Why does there seem to be a lack of conservative comedy and comedy-news compared to liberal?
In the United States there are a number of liberal comedians who emphasize their liberal status in their comedy, and in particular a wealth of liberal comedy focusing on recent events/news. To name a few off the top of my head, there is "The Daily Show", "Last Week Tonight", and "late night".
I'm unaware of any comedians that emphasize conservative commentary in a humorous manner. I'm aware of comedians who are also conservative, but not ones making regular conservative commentary using humor.
Are there shows like this on the conservative side that I'm unaware of, and if not is there any reason for this to be primarily a liberal/Democratic phenomenon?
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CNN's "History of Comedy" series had an episode about political comedy, and one segment of it was about conservative comedy and why it's rare.
A recent article on Cracked.com talks about some of the issues. I don't agree with the article (it's written in a way that makes it seem like all right-wing comedy is garbage), but it might make you aware of the biggest mistakes that most right-wing comedians (or the most notorious ones) seem to make.
Why can't it just be market forces? Supply and demand. Shouldn't this be the working hypothesis in a free country?
@Trilarion I'm sure it is market forces, but that is too high level an explination. what causes those market forces? why is there less of a demand for one type of comedy over the other which causes the market to not feel an advantage in providing that supply.
E.g. Trump is just so much more easy to make fun of than Obama by comparison. He says a lot everyday and often contradicts himself or the truth and the market for comedy just jumps at this. How often did Obama order something or offered to buy Greenland? It's actually really difficult to not make fun of Trump (that would mean taking everything he says seriously). He also happens to be a conservative, but if he wouldn't be, there isn't reason to assume people wouldn't laugh about him the same. Anyone remember Anthony Weiner, the democrat? That should be the working hypothesis, I think.
@Trilarion this trend predated trump by quite a bit. These sort of shows existed during obama presidency, and the grandaddy ones, like the daily show, were around pre-obama
Obama was an exception in the other direction. Just try to make fun of him instead of Trump and you'll see it's just much harder. With Trump you just need to take a random statement like for example the North Korean leader is a great guy (he probably isn't) , and you have prime material for comedy.
Just from today, Trump shows a fake hurricane forecast with made-up additions by someone. It's really quite hard not to make fun of it whoever made the additions. Now try to find something comparable with Obama. It's paradise currently for comedians.
What I've noticed is that a "comedian" who attacks only one side of the political divide doesn't become 50% less funny; he or she becomes 100% less funny. It doesn't matter whose ox is getting gored.
@Michael I understand you are trying to share samples of conservative comedy, but just randomly posting youtube links in comments doesn't communicate much. To be honest I, and likely most other savvy inter denizens, refused to visit the links originally presuming they were spam, and I only followed a link to learn it was a conservative comedy piece because I was preparing to mark all your comments as spam and wanted to confirm my presumption. unsourced links are not a good comment, at least give some context for why they are provided, and there is no need to repeated post links.
A liberal/conservative divide happens between sparsely-populated rural areas and dense urban ones, with the rural settings more likely to be conservative, and the urban ones more likely to be liberal. I won't get into the reasons why that is, but given that mass media has historically required a large number of people with a wide variety of talents that tend to fit better into cities (a stagehand in a small town wouldn't be able to make enough to do that full-time, whereas one in NYC very well could), mass media itself has grown up as a thing of the cities, and thus of liberal thinking.
Humor is by no means a 'liberal' thing, but due to the way a comedian's career tends to play out (larger and larger in-person venues, to TV specials, to fat-man-skinny-wife sitcom, and ideally parlayed into an acting career), it tends to mirror the tendencies in mass media. You are more likely to find an audience that likes your humor in a big city, you are more likely to be paid enough to do comedy for longer periods, and you are more likely to be able to pursue careers that don't focus on general necessities of life (like comedy). So while humor isn't a liberal/conservative thing, the process of becoming a comedian (in the vein of John Stewart/John Oliver/Stephen Colbert) is heavily biased towards those willing to spend their lives in large cities.
This makes sense to me, but as a counter-example, there are a lot of successful country singers that draw large audiences in conservative, rural areas.
@BlackThorn As well as the fact that Fox News, a quite popular part of mass media in the US, is highly conservative.
@BlackThorn That's one specific niche. This is talking about "mass media", not a niche; the proper comparison would be to "the entire music industry" (which should really make the proper comparison "mass media" again). Start looking across all music genres and I bet you'll see another "liberal", but actually it's "urban", bias: hip hop, rap, R&B, salsa, etc. are heavily associated with minorities, which trend towards the Democratic side of the spectrum, for examples. Now throw in music geared towards youth and young adults...
@BlackThorn Popular country singers mostly play shows in large cities, just like big-name musicians in all other genres of music. The actual large concerts are rarely in 'rural' areas. Granted, the country concerts probably do draw more of their crowds from the rural areas surrounding the cities where the concerts are held than, say, a rap artist would.
