Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
Leftists have never been as humorless, unfunny and touchy as they are now. And they’ve never poured as much time and money into late night comedy, Netflix comedy specials and assorted people angrily shouting things about Trump and their confused sexual identities into a microphone, as they are now.
Comedy, as supported by billion-dollar media corporations based in blue states that would legalize killing babies and heroin before they would permit gun ownership, has returned to its roots in Greek political life. Except the ancient Greeks thought that people insulting each other’s politics was funny and the modern Proggies think that the insults should be one-sided and delivered in an echo chamber.
There’s nothing wrong with a long string of clever and daring one-sided insults. Take that, subtract the “clever” and the “daring”, and you end up with proggie comedy.
Don’t bother developing a narrative. Angry and insecure proggies need to know your comedy is politically safe from the start. It’s best if you treat your joke like a thesis and just recite a political talking point in an arch tone in the style of political post-comedy popularized by the Daily Show.
McSweeney’s, whose readership consists entirely of the hipsters still hanging out at Starbucks, pretending to write a novel while hoping that the girl/boy/confused pronoun of their dreams notices their pretentiousness and falls in love with them, has completely mastered the art of prog comedy.
You don’t even need to click past the headline to know what the punchline in “Abortion is Immoral, Except When It Comes to My Mistresses” or “We Can’t Impeach One of the Most Unpopular and Corrupt Presidents Ever and Risk Alienating the Racist Voters Who’d Never Vote For Us Anyway” is gonna be.
The only reason to click on them is when McSweeney’s blocks your copy and paste function from working so it can pitch you a book to pretend to read at Starbucks.
The ancient Greeks understood that political comedy is funny when it’s dynamic. Take away the dynamism and it’s didactic.
The Soviet Union’s best comedians did their work underground because Marxist comedy isn’t funny, it’s conformist. Conformists don’t try to shock you. Shocking people is offensive and requires safe spaces.
Proggies try to shock some hypothetical conservative who might be watching, but even the most devout Christian in West Virginia is not going to be terribly surprised by “Abortion is Immoral, Except When It Comes to My Mistresses”. Not if he had ever encountered any proggie pop culture in the last 70 years.
But shocking hypothetical conservatives is the only frisson left to conformist leftist comedy. The joke is that some non-conformist eating at Chick Fil A while wearing a red MAGA cap might be offended.
Is it unfair to call the tedious lectures subsidized by billion-dollar blue state corps, Marxist comedy?
Here’s a hilarious snippet from HBO’s John Oliver. “To its eternal credit, the Green New Deal has succeeded in getting people talking, but that won’t mean anything unless that talk turns into action,” the unfunny British host tediously lectured. “We’re going to need a lot of different policies working tandem, and we have to take action right now.”
Laugh, comrade, laugh about the glory of our 5-year-plan.
But it’s okay. Oliver was making funny faces while lecturing his audiences about the importance of raising energy efficiency requirements to meet the targets of the Soviet Presidium. It works as well as trying to read Das Kapital while wriggling your eyebrows and throwing in a little vocal fry.
This isn’t Marxist comedy because of its politics. The medium is the message. And the medium is a lecture by the political elite whose only two messages are denouncing counterrevolutionaries and encouraging activists to work harder to realize the post-plane and post-health-care utopia.
Oliver and his audience live in a bubble in which conservatives only exist to mobilize working class solidarity among Salesforce, Facebook and Conde Nast employees for the Green New Deal revolution.
When that’s your medium, your message can’t help its Marxism.
The 20th century revolutions of angry young men ended with decrepit Marxists delivering four-hour speeches to bored audiences. The angry young men of comedy turned into lickspittles doing Orange Man Bad comedy that’s indistinguishable from 1984’s Two Minutes Hate sessions.
American comedy was good-natured because it was self-deprecating. Proggie comedy is self-aggrandizing. Its entire point is that the comic is right and some conservative (and liberal who has failed to endorse banning cows, killing babies or believing that the Russians elected Trump with post-election Facebook ads aimed at black people) is wrong.
The audience, which is on the same page, is also right.
