When Comedians Aren't Funny

Sarah Palin punchlines are getting old.

Last  week, the supposedly-funny comedian Russell Brand, a bizarre mash-up of Twiggy and Marilyn Manson, leveled his rhetorical pop gun at Sarah Palin. Why was Palin popular? “People want to f*** her,” he answered his own question. “That’s why they tolerate the other stuff.”

This sort of politically biased humor has become commonplace amongst the would-be laugh-makers. In fact, this isn’t the first time Brand has publicly bashed Palin. During the 2008 MTV Music Awards, the network actually cut one of his so-called jokes. “I wanted to say she was forcing her teenage daughter to have a baby because she is so anti-abortion,” recalled Brand. “But also, as a Republican she is pro-execution so she is going to give her the electric chair for being a little slut.”

Now, you may recall that when Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a slut after Fluke suggested that American taxpayers cut her a check for her birth control so she could have sex at whim, the media went insane; President Obama personally delivered a consoling call to Fluke; the Democratic Party ran fundraising campaigns for a month about the “war on women.” When Brand calls Bristol Palin a slut, nothing. When David Letterman suggested that 14-year-old Willow Palin would be knocked up by Alex Rodriguez, there was virtually no serious blowback. When Louis C.K. tweeted, “I want to rub my father’s c**k all over Sarah Palin’s fat t***,” then followed that up with “@SarahPalin kudos to your dirty hole, you f***ing jackoff c**t-face jazzy wondergirl,” and laughed at Palin’s “f*** retard-making c**t,” he got invited to the White House to hang out with Obama speechwriter Jonathan Favreau.

And yet Hollywood now cries about the level of violence in American film. The Dark Knight supposedly causes shootings because isolated insane people watch it, pick up AK-47s and head to the theater. But when comedians spew hate – not comedy, hate – at those of opposing political viewpoints, that’s totally innocuous. We get lectured when Sarah Palin uses crosshairs to target hot-button political districts, and a non-political nutjob like Jared Loughner shoots a Congressperson. But when comics blast away at Sarah Palin’s genitals, no harm no foul.

Free speech rules, of course, but it needs to be pointed out that these comedians simply aren’t funny. They’ve fallen prey to the Jon Stewart Syndrome, where a once-hilarious funnyman gives way to long stretches of political screed punctuated by notes of wistful comedy. These comedians are now more interested in bashing Palin and lifting Obama than they are in saying funny things. That’s why Saturday Night Live has shifted from throwing out punchlines to becoming one: they haven’t done a funny political sketch in years because the best they can do with a perpetually narcissistic and incompetent president is to have Fred Armisen play him whining about Republicans – and the joke’s supposed to be on Republicans. Or they could always trot out psychotic weirdo Sarah Silverman to hump a dog in order to push Sheldon Adelson to give money to her favorite black president.

This isn’t to say that jokes about Republicans aren’t funny. Many of them are. Tina Fey’s brutal takedown of Palin was funny … the first time. Perhaps even the second time. The last 100 times, it got old. When Jay Leno and David Letterman mocked the fecklessness of the McCain campaign, much of that was hysterically funny. But one-sided comedy ultimately  isn’t comedy. It’s politics. And when comedians cross that line from comedy to outright stumping for candidates, they lose their credibility.

So what’s the future of political comedy? It looks pretty bleak, at least from the mainstream media point of view. Mitt Romney may not be the world’s most interesting candidate – hell, he’s downright vanilla – but that’s not a great basis  for jokes—certainly no better than a delusional president who thinks Americans are dumb because they can’t understand why a high unemployment rate, inflation of the currency, and radical deficits are a good thing. It’s funny when Obama says that businesses were built because of government. It’s funny when Obama sends out daily emails calling you his best friend, then asking for cash. It’s funny when Obama suggests that Mitt Romney is taking him out of context … and then plays a clip of himself mirroring Romney’s quotation word-for-word.

But don’t expect the comedy left to change anytime soon. And don’t expect America to become a funnier place between now and November.

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