@zibadawatimmy salsa is liberal and Urban? wow, I'm learning so much about music I never knew before :P
@reirab youre statement is true, but at the same time I think it's pretty commonly agreed that country appiles to rural individuals, I mean the genre was *named* after it's emphesis on rural country life. The fact that it still draws a crowed in 'liberal' urban areas would seem to help to prove BlackThron's counter example that conservative (or at minimum rural) leaning media can still draw sufficient attention to be popular and successful in urban areas.
@zib I'm not sure why the entire music industry would have to be conservative to validate my counter-example. The question is why there are seemingly 0 conservative comedy shows. If the reason is that only liberal media can draw a crowd based on population dynamics, country music's existence alone is enough to prove that conservative media is capable of getting people together. Rodeos are another good example. Monster truck rallies. Nascar. The list goes on.
@reirab I don't know if country singers mostly play in large cities or not, but I have seen plenty of concerts in very rural areas with crowds over 10,000 people, some much larger. Also, I mentioned rodeos, which get pretty large crowds (maybe not quite as large as a concert), and those are exclusively in small towns. The fact is that conservatives mobilize towards media/entertainment just like liberals, and it doesn't have to happen in a big city to have large turnout.
This maybe made sense in the 40s with radio being the primary medium. Doesn't really make any sense in today's world of consolidated media. It's not like country musicians singing about war veterans targeting a conservative audience have a tough time selling out stadiums.
I'm aware of quite a few liberals who are very big and unabashedly country music fans. In fact, one person I know is a bigger fan of Country Music than her two Right of center sons.
@hszmv of course there are liberal country fans. There are are even liberal country acts. However, there are also a lot of country artists that do pander to a particular demographic and manage to sell out stadiums just fine.
I think this answer is flawed. With the internet, the exposure of comedy is no longer limited to having American mass media as gatekeepers. Conservative comedy isn't under-represented, if anything it's simply "under-existent". I think socially conservative comedians like Dennis Miller and Jeff Dunham tend to be tragically unfunny--most of the funny ones are simply libertarians.
@Amalgovinus, but the Asker specifically mentions three major cable TV shows (mass media). Right now people that are "internet famous" are still a lower rank than "TV famous" with the top tier still being "Movie Famous".
Possibly worth noting that John Stewart/John Oliver/Stephen Colbert are all a product of the Daily Show, would be worth investigating if this answer still holds pre-Daily Show or if it's just the case that liberal news-comedy managed to find a niche that conservative news-comedy hasn't yet found. Saturday Night Live might be a more long term example, which is also mostly liberal from what I'm aware.
Dennis Miller is an openly conservative comedian. He had several television shows, although most have been short-lived since he came out as a conservative after 9/11. His radio show lasted until 2015.
Miller is probably the most political, but there are other conservative/Republican comedians. Ranker.com has a list.
Rush Limbaugh also included comedy in his show, although it often had a more serious tone. The farding in cars (pronounced like farting) show was pure comedy.
Greg Gutfeld has a comedy show on Fox News. The 1/2 Hour News Hour was supposed to be the conservative version of the Daily Show. Jesse Watters hosts Watters' World, which is one of those reality comedy shows that goes around asking people on the street questions.
It's also worth noting that it is easier to make comedy about the president than other politicians. So liberal comedians are more obvious when it's a Republican president. When it's a Democrat, liberal comedians have a different set of jokes. So right now, it is unsurprising that most people remember the liberal jokes about Donald Trump.
Trump also took advantage of comedy. Is there anyone in the US that does not know that Trump wanted to build a wall, ban Muslims, and Make America Great Again? When liberal comedians pilloried those positions, they also spread them. Hillary Clinton's more nuanced positions didn't draw as much criticism nor repetition.
People also tend to ignore the jokes about candidates they like. This leaves the unpopular Trump an open target. Meanwhile, people forget about fifty-seven states and the objectification of Kamala Harris.
Much of comedy is aimed at twenty-somethings. People at that age tend to be more liberal than their parents and grandparents. For the most part, they pay little in taxes, so they have little concern about what has traditionally been one of the main Republican issues. They aren't the best market for conservative humor. This pushes conservatives into other venues: talk radio (Limbaugh); sitcoms (Tim Allen, Roseanne Barr, etc.); conservative news (Gutfeld, Watters, etc.). Meanwhile the liberals dominate the late night comedy space.
It's interesting that Gutfeld is one of the more libertarian conservatives. Because a lot of comedy is about things that conservatives avoid discussing: jokes about farting and other offensive bodily functions; sex. Limbaugh disclaims the farding/farting comparison now. Howard Stern's view on taxes is quite conservative even while his views on sex aren't.
Perhaps the real problem is that taxes just aren't that funny to people who pay them. So Stern and other comedians don't do a lot of tax humor but do do a lot of not so conservative body humor. If you select a group for their willingness to make body humor jokes, perhaps it is not surprising that their politics are often not conservative.