The ancient Greeks understood that humor came from the failures of the protagonist. He isn’t meant to succeed, but to fail over and over again, to display his foibles, his vices and his stupidity, and to make the audience relate to them.
Comedy is not a story in which the comic and the audience are right, but in which we recognize that we are all wrong.
And, that we are therefore all human.
Progressive comedy’s message is that we’re human and they’re deplorables. The narrative of the flawed comic, greedy, stupid and ugly, has given way to identity politics comedy whose evangelical message is the redemptive value of ideological identity.
The identity politics comedian testifies how politics saved them from unhappiness about being fat, gay or Muslim. Through identity politics, it was revealed to them that what oppressive white supremacist heteronormativity told them was a flaw, is really a virtue.
You can laugh now.
This isn’t comedy. It’s church for people who learned to believe in themselves by hating most of the country.
It’s also what a tenth of your Netflix subscription is tithing to.
Classic comedy’s message, that we are all flawed people, was conservative. Lefty comedy’s message is that we need to sort ourselves and our self-esteem according to the categories of identity politics.
You can only feel good about yourself by learning to find your place in life through a political lens.
Marxist comedy isn’t funny because it’s always a lecture. Layering word games, mannerisms, facial twitches, obscenities and a little bit of self-deprecation doesn’t change that. It’s no funnier than a corporate training event or a self-help seminar that layers comedy over a sales pitch.
People laugh because they want a break from the unfunny problems of real life. But leftists have turned comedy into a problem you need a break from. Their idea of comedy is awkward, histrionic and condemnatory. It doesn’t unite different people around a common flawed humanity, but deliberately divides them while affirming their politics. It tells them that they’re worthless unless they believe.
The Fool was the classic comedic protagonist who could speak truths only by admitting his own ignorance. Leftist comedians will put aside dignity, but not their conviction of rightness. They want to play the Fool and the Sage at the same time without giving up the prerogatives of either role.
But it’s okay. They have science on their side. Just ask Bill Nye, an aspiring stand-up comedian turned fake scientist who didn’t want to take the time to get a PhD, but is treated as the Voice of Science.
Nye’s Netflix special was titled, “Bill Nye Saves the World”.
The joke is that there is no joke. Lefties really believe that a former kiddie TV host is saving the world with apocalyptic pseudo-science. Bill Nye certainly believes he is. The arch tone has become indistinguishable from unironic conviction. Self-deprecation is really just self-aggrandizement.
The Fool doesn’t become the Sage in an unexpected development. Instead wannabe sages are trying to seem hip by pretending to be fools. And they aren’t fooling anyone except fools.
Leftist comedy isn’t funny, it’s a self-righteous crusade accompanied by goofy posturing. In the Ukraine, a comedian playing a fake president actually ran for office and got the job. But the joke stops being funny when you really want power. You can’t wear a clown nose and a gun. Pick one.
Proggies care more about power than about being funny. And they’re more powerful than they are funny. Their monopoly over the media space isn’t due to their talent, but to their power.
Leftist comedy, like everything leftist, is based on a deranged greed for power fed by a messianic conviction that the world will be destroyed if anyone else is running it.
Doing a little dance and wriggling your nose doesn’t make your megalomania funny. At some point there’s little difference between shouting about urgent change to a bunch of people in a New York City theater or a Berlin soccer stadium, accompanied by erratic mannerisms and hysterical applause.
Alt-right Neo-Nazis followed in the footsteps of the Daily Show and its innumerable alums by wearing clown noses and preaching their politics through a haze of ironic distance, goofy pranks and memes. The same activist comedy that had paid off for Marxists was just as adaptable for Nazis.
The joke is that there is no joke. There’s just a guy in a black mustache or black horn-rimmed glasses shouting about his insane political views. He isn’t kidding. He just knows that the more entertaining he is, the more people will pay attention, and that unacceptable views can be normalized by throwing in some gags to make him seem hip.
Big Brother is a comedian. His audience suffers from ADD. It’s neurotic, humorless and aching for affirmation. His message is one of hatred for the other and sacrifice of the self. The audience boos the enemy and cheers calls for endless sacrifice. It leaves mobilized for the struggle.
You can laugh now.