That Goes Double for Comedy

In response to Another Post Begging for Good Storytelling:

At the expense of linking to BuzzFeed, I completely agree with Ben Howe’s analysis. If conservatives want to be in the narrative biz, they need to step up their game. And if that means criticizing the quality of work by other conservatives, then so be it.

As someone who occasionally tries to milk laughs from politics I see the same phenomenon at work in conservative “humor.” Not a day goes by when I don’t have an inbox brimming with emails from well-intentioned conservatives, with subject lines like “this is HILARIOUS!!!”, containing jpegs of some amateur cartoon or song parody or Demotivational/LOLcat memegenerator-generated meme-thing. How can I put this gently? I love you guys, but seriously, please stop sending me these things. They suck, they’re an embarrassment. 

Part and parcel of what Ace has termed golf-clap political humor, where an audience is invited to laugh as a show of ideological solidarity rather than a legitimate comedic reaction. There are examples on the left (witness Bill Maher’s audience of barking circus seals), but conservatives, if anything, seem more prone to it. Yes, Obama is a sacred cow in the media, but that doesn’t mean you have to post every half-assed angry joke Obama Photoshop on your Facebook page, just like the stereotyped annoying crazy conservative uncle. 

That golf-clap is a nagging concern whenever I tweet a joke or write a blog bit. Does it provoke a genuine laugh, or is it just a cheap polemic that pushes the approval button of like-minded folks? I hope it’s the former, but when the subject is politics it’s hard to really know. The only thing you can really do is to mix it up with a healthy regimen of apolitical material to keep honest. 

Whether it’s a Janeane Garofalo anti-Bush rant or a crappy .gif of Nancy Pelosi, the problem starts when the messenger puts the political cart in front of the comedy horse. This is how you get “The Half Hour News Hour,” the brutally, criminally unfunny 2007 Fox News ‘comedy’ car wreck.

So, to paraphrase Ben Howe’s point, if you want to make a good conservative movie, first, make a good movie. The same rule applies to humor: funny first, politics second. When it comes to gauging the impact of a satire bit, 100 praises or retweets from fellow conservatives aren’t as valuable as a single grudging “I hate your stupid wingnut politics, but I laughed.” 


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