57 states was a simple misstatement, in context it was obviously meant to be 47 states, I never found it particularly funny since it doesn't even compare to some of the more sensible Bushisms. I think the Obama statement that aged the best given the 2016 election was "you're likable enough Hillary", though that says more about Clinton than Obama.
Yes, it was a misstatement, like most of the misstatements politicians get attacked for. That is irrelevant to this answer which merely reminds us that it did give rise to jokes.
Good answer in general, but I don't really think the current POTUS has much to do with what OP is asking about. Those same set of comedy 'news' shows have been around far longer than Trump. There weren't really any widely-watched conservative ones (that I'm aware of, at least) even when Obama was President.
Comparing _a slip of the tongue_ of a liberal with the ridiculous, but _seriously meant and repeatedly defended idea_ of building a wall against Mexicans. The idea that the liberal shows mentioned by OP _must_ be mainly a lot of primitive fart and sex jokes. The idea that _successful, rich comedians_ don't mention taxes because it's too painful to them, when liberal comedians have no problem hurting themselves by arguing _against_ tax breaks for the rich. I get the feeling there's an agenda here, even though it's well hidden.
@R.Schmitz Are you for real? Are we supposed to pretend that typos and misstatements are too trivial for left-wing comedians to focus on? How many months was "covfefe" a thing?
@zero If you re-read my comment, you might find that it says "Comparing a slip of the tongue of a liberal with the ridiculous, but seriously meant and repeatedly defended idea of building a wall against Mexicans."
there's also some simply incorrect statements here. "People also tend to ignore the jokes about candidates they like". That may be true for conservatives, but not necessarily for liberals. Shows like the Daily Show and Colbert Report were just as quick to poke fun at their candidate as their opponent.
@R.Schmitz I read your comment already. The points in the original answer concerning verbal gaffes and policy positions are in separate paragraphs, so I don't see how they were at all being compared to one another.
@Teleka - No, it was not meant to be 47 states. It was actually meant to be 57, but 57 primary contests (that includes caucuses) contested in the states and also in US territories (Guam, Puerto Rico, Washington DC, etc).
@zero Oh. No, being in different paragraphs shouldn't keep you from making a logical connection. I'm often reading texts by authors who make a point over several paragraphs, it allows discussion of more complex issues without sacrificing readability. By the way, "covfefe" was a social media post. Its way easier to control what you post on social media, so that's just another comparison that isn't really kosher.
@zero Surely "covfefe" became "a thing" because of the White House's absurd response to the typo? "Mr Spicer cryptically told reporters that 'the president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant' when he tweeted the word 'covfefe' at 12:06 a.m."
I think "covfefe" was funny because it was a humorous misstatement. Does it need any other justification?
@WGroleau - No, the genuine accusation was that Obama didn't know how many states there were, which was an absurd accusation. While someone might get mocked for a misstatement, there isn't usually that blatant of a misrepresentation of what it does or does not mean about the candidate.
@PoloHoleSet: you should omit the first word, since you apparently agreed with me.
@WGroleau - No, because you were saying the mocking was like that other politicians get, where someone might poke fun at them for misspeaking, whereas the object of ridicule was the premise that Obama was genuinely so stupid that he did not know how many states exist. It's a fundamentally different kind of criticism.
A perspective from the United Kingdom.
Since 1990, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has regularly broadcast Have I Got News For You. They ridicule everybody, but as far as politicians are concerned, their more successful guests are more likely to be Conservative than Labour. The Conservative politicians are simply perceived to be more funny, in particular in the great British tradition of self-mockery. Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg and funny and ridiculous, they know they are, and thrive in it. But invite Jeremy Corbyn or John McDonnell or one of their allies to what is supposed to be a satirical news quiz, and they're going to answer every question with a deeply serious message about how the country needs fixing, and the audience — who are there to laugh — get bored.
I believe that Americans don't practice this art of self-mockery (very well). Would a TV show invite Sarah Palin with the expectation that she makes fun of herself? I don't think so. In the UK, very much so. In a country where people are unwilling to make fun of themselves or their allies, only their political opponents will make fun of them. So that means:
- In the UK, comedy news shows tend to favour Conservative guests, because Brits make fun of themselves, and Conservatives are more funny.
- In the USA, comedy news shows tend to be more progressive leaning, because Americans make fun of people they disagree with, and conservative-leaning folk are more funny.
I'm from The Netherlands. In The Netherlands, neither of the above works, because Dutch people mostly aren't funny. There's a (partially progressive-leaning) weekly show called Zondag met Lubach, which tries to mimic the American "late night (comedy) show" concept. It aired some brilliant little satirical pieces such as America First, Netherlands Second, but a lot of the show is not actually comedy.
I'm curious if this holds true for the duration of Have I Got News For You. Certainly, with the current conservative government, we poke more fun at the Tories, but was this true during the Blair and Brown years or were Labour the butt of the jokes? I recall Nick Clegg of the Lib Dems holding his own when he appeared, but I can't remember if it was while they were in coalition.
