urban young hip demographic is laughing about today. With a native audience composed of unfunny people like that, maybe it's understandable no vast number of outstanding comics have sprung up from their ranks. Just like it's hard to think of any Germans being funny.
Drew Carey seems to agree that there are no conservative comedians. I did find an article that offered some names of current conservative comedians, but I've never heard of most of them, though their appearance on one of their tours was enough to snag the attention of a couple of bomb-threats--evidently liberals take their comedy dead-seriously. Then there's Dennis Miller, who with his writers won five Emmys for his HBO show in earlier years. He became a more out-front conservative after 9/11 (it changed his life, he said, as a lot of people have), and his show on CNBC was cancelled in 2005. Was it because he supported the G.O.P.? Or could it be he lost his ratings demographic because liberals don't have a sense of humor about what conservatives find funny? One of his former fans complained:
You were funny and informative.
Now you're a different man. You've changed a lot. You've lost your edge.
You've sold out.
Your affiliation with evil has taken away your soul and your credibility. It shows in your performance. Advocating genocide so the corporations can steal a country's resources must prey upon your subconscious.
I can relate to that sentiment, certainly. I feel the same way about losing my appetite for listening to Garrison Keillor since the last Presidential election.
But the Godfather of them all is actually pre-eminent in his own niche of the entertainment business and has singlehandedly transformed it into a powerhouse while working daily under our noses for years. So yes, there is a humorous conservative commentator just as prominent and more influential than Jon Stewart, Bill Maher, and Al Franken put together. And thanks to Rush Limbaugh, there is now a whole panoply of entertainer/commentators entertaining their listeners (sometimes more with comedy, sometimes more with politcal analysis) on talk radio, including folks like Neal Boortz, Michael Medved, Dennis Prager, Sean Hannity, Hugh Hewitt, Laura Ingraham, and others.
The problem here is that I think a large portion of liberals would say all these folks are dishing out "hate speech" instead of comedy--or that they are just not funny. I guess it really comes down to whose sacred cows are being gored. Because if goring sacred cows is the definition of comedy, somebody's necessarily got to be insulted while the rest of the audience roars.
In the end, it would seem that focusing on one side or the other of politics in humor is by definition both limiting and divisive. Though I admit to enjoying some of these conservative or right-wing commentators, I do feel bad about the off-putting snarkiness of some of the "comedy" even when I agree with the analysis. I'm sure there are liberals who can feel the mean in some of Jon Stewart and Al Franken's zingers too. You can certainly enjoy the humor and listen to and evaluate the analysis and the arguments without forgetting it is a partisan presentation.
Bottom line for me is I prefer and feel better about enjoying the more even-handed, timeless and universal kind of humor of the Marx Brothers, a Buster Keaton, a Johnny Carson, or a Bob Hope, who hosted or co-hosted the Oscars 18 times (1939-1977), and of whom it was said:
He approached the craft of comedy in a way that is rare today. He didn’t have to resort to insulting others or demeaning his audience with filthy language. He was able to convey a great sense of humor without the shock value that so frequently makes up the repertoire of many of today’s comics.Remember those good old days when "comedy" meant something entirely different? Or is it just me being...a conservative?
P.S. Michelle Malkins wrote about why she is "not a South Park conservative" and, never having watched it, I nevertheless think I would agree with her.