Sunday, April 26, 2009

Why conservatism isn't as funny

I don't know if you remember the (thankfully) short-lived Fox version of "The Daily Show," "The Half Hour News Hour." You shouldn't. It was awful. If you'd like a sample, try this on for size:


Yep. Nearly four minutes for one, prolonged sexual harassment gag. "Hey, look! That pretty lady is harassing that man. He clearly enjoys it. Isn't it funny how politically correct crap like sexual harassment is funny when you use irony to skewer the situation?"

Whatever. The point being, it bombed. Partly it was, I think, because the anchors were actors, and the material didn't actually use much real news as the fodder. Say what you want about "The Daily Show," you may actually learn something.

Now we hear, in a study from the Inernational Journal of Press/Politics, that liberal and conservative students find "The Stephen Colbert Show" equally funny... though conservative students think he's kidding. About his kidding. According to them, Colbert actually believes the outrageous things his character says, and is only pretending to be joking. The conservative students also believe that Colbert "dislikes liberalism."

Yeah. Right [note to conservatives... that was sarcasm]. From the "Newsweek" article on "truthiness,"

He's also got three kids he dotes on. He won't let them watch his show. "I say things in a very flat manner that I don't believe, and I don't want them to perceive Daddy as insincere," he says. "I basically tell them I'm professionally ridiculous." At one point while he's preparing for that evening's interview, his assistant comes in and says that Conan O'Brien wants him on his show. OK, says Colbert, but only if it doesn't conflict with taking his son to swim practice. "There couldn't be a huger difference between the character Stephen and the real Stephen," says Richard Dahm, one of the "Report" head writers. "The real Stephen is an amazing guy. The character Stephen--well, I wouldn't want to be working for him."

Emphases mine.

What is it about conservativism that, to be blunt, is less funny? And less likely to understand funny? I'm not being ironic here, or just peevish... I'm honestly interested.

My initial theory is that conservativism, being less flexible, leaves its adherents with less of an ability to see the absurd bends of reality necessary for much humor. In this case, I'm not digging on conservativism; it is, I think, a truism that a set of beliefs that wants to maintain something has fewer options than a belief set that embraces change. There are many ways to be liberal; many things to want to change. If you want things to stay the same, you focus on how they are (or were). Humor often requires the ability to see the object of the joke in at least two ways, or to see the irony in things... and irony requires two viewpoints (at least).

There may be other reasons. I'll think about it some more.

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