"Would a TV show invite Sarah Palin with the expectation that she makes fun of herself?" - actually, they do all the time.
I somewhat disagree. While I agree that conservative politicians are more prepared to appear on panel shows and use self-deprecating humour, a lot of actual British comedians are left-leaning. How much that impacts their performances varies drastically though. I agree with the sentiment that American politicians are less likely to be prepared to use self-deprecating humour than most British politicians.
Maybe I get the wrong impression as an outsider, but isn't Prime Minister's Questions even pretty much just an excuse for politicians to make sarcastic jokes at each others' expense.
"but a lot of the show is not actually comedy" That's american late night TV too.
@JonathanReez That's an excellent example that perhaps helps explain what gerrit says. In that clip Trump and Fallon are making fun of all the jokes that are made about Trump.Trump is laughing at how silly the caricatures of him are.That wouldn't work for a Democrat because Democrat's aren't regularly subjected to the same over-the-top attacks.
I'd say a point to add to the UK for *comedians themselves* being more liekly to be Labour side is that many spend years not being successful. That usually means years juggling a second job/spending time out of a job and therefore more likely to be in the lower income strata's, paying less tax and maybe even being on the dole for awhile. That means they've spent years benefiting from and living life on the "left" side of British comedy (where Tories are seen as anti-welfare).
Add that to comedians in the UK either doing the working men's clubs in the past (not-pc but definitely more likely to be old school left), and nowadays working the cities and big towns comedy clubs (which attract a younger audience - and people tend to move from left to right as they age), and you've got comedians working to a mostly middle to left physical audience. Plus I disagree about HIGNFY. Paul Merton is certainly left and Iain Hislop just shows a general disdain for all politicians. Mock the Week and others use comedians that as I've said tend to already be on the left.
@Philbo Whilst it's true that the regular panelists are more left leaning (as is relatively common for comedians in the UK), many of the more frequent (or at least more memorable) guests are right-wing politicians - I certainly remember plenty of appearances by politician such as Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg, William Hague, and (perhaps funny for the wrong reason) Anne Widdecombe.
@James_pic Yes but as is being said, that's because they're better at not taking themselves and their points seriously. That still means the humour is coming at their expense (or their parties expense) which means to attack the right, you come from the left. But I really don't think that's a fair focus. We're talking about shows and their slant, or the humour used. That *politicians* invited on can be from either side of the spectrum, in general shows like The Last Leg are hosted and use comedians that are undeniably left slanted (such as the last two Frankie Boyle has done).
Arguably, the Clarkson/Hammond/May Top Gear featured conservative humor... it certainly blew in the face of PC. That's what made the show so delightful... and so popular.
HIGNFY actually has a Dutch version as well (with 34 seasons). While not as funny as the British version, it's pretty good compared to British and American weekly comedy shows and I'd say at the same level as ZML.
The entertainment and media industry is liberal because the people that work there are liberal.
This also explains why there are few prominent conservative leaning figures in those fields.
Of course, you might ask why are liberal people more likely to work in those industries, but that's another question.
This Atlantic article mentions a few potential reasons. But first, they make a very important counter-point to many of the theories already mentioned:
Liberal satirists are certainly having no trouble making light of liberal institutions and societies. Portlandia is about to enter its fifth season skewering the kinds of liberals who don’t understand that eco-terrorism and militant feminism may not be as politically effective as they think. Jon Stewart has had success poking fun at Obama’s policies. And Alison Dagnes, a professor of political science at Shippensburg University, has found that the liberal Clinton was the butt of more jokes on late-night shows of the 1990s than either George W. Bush or Obama would later be.
This is an important point that a lot of the other answers are ignoring. "Liberal Comedy" isn't about "mocking liberals". It's about "satirizing politics" and they are as willing to satirize the left as much as the right. And audiences are fine with that. They can appreciate the satire regardless of the target when it's done well.
The article continues. The first theory:
One explanation is simply that proportionately fewer people with broadly conservative sensibilities choose to become comedians. Just as liberals dominate academia, journalism, and other writing professions, there are nearly three times as many liberal- as conservative-minded people in the creative arts according to a recent study.
In summary, there are simply more liberals in the creative arts. Comedy is a creative art.
...The 1/2 Hour News Hour, the first major attempt to create a conservative counterpart to The Daily Show in 2007. It was cancelled after just 13 episodes and has remained the worst-rated show of all time on Metacritic. It was widely panned by critics who complained that it was trying to be political first and funny second, so the jokes were unsurprising and flat.
This could be interpreted a number of ways, but one way to explain that is perhaps they were "trying too hard". Comedy doesn't work well when forced.
