I’ll quote the opening premise and spare you the rest of this because in the entire Politico interview, no one seems to understand what conservative comedy is or why leftist comedy is failing.
For the past three years, Matt Sienkiewicz, an associate professor of communication and international studies at Boston College, and Nick Marx, an associate professor of film and media studies at Colorado State University, have immersed themselves in the world of conservative comedy. The findings of their inquiry, which they detail in their new book, That’s Not Funny: How the Right Makes Comedy Work for Them, might come as a surprise to devotees of the Daily Show: Conservative humorists aren’t merely catching up to their liberal counterparts in terms of reach and popularity. They’ve already caught them — and, in some cases, surpassed them, even as the liberal mainstream has continued to write conservative comedy off as a contradiction in terms.
Political comedy can be divided into establishment and anti-establishment.
Stewart, Colbert and the rest of the gang who defined the entertainment news complex got their start during the Bush years pretending to be anti-establishment. And then they faded into boring hacks during the Obama years with a mission of being establishment comedians attacking opponents of the regime. After four years of excitement brought on by attacking Trump, the establishment is back to the usual lefty trick of trying to seem anti-establishment by wrapping itself in borrowed victimhood, abortion, BLM, illegal migrants, etc… so that they would seem like they were fighting the power rather than being the power.
Butt his game is lame. Attacking Mitch McConnell with talking points from the DNC or ranting about the issue of the week when your guy is in power is lame.
And establishment comedy is inherently lame.
Conservative comedy became anti-establishment comedy. And while it still needs plenty of work, it gets its laughs from mocking the abuses of lefties.
It’s no coincidence that conservative comedy began rising even as lefty censoriousness took off. The two are closely interrelated. Most conservative comedy is only funny within the frame of the lefty speech wars.
Or, simply, it’s only funny to the extent that an anti-establishment is tilting at an establishment.
Comedy can be innately funny regardless of politics. But political comedy does depend on a power differential. This is an area where lefty metrics of punching up and punching down do apply, not for ethical reasons, but because a combative underdog is inherently funny while combative establishment is oppressive, grotesque, and difficult to cheer for. That doesn’t mean that a sizable contingent won’t cheer anyway. Plenty of personality cults run that way. Clapter still fills the airwaves while lefty comedians insist that inflation is a conspiracy theory Republicans made up because they hate black people. But it doesn’t win over anyone who isn’t already on board.
That’s the difference between tribal signaling, which bad unfunny comedy relies on, What’s the deal with those people? Aren’t they dumb? and insurgent humor, which may not be well thought out, but succeeds by creating the comical spectacle of an inverted power differential.