Musing about Amusing or Comics and Conservatives: Where are they?

Musing about Amusing or Comics and Conservatives: Where are they? April 30, 2018

If over forty percent of Americans support the President*, why wouldn’t we anticipate a large number of celebrities to cater to them? Wouldn’t this be particularly true in comedy which is often done by one person in front of an audience?

This is a column about who gets to be a comedian, a star, and what they are allowed to say. This is not about Trump, could be about most comics, was inspired by the White House Correspondence dinner, though it is not really about it. This is not on vulgarity or if there are lines to be drawn in comedy.

Where are the conservative comedians?

Instead, I am wondering why one rarely hears jests about a politician based on conservative assumptions? When the ribbing comes, why are the assumptions always left of center? When a comic decides to take on Trump from a new angle and claims he is not wealthy, that’s not really a new angle . . . The first throw away I heard on Trump (and probably used myself) was that “he was a poor person’s idea of a rich man.”

That stopped him.

Wouldn’t the brave and unexpected attack be to puncture the President from the right? What if the media were skewered from a social conservative perspective? Imagine taking on Pence as inconsistently Evangelical, instead of going (again) to Handmaid’s Tale jokes.

The few times I have asked this sort of question, I am told in so many words, because “‘anti-insert-less-powerful-group-here’” jokes aren’t funny.” This is true enough. Punching down is ugly and this is why roasting the “in group” is good for a Republic.  Yet when the “in group” is liberal, they are poked, but always for not being liberal enough.

This may be many things, but it is not brave since entertainment appears to be a monolith: people who voted for President Obama and then people who thought Obama was not liberal enough. A majority of Americans may be pro-life on abortion or the numbers are very close. Wouldn’t you expect a comic to take after a pro-choice or inconsistent pro-life politician often? If not, why not?

Besides, if you think racist jokes would be “conservative” humor aren’t you part of the problem of race in America ? I have worked with liberals who made racist jokes (about abortion and more “brown babies”) and for racists who voted GOP who told racist jokes (as an “attack” on PC culture).  Racism is an American problem, not owned by one ideology. Go read the words of Woodrow Wilson, Jack London, and Theodore Roosevelt.

In other fields outside of comedy, when asking about conservative representation, I hear a polite form of : “x is a high IQ field. We would expect conservatives to be underrepresented.”

Assuming for the sake of brevity that this too is not just prejudice, popular entertainers do not seem a lot brighter than the general population. Besides, since many are merely mouthing material from writers and since writers often enjoy getting paid, wouldn’t we assume some writers (even if liberal) would write material for conservative consumers? Surely Tim Allen and Rosanne are not forty-percent of comedy?

Corporations will sponsor comics, films, and pop culture that attack corporatism. That’s not edgy, though the particular comic or film might be funny.  Here is an infallible  rule: No event that has a bank as a sponsor is ”out there” or speaking truth to power. 

We all know what is happening: comedy gets screened by gate keepers and if you offend the assumptions of the gate keepers, you will have the longevity of a Trump-bashing professor at Liberty University. “That’s just not funny,” is easy to say and does not require flushing out particular prejudices.

Not Much Should Be Done About This Not So Horrible Problem

This does not make conservatives “victims” (in particular) and is not a call for affirmative action for conservative comics. Enslaved people, something our nation did, are victims. Atheists sending Christians to work camps in China are a big problem. A failure to have comics you like on Netflix? Not so serious. God forbid some new corporate mandates on comedy.  “Find me a new Tim Allen, only more religious” is not likely to produce good humor or writing.

So what should be done?

People in big time entertainment should stop thinking of themselves as brave or diverse “and pushing the line” when they are vulgar in the service of ideas the power brokers accept.

Being edgy (from the left) will always be defended (right or left). Being edgy from the right? Most of our comics cannot even imagine it without thinking in leftist categories about what it means to be on the right.

Saying something was not funny (to me) and was offensive (to me) is not an attack on free speech.

We should be consistent, of course. The level of mockery we deploy is the level we (justly) receive in the jostle of a Republic. Wouldn’t it be good if that were kept to individuals? Mr. Trump uses colorful vulgarities about people’s appearance, so should expect the same (and gets it). That doesn’t mean every single one of the millions who voted for Trump, who may not speak that way or like that the President does, deserves colorful vulgarities. 

Line drawing is personal, but conservatives or Christians should not be silenced in line drawing.

Bad actions (Lord have mercy) are worse than bad words (Lord have mercy!), but bad words do hurt. 

Verbal bullying is bad whoever does it. Shouting “Tu quoque” in a crowded comedy club does not justify everything.

Conservatives should not justify bad behavior or bad votes, because we lack comics or popular entertainment clout. Christians in Syria face real persecution. Not getting a Netflix series is not the same. Instead, we might try encouraging writers and good product when we find it.

We can have faith in liberty and virtue. If we are left alone, then all will be well. Let’s allow the mockery even if now it is disproportionate mockery, defending the right of private groups to offend, so long as we are given the same liberty. Things will work out: God is (after all) not mockable!**

Meanwhile, let’s do to others what we would have them do to us. Let’s avoid cutting humor if we do not want to receive it. Let’s not “punch down” by making fun of people with less clout than we have.



*Bias alert: I am a Burke conservative who did not vote for either major party candidate in 2016.

**Mocking God may be bad for us, but God is secure, what with being God and all.

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