Greg Gutfeld, the host of Fox’s Red Eye, can also be funny, but his willing-to-be-controversial style often comes across as more hackneyed than insightful. “You know you’re getting close to the truth when someone is calling you a racist,” he once said. Gutfeld has also railed against “greenie” leftists who shop at Whole Foods, tolerance, and football players who are openly gay. Gutfeld’s shtick works okay during its 3 a.m. timeslot, but a recent controversy over sexist jokes about a female fighter pilot highlighted just how far his humor is from working in prime time.
I think this example falls into the 'punching up vs. punching down' dilema. This article which actually focuses on liberal comics who have punched down and met push back describes that well.
And to continue with theory three, which the article spends the most time dissecting (and I'd suggest is worth a read):
But what is it about political satire that makes it so hard for conservatives to get it right?
Political humor, in particular, might have an inherently liberal bias. Alison Dagnes spent years looking into this question for her 2012 book A Conservative Walks Into a Bar. She spoke to dozens of working comedians who self-identified as liberals, and as many who identified as conservatives as she could find. One of the reasons she posits for a lack of conservative satire is that the genre has always been aimed at taking down the powerful, from the Revolutionary War through Vietnam and 9/11. “Conservatism supports institutions and satire aims to knock these institutions down a peg,” she wrote.
This is, essentially, also speaking to the 'punching up vs. punching down' issue.
I think some of the answers/comments need to be pointed out as flawed.
"The liberal media", doesn't make sense because TV is a for profit business and if a conservative comedy hour drew enough listeners, it would be aired, in fact, given that conservative listeners tend to be quite loyal, I'd go so far as to say TV stations would fight for the rights to air a conservative comedy hour that drew a sizable audience. Dennis Miller doesn't have a larger audience because he's not very funny. I would add, the Daily show would make fun of a liberal politician in a heartbeat if it made good TV. Would Dennis make fun of conservatives? If he would, I've never heard him do it.
"Punching up vs punching down", in one of the comments. While I absolutely agree with that statement, Obama was president for 8 years. George Soros is a billionaire. Nancy Pelosi was speaker of the house and a powerful congresswoman for decades, successful liberal actors who speak out are, rich and successful. Making fun of any of them IS punching up. It's incorrect to think Republicans/Wealthy are the only ones who are "up" and the only subjects to comedy.
And I tried watching that awful video by Prager U, and while some of his comments were fair, he doesn't understand comedy. Yes, there's political correctness in today's world, but not all comedians yield to political correctness. Many defy it. Political correctness might raise some objections, but some comedians tell the joke anyway and what's funny is still funny, perhaps even more so when it's edgy.
I think all of those answers miss the mark.
What it comes down to is this. Funny is hard and funny is rare. It takes a precise set of criteria to make something funny and it's not easy to do. I've heard it said that Hitler jokes are never funny, and I've never heard a funny one, so, I'm inclined to agree, but John Cleese pulled it off in Faulty Towers. That said, Cleese was brilliant, and they found a clever angle, a guest at the hotel was sensitive, so "don't talk about the war" and one thing lead to another.
But being funny is hard, especially for 4 shows a week.
The essence to this question can be summed up like this. Why is Sarah Palin comedy gold but Nancy Pelosi isn't. Sarah's clumsily worded moments invite mockery and I'm tempted to say, funny stuff, while Nancy's are simply cringe worthy, but not the material of real humor.
Sarah is comedy gold, Nancy isn't. Why is that? Basically this is just re-asking the question, but it helps narrow down what I think is the answer. The criteria for funny is easy to miss and hard to hit. There's a very narrow range where the comedy actually works, draws a sufficient audience and most important, makes people laugh out loud, cause that's what the audience is there for.
The subject is either inside the Goldilocks zone or they aren't and Nancy, or Obama, or other democrats, for better or worse, were never comedy gold. Some of Nancy's comments invited enormous reaction and repetition, but she was never quite right for comedy.
Perhaps, it's not the mistake that's funny, it's covering up the mistake that invites the comedy. That's the Lucile ball principal. It's not getting upset that's funny, it's pretending you're not upset when the audience knows you are.
That said, dissecting what makes something funny is far from a perfect science, and when I tied dumb to funny, people got offended but in a sense, dumb can be funny. There are in fact, several types of funny, some articles say 9, 10, 11, I saw one that listed 20. I still think the answer to this question lies in looking at specifically what's funny and working backwards, because there's a narrow window that actually is funny.
That's my answer. It's not about making big assumptions but about reverse engineering why things are funny. Start with the skit and work backwards and find the elements of humor. The Daily show appears liberal, though I maintain, they would make fun of a liberal politician in a minute if they thought it would get laughs.
They frequently have made fun of Democrats and liberals. If it was dumb, crazy-ass politics it was in Stewart's crosshairs (I don't know much about Noah); didn't matter what the underlying party was. Stewart had several brutal takedowns of both Trump's favorite thing ever, Fox News, as well as Trumps favorite thing to hate ever, CNN.
Your presumption, as far as you make one, seems to be that conservatives are innately more easily mocked, I find that hard to believe. There are *many* conservatives and democrats, the idea that out of all the democrats out there none have managed to say idiotic, or easily mocked, things seems improbable.
