A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

On Humor and Blogging

TC makes a case for the prevalent belief that conservatives are less funny than liberals. I say prevalent, because I think it is-- certainly tc's post wasn't the first time I've heard of the stereotype, and in general there is a sort of "societal consciousness" that most comedians, actors, and non-country singers are liberal. And while stereotypes are over-stated generalizations, there is almost always at least some truth to them-- sometimes quite a lot of truth. A similar point is made by another liberal blogger, here, though his claims that people like Alicublog and James Wolcott are funny and witty (I find them to be neither most of the time) rather feeds into the point I make three paragraphs down.

But before we proceed, please go here and check out the top 10 US and UK comedians and tell me if anything jumps out at you. Roseanne Barr. The only woman on either list. Does that mean that women are far less funny than men? Seems pretty unlikely to me.

So. I grant you the t-shirt in the link from tc is rather unfunny, and it does indeed seem to equate violence with humor. But that t-shirt is only one of many shirts available from that source. Several of the others I found quite humorous and clever-- particularly the "Communism killed 100 million people and all I got was this lousy t-shirt" one. Still others I thought were really stupid, like the Ann Coulter one. Which leads me to the fairly self-evident conclusion that just because one thing an individual with a conservative philosophy produces is unfunny does not mean that all conservatives are incapable of being funny.

And, of course, there is the fact that people tend to find humor in different measures depending on what is being laughed at-- a comedian that ridicules conservative principles and people (say, Margaret Cho) is more likely to be found funny by liberals than by conservatives. Contrariwise, tc no longer finds Dennis Miller funny, but I still do (though I will admit he isn't as funny when he tries to be political as when he just goes with the absurdity of people, regardless of political beliefs.). The point is made rather...er... pointedly, here (by the gentleman who hosts the site where the t-shirts that started the kerfuffle can be purchased).

Just for kicks then, are there (or were there) any funny conservatives out there?

Well, Kelsey Grammar is one. Granted he's not a stand-up comic, but he is most definitely a very funny guy. In the blogging world, I would submit that Iowahawk is nearly always witty, and quite often very funny. IMAO (referenced above) has his moments, as well. Dennis the Peasant most definitely has moments of sheer ironic and sarcastic brilliance.

So, the perception that conservative/liberal bloggers aren't funny is in large measure a simple result of two things: 1) People don't like having their beliefs mocked and 2) People tend to read blogs that agree with those beliefs more so than those that are at odds with their beliefs.

As to comedians in general, I find that the best and funniest of them are apolitical. At least in their shows. George Carlin isn't as funny now that he tends to go off on "societal" rants for extended periods of time. Miller isn't as funny when he makes a point of lampooning liberals rather than just lampooning the absurdity of politics and government in general.

Richard Pryor was always funny because, well, he was just f*in brilliant, but also because even when he was ripping on societal ills and injustices, he did so in a way that didn't make those who were benefiting from, or even perpetrating, those ills and injustices get their hackles up. White, black, male, female, liberal or conservative-- Prior made everybody laugh. At ourselves, at each other, at him, at the absurdity of life.

Take a look at these lists (no particular order):

Old School
Jack Benny
Bob Hope (British by birth! Who knew?)
Groucho Marx
George Burns
Johnny Carson
Peter Sellers
Lucille Ball
Charlie Chaplin
Jerry Lewis
Bob Newhart

Newer School
Richard Pryor
Steve Martin
Jerry Seinfeld
Frank Caliendo
George Carlin
Bill Cosby
Woody Allen
Lenny Bruce
Robin Williams
Rodney Dangerfield
Eddie Murphy
Drew Carey
Jim Carrey
John Cleese
Bill Murray

Any idea of the political leanings of most (any?) of these folks? Yeah, me neither, with the exceptions of Carlin, Caliendo and Chaplin. I have my suspicions about several others, but really, what does it matter?

Here's another observation on humor and interpretation: There are far more comics critical of conservative principles and politicians than there are comics favorable to those principles. One way of looking at that data is to conclude that conservatives are less funny than liberals. A different way of looking at it is to conclude that art and journalism schools indoctrinate their students with a liberal world view.

Which of those viewpoints you find more compelling is likely a result of your own world viewpoint. The truth, as it so often is, is likely somewhere in-between.

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One reason the dems are not a target in the socio-political world of humor is that they have no power and control nothing at the moment... I give you a 100% guarantee that if the power structure were reversed comedians all over the country would find find plenty of humor in the stupidity of the dems. Can you imagine the ridicule howard Dean would get on a nightly basis if he were in the white house??

As fara as the conservative/liberal bloggers... you tend to write your blog fairly straight but you can be really quite funny... not nearly as funny as say..me.. but quite funny, while I have yet to find any evidence that TC is at all funny... not to say he has no humor just haven't seen it yet.... and Troy I don't even want to hear your imput because you sir are just not funny... sad and somewhat pathetic but not funny. that is all, i must go, I rock
Good point about those who are, and are not, in power, Mr. Me. And thanks for the compliment.

Oh-- and there is absolutely no way Cutler falls to 17, so I hope the Vikes have a back up plan. Not getting your pick in on time is so embarrassing (though at least Minnesota has experience handling that sort of thing).
OK I just read TC's blog on this subject.. the gun that can decorate a loft joke ..ok I 'll give you that was a bit funny..

but what struck me while reading that post was one... how totally turned off I was reading the T-shirt "jokes" and two.. how equally tasteless I found TC's replies. Why is it that liberals and conservative react with such intense vitriol towards each other and their ideas????... I find this behavior really quite moronic, egocentric, naive and in the case of the liberals ironic (as they seem to consider themselves as intellectual superiors but fail to see stupidity of their own attitude). Posts like TC's always bring me back to the realization that people just love to polarize the world when nothing could be farther from truth.
Sorry, I know this is completely subjective, but almost everyone I work with is liberal and not very funny. Many of them don't seem to respond to sarcasm, irony, or anything else in the way of dry wit. Then again, I say a lot of things that just aren't funny, either.