Dennis Miller absolutely made fun of conservatives in his earlier career, when he was a lot more popular (but that was not the main thrust of his humor, even then). He can be very funny. I find him much less funny now, but that might be in part my own disagreement with his post-9/11 attitudes coloring that perception. 9/11 hardened and embittered his viewpoints, substantially.
@PoloHoleSet I read that Fox News gave him a comedy half hour to see if he could be a conservative version of the daily show and his ratings were absolutely terrible. I also never found him very funny. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are very talented. Personally, I'm not even a fan of Trevor Noah. I'm not sure what the Daily show's audience is like, but I no longer feel much urge to watch it like I did when it was Stewart. John Oliver is OK, but he's not in the same league as Colbert & Stewart. Comedy is hard, very few people can really pull it off.
@dsollen Please show me where I used the word "ALL" in my post. Provide a quote or example that backs up what you claim or stop making claims based on what you incorrectly infer.
I think blip is onto something with "punching down" turning people off. Humor is so subjective, and political humor, most of all. I can't really disagree with anything in your last comment, though I like Oliver quite a bit - not being in the same league as Colbert and Stewart applies to almost everyone.
@PoloHoleSet I think there's something to punching down turning people off too, I'm just not sure that making fun of a democratic senator/congressmen/billionaire downer/famous actor or Obama is punching down. Few of us have that kind of power or influence. I found the article and it makes the point that conservatives tend to be more establishment and satire is often poked at establishment, I think that's a good point. https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/02/why-theres-no-conservative-jon-stewart/385480/ I think, this article is the best answer to this question IMHO.
Re: punching up/down, while there are Democrats/liberals who are "up," on the whole the left has been the faction for "down" groups (minorities) while the right has been the faction for "up" groups. If a conservative comedian makes fun of political opponents, broadly speaking, then pretty soon he or she is going to run out of "up" to punch at and start making gay jokes (*cough* Jeff Dunham *cough*). That's when they stop being funny, outside of a limited audience of people with... unfashionable... perspectives on races, sexualities, and gender identities.
I'd disagree that it doesn't exist. Certainly, with conservatives being more supportive of established conventions, irreverent humor that tends to be particularly political in how it will mock or skewer those conventions might tend to be a liberal genre. And, certainly, the idea some conservatives espouse that mocking those conventions is a sign of the deterioration of society is going to prevent certain types of self-deprecating humor from being particularly widespread.
There are plenty of comedians who deal with either the excesses of liberalism that are conservatives, themselves. Finding the humor in everyday life, government and relationships wouldn't hold to any particular viewpoint.
Dennis Miller, while some of his rants took a more pointed and seemingly less funny turn, still can see the absurdities in life and society in a funny way, when his focus is on that and not making an angry political point.
Scott Adams, the hugely popular satirist who's Dilbert cartoons mock the silliness of workplace conventions is a decidedly pro-Trump person. Or, perhaps, more of an anti-activist-liberal, but definitely in the conservative or libertarian column.
There are conservative humorists who have shows that skewer the uber-seriousness and contortions that "social justice warriors" sometimes bend themselves into.
Tim Allen is pretty well known for being conservative, and his humor tends to deal with more real-life issues and doesn't dwell overtly on politics.
Both Tim Allen and Rosanne Barr have had hugely popular, top of the Nielsen ratings, long-running comedy shows on major networks.
Does it seem like there are more liberal comedians, or they have wider popularity and general appeal? Possibly. That might say something about the comedians, but it might also say something about the audience. If conservatives were more open to all kinds of humor, and liberals had sticks wedged in unmentionable places when it comes to issues more dear to them, it might manifest itself with liberals and "liberal humor" being more widespread and popular, as well.
But Tim Allen and Dennis Miller don't have network conservative comedy shows. They have YouTube channels. That's so not the same thing. And the Dilbert comic has little to do with Scott Adam's personal views. I'd argue that the Dilbert comic isn't even conservative. It makes fun of business, not government.
Are these examples of humor-by-conservatives or conservative-based-humor? There's a big difference between them, and the former doesn't seem relevant to the question. Dilbert isn't political, even if its author is, so it's an example of the former. Doonesbury, on the other hand, would be an example of the latter (if it were conservative instead of liberal).
Dilbert hits a lot of the "political correctness" in the workplace, which could make it political. If you ask Jon Stewart, he'd say that the Daily Show was not a partisan show, but hit the general stupidity of media and political messaging, with the today's US "right" just happening to be a bit more foolish. You guys have a fair point, but I think it's tricky to characterize humor as liberal or conservative. Of course, there's always this, but I didn't want to to there in my answer - https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/rationally-speaking/200905/conservatives-lack-sense-humor-study-finds
The psychology today article is interesting. I'll have to give it some thought, before I agree/disagree, but it's a possible answer.
@PoloHoleSet I wonder if Jon Stewart would really say that The Daily Show was an apolitical show. I think he is very much aware of his political leanings and how they influenced his show. He'd probably disagree if you called TDS a far left propaganda programme (and so would I), but I doubt he'd say it wasn't political.
@jahn - he has said, on several occasions that he and the show are not ***partisan***, which is the word that I used - which is not the same as apolitical - if you attack all things political, regardless of ideology, that's still "political," but not partisan. - "is non-partisan and focuses on 'absurdity,' 'anti-corruption' and 'anti lack-of-authenticity.'" He is on the record saying this over and over again, which drove partisan opinion writers up the wall. http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/attytood/No-Jon-Stewart-youre-not-just-a-comedian.html
@userLTK - Of course, what the study says vs what the USA Today portrays it as could also be worlds apart, so let us know if you actually look at the study and whether you think they got it right at the newspaper.
Are you considering Dilbert conservative? It created the PHB (pointy-haired boss) idiom which perpetuates the stereotype that bosses are stupid and workers understand the business better than the bosses do. In fact, it always had the theme of mocking management. This is a pretty pro-labor message. I don't think the traditional Democratic Party would see it as conservative.
@PoloHoleSet The article from psychologcialToday is not a fair judge of comedy. Of course people are more likely to interpret satire as legitimate if it supports their ideological view, because those views seem logical to them and thus not worth mocking so taking it at face value makes sense. It should practically be an corollary of Poe's Law.. If a show existed where a conservative played a satirical liberal in the reverse Colbert I'm sure liberals would be more inclined to miss the satire.
Some of these examples don't work, though. Scott Adams is definitely not what most would call 'liberal' politically, but his actual 'comedy'--being dilbert--is certainly not really liberal nor conservative. It's just making fun of office life.
@dsollen I'm not so sure of that. Part of the huge success of The Colbert Show was that he made as much fun of liberals as he did conservatives. A big part of getting comedy across to an audience is having an audience that can empathize as well as self-reflect. Not something conservatives are necessarily known for. I actually think that Psychology Today article makes a good answer.
@dsollen - "is not a fair judge of comedy" - fair or not, it makes a claim I was not comfortable including in my answer, which is why **it is not part of my answer**. If you look at my ***answer*** you see that I suggest the possibility that liberals are not open to self-examination when it comes to humor.
@grovkin - That's a pretty narrow view, since the portrayal of all the co-workers as petty, lazy, insecure, not especially competent passive-aggressive time wasters is not what I'd call a "pro-labor" message. He doesn't just mock bosses.
@PoloHoloSet but he does have a central message that power comes from physical violence rather than from competence. Alice, while she is competent, gets her authority from being violent. And competence is inversely proportionate to position in Dilbert. Fellow workers are there to show how interactions in a workplace evolve with respect to competence vs authority. The personality traits you pointed out are methods in which the strip communicates its message. It is fundamentally very pro-labor. Wally's power comes from his manipulativeness, btw. So the relationship of power v competence holds.
@grovkin - Not sure how you get that the idea that people getting power from violence and not competence is, again, a "pro-labor" message, since it still mocks them as incompetent. You seem to have a fundamental view that showing the absurdities of a dysfunctional system is "pro" for the group that gets the power in a dysfunctional way. Telling me that I gain status at work through violence and intimidation is only "pro-me" if you assume that the idea of being a violent bully is something I consider to be positive or flattering. That's no more positive than how the boss is viewed.
@PoloHoleSet re: "Not sure how you get that the idea that people getting power from violence and not competence is, again, a 'pro-labor' message", really? The collective bargaining premise is that workers need representation against the more powerful. If the most competent workers are shown as the least powerful, it strengthens this message. The strip shows (claims) that in a union-less workplace, the dysfunctional behavior multiplies.
I have read about several studies of the psychological differences between 'conservatives' and 'liberals'; conservatives apparently tend to be more apt to feel threatened by the new and unusual, whereas liberals are more willing to play with new ideas. I suppose this is hardly earth-shattering news - it is sort of implicit in the two terms.
Meanwhile, the subjects of humour seem very often to focus on elements of surprise and absurdity - if the above analysis is correct, conservatives would more often feel threatened/offended by it where liberals would tend to be more willing to enjoy the surprise.
I am aware that this sort of micro-explanation is bound to be superficial, but I think it has some merit.
EDIT: OK, so there's a call for citation. I didn't include any originally, firstly because I wrote in what I thought was a light tone, slightly teasing, and secondly because I thought these studies were fairly well-known. A very quick search for "study of conservative vs liberal psychology" turns up many; here are some that I think lead to quite decent publishers:
- Unconscious Reactions Separate Liberals and Conservatives
- Why Liberals and Conservatives Think So Differently
- The Mind of a Conservative
- A Study Made Conservatives Turn Liberal With a Thought Experiment - For a Little While
I think Scientific American and Psychology Today are respectable, at least - I am not familiar with Science Alert, but on the surface it seems OK.