I think there are more True Believers on the left right now than on the right. By that, I mean that they identify or justify their existence based on ideology or some political cause. Such people easily fall into zealotry, and zealots are incapable of laughing.

I think Bill Maher is funny when he isn't talking about politics. Ditto for Al Franken.
It’s not that liberals have a better sense of humor. It’s that liberal philosophy is simpler, easier to understand. Thus, easier to be funny about. That’s why there’s so many liberal comic strips (Boondocks, Doonesbury, and so on) while conservative strips are far and few between.

Boiled down: it’s easier to convey liberal subjects in a comic strip or on a bumper sticker that it is conservative subjects. (This also helps explain why liberals can get together for huge marches against things, while conservatives usually prefer to be more individualistic.)

So, in the spirit of boiling it down, here’s some great quotes that TC will just LOVE:

“When I talk to liberals, I don’t expect them to understand my positions on various issues. I spend most of my time trying to help them understand their own.”

“It is time for those of us who are tired of the diversity movement to come up with our own definition of racism. Racism is best defined as a pathological tendency to interject race into situations where it is not relevant, merely for personal gain."

“Some people think I am opposed to the National Day of Silence. That isn’t true. There’s nothing like a day without homosexual whining. Right now, I’m trying to talk them into a National Year of Silence.”

"Self-pity and gratitude are mortal enemies. Where one exists the other cannot. Since both are highly contagious, individuals must choose gratitude before becoming too thankless to do otherwise."

“When I am hunting and I know I see a deer in the brush, I pull the trigger. When I know it is a human, I hold my fire. When I don’t know, I also hold my fire. The feminist who doesn’t know whether it a fetus is a person, has the abortion anyway. In other words, she just pulls the trigger. Nonetheless, feminists still feel they are morally superior to hunters.”

“Our college campuses have become the last safe haven of Marxists, largely because its adherents have never had to survive in the real world, much less in a communist dictatorship. Indeed, there are more communists teaching in the State of North Carolina than there are in the former Soviet Union.”

“Over the last couple of years, I’ve been tying to see things from a liberal perspective. Unfortunately, I can’t get my head that far up my ass. I guess it takes a lot of flexibility to be a liberal. It also takes a considerable lack of backbone.”

“Many of those who are unfit for any job besides that of a tenured professor would be unemployed and homeless if we abolished tenure tomorrow. Without tenure, these people would not be such an irritation at work, although they would probably be just as irritating as panhandlers once the unemployment checks ran out.”

“Marxism is an emotional disorder, not a political philosophy.”

“George W. Bush has done more for women’s rights than any president in modern history. But feminists hate him because he is opposed to abortion rights. Bill Clinton sexually harassed more women than any president in American history. But that’s okay. He supports abortion rights so feminists love him. If he were ever convicted of rape, feminists would still love him because he supports abortion rights.”

“A liberal once told me that I should abandon conservatism because it is degrading for an educated man to set such low standards for himself. I reminded him that I used to be a liberal. I simply told him ‘I’ve upped my standards, now up yours.’”

“Wealthy people sometimes accept Marxism, not because it has ever worked, but because they feel guilty about having more than other people. But, more often, it is accepted by those with less who are angry, usually because they lack the talent and drive to succeed in a capitalist society. This realization often occurs at a ten-year high school reunion after they see people with less schooling and fewer degrees but with more money than they have. They don't want to compete with these people. They just want the IRS take their wealth and redistribute it against their will under the threat of incarceration. They also like to call conservatives fascists."

“Men are fully capable of masturbating without taking a seminar. For men, it’s a natural talent. For campus feminists, it’s another excuse to seek funding from the university administration.”

“Bringing American professors to laughter is nearly as tough as bringing American feminists to orgasm. It’s a theoretical possibility that is seldom achieved without a workshop.”

“I think that many people who are pro choice are glad that they were born before 1973. Otherwise, they might not be able to make choices. I’m just glad my parents were pro-life.”

“Just remember that Jesus didn’t die on the cross for you to run from what is right. And war heroes didn’t die on the battlefield for you to cower away while this country is destroyed.”

“Feminists often justify abortion by saying that the procedure is no different than picking a scab. That’s when I start asking questions. I often ask feminists about a film I saw of a fetus in the so-called first trimester of development. The baby was yawning, rubbing its eyes, and even rolling around and playing in the womb. I like to ask feminists whether they have ever seen a scab yawn.”

“If you are easily offended by free speech on campus, I have just the solution: Get the hell out of college.”

“Like Marxism, liberalism is not really a political philosophy. Instead, it is a state of arrested emotional development. It is a way of thinking, which leads to no place in the real world. It is a place existing only in the imagination.”

“Standing up against that which is wrong invariably means you will take on a lot of angry people. If you cannot do it with a sense of humor, you are less likely to prevail.”
Not really helping here, John. Most of these are the sort of mean-spirited put-downs that tc mocks and Rod talks about in his second post when he says, "...people just love to polarize the world when nothing could be farther from truth."

Most are also horrendously over-generalized, and none of them are really funny with the possible exception of the lack of backbone one. That said, I do like this one:

“Just remember that Jesus didn’t die on the cross for you to run from what is right. And war heroes didn’t die on the battlefield for you to cower away while this country is destroyed.”

Of course, you should also remember that Jesus constantly reminded us to forgive each other and to love our fellow man. A concept an awful lot of fundamentalist Christians appear to have completely abandoned.
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