@dsollen Ironically, Lorne Michaels (creator of SNL) said the exact opposite in an interview on Vulture: "Republicans are easier for us than Democrats. Democrats tend to take it personally; Republicans think it’s funny." Conservatives can take a joke, which is why they're more often made fun of.
@dsollen I don't think there is a 'right' answer - the best we can hope for is a spirited discussion in a friendly tone. Don't take it too serious, though.
@Salmononius2 We have made similar observations in UK concerning Tories vs Labour in the recent past, but it seems to be turned a bit. I think it has more to do with which party feels more under pressure - Labour were struggling not long ago, and didn't like being laughed at - now the Tories are struggling, and don't think jokes are all that funny.
@Salmononius2: I'll back this up as several conservatives saterized on SNL have gotten in on the act. Sarah Palin famously did a double act with Tina Fey, her SNL double. And while Trump was not pleased with Melissa McCarthy's drag performance as Sean Spicer, real life "Spicey", famous for not having a lot of mementos on his desk, including a picture of his own wife, was rumored to have gone out and bought himself the same model Super Soaker used in the bit to wash reporter's mouths out with soapy water.
@dsollen given our current president's reaction to tame SNL skits, that may be the case.
Keep in mind that many psychology studies, even those deep in the canon like Zimbardo's Stanford prison experiment, can apparently not easily be reproduced, for a variety of reasons. The field is in a deep crisis and all results must be treated with extreme scepticism.
@PeterA.Schneider: In science there is always reason to be sceptic - that is, in a sense, the very definition of the scientific method; but to say that because some results in experimental may be in doubt, then "the whole field is in deep crisis" - that is a strawman argument. Would you say the same about physics? Say, because the notorious cold fusion experiments were not reproducible, the whole area of fusion research is in a deep crisis? Well, perhaps you would, but I can't see that it makes sense.
@j4nd3r53n The statement was not made lightly. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Replication_crisis#In_psychology. One reason that the crisis affects the liberal arts even more than natural sciences is that it's apparently hard to do proper statistics and robust data analyses even for experienced and mathematically competent researchers. Many psychologists fall not in that category and fail to obtain proper assistance. This leads to bad study design and bad evaluations, even when done sincerely.
I'll add to the pile of existing answers with another one about the psychology of liberalism vs conservationism. I'd like to approach with the idea that entities pushing messages have found the best way to push that message.
Liberal entities (people, organizations, comedians) view themselves as more intelligent and refined than their conservative counterparts -- it's easy to play to that bias by making individuals laugh at the absurdity of backwards conservative actions. You'll notice how most popular Liberal comedians are also part-time journalists, and journalists are part time comedians. By forcing people to laugh at conservatives, this group of liberals enhances viewers liberal bias.
Conservative entities view themselves as more morally upright and just than liberals. By making conservatives angry about Liberal immorality and degeneracy media pushers can reinforce viewers conservative bias. By the same token, most Conservative Moral Authorities are also news outlets, and most Conservative news outlets are also Moral Authorities.
To summarize, Liberal Political Media makes liberals laugh at conservatives and Conservative Political Media makes conservatives angry at liberals. I wouldn't say there is no overlap, but these strategies clearly utilize the psychological differences between conservatives and liberals to push two different agendas.
It's important to note that a lot of this type of media is produced in California and New York, two deeply blue (liberal) states (both states are considered D +20). So trying to get a strictly "conservative" program means going to regions of the country that aren't going to be initially receptive to that kind of message.
I think a lot of people miss that comedy tends to go after easy targets, however. In other words, despite their liberal bent, conservative humor is still produced, even from liberal sources. At the end of the day, comedy needs laughs, and avoiding great liberal source material would be detremental. Saturday Night Live (famously made in NYC), for instance, opened its post-election episode with their actress portraying Hillary Clinton promising she'd be back. But the first sketch was quite possibly one of the most conservative pieces of humor produced, showing Dave Chappelle (later joined by Chris Rock, an SNL alumnus) openly mocking the increasing derangement of their liberal friends who are stunned at the election of Donald Trump. It's biting satire from a typically liberal source. Even The Daily Show has mocked Democrats.
Um a little confused by your message. You start by theorizing that liberal sources mean conservative comedy can't be made, then go on to point out conservative comedy is regularly made in those liberal locations. That seems to undermine your first hypothesis.
Not sure this answers the question directly, but it is a good point. And there maybe is an answer here...perhaps part of the issue is that conservatives (at least those attempting political humor) seem to have trouble with self deprecation and laughing at themselves.
agreed - consider this article that described how a stage play of 'Are You Being Served' was banned "because the script did not meet with their ‘artistic policy and values’", and other examples of "hate speech" being used to stop shows. When the media is liberal, they might like to put on a conservative comedian, but not if they're too good. Similarly the Tracey Ullman TV show lampooned Corbyn and was met with howls of outrage.