Michael Wolraich's picture

    Comedy versus Rage: The Difference Between Left and Right

    The New York Times Bestselling Hardcover Nonfiction for October 22, 2010:

    1. Earth (the Book) by Jon Stewart
    2. Trickle Up Poverty: Stopping Obama's Attack on Our Borders, Economy, and Security by Michael Savage

    Jon Stewart is a left-leaning political satirist from Comedy Central. Michael Savage is a right-wing radio host who has trouble distinguishing comedy from communism. Analyzing one Stewart routine, Savage told radio listeners, "Not only is this idiotic and illogical, it is not funny. It is the product of inbreeding." For the record, while inbreeding can cause many congenital defects, it is not known to affect the sense of humor. The comment by Savage was actually one of his more temperate remarks. For instance, he was famously fired from MSNBC after sweetly telling a caller, "Oh, so you're one of those sodomites. You should only get AIDS and die, you pig."

    The competition between these very different books by Stewart and Savage neatly encapsulates the difference between contemporary liberal and conservative literature. The most successful liberal authors are comedians like Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Al Franken. The most successful conservative authors are choleric talk show hosts like Michael Savage, Bill O'Reilly, and Glenn Beck. Neither angry liberals like Markos Moulitsas (American Taliban, and DailyKos.com) nor funny conservatives like P. J. O'Rourke (Don't Vote: It Just Encourages the Bastards) usually make the bestseller list these days.

    Why are liberal books funny and conservative books angry? Read the full article at the Powell's Books website.



    Savage just doesn't get humor.  Inbreeding is almost always funny.  Example: Britain's royal family.  Comedy gold!

    Kudos for correctly using the phrase "begs the question".

    I was a philosophy grad student. In fact, I was concerned that since I followed the phrase with a question, someone would misinterpret the comment and criticize me for using the phrase incorrectly.

    Where have you been Atheist (not verified)? You're missed.

    You can stick your "liberal culture."

    For one thing, progressives don't just read bestsellers.  They read blogs and periodicals.  And most of what they read in these sources is hardly a diet of belly laughs and chuckles.

    Comedy is good for diversion; for lightening up a harsh mood in trying circumstances.  But it isn't a substitute for politics, which is a necessity of democratic life.  Adopted as a way of life, a total "outlook", it is a sign of cowardice and and aloof irresponsible carelessness.

    Remember the character of "Joker" in Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket?  Half in and half out, a peace sign on one half of his helmet and "born to kill" on the other half, protecting himself with ironic distance and intellectual dishonesty from taking responsibility for his own life and the life of other people?  I guess that's the new/old liberal "sanity" wave.  Too cool for school.

    Is it any wonder, when "liberals" think life - and most other people apparently - are a big joke in which the most important this is not to get your cool mussed or you mind dirty by engaging too heavily without snark and irony, that they can so rapidly turn success into failure?

    No anger there.

    Embrace the anger; it's not shameful.   And it needn't impair your rationality.  "Sanity" is not the same thing as fear of engagement.  Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt were angry about the predatory habits of robber barons, trusts, land developers and Wall Street tycoons when they pushed through most of the progressive economic legislation that built the American dream in the 20th century.

    Yesterday I actually used the phrase "have broken faith with America" on this blog. I don't think I've been shy about the anger, or the sincerity.

    With all due respect, Doctor, if you think "have broken faith with America" constitutes angry, well...

    Oh, f*** you, then.

    Now you're just snarking

    Sorry I missed this discussion earlier. I notice you didn't mention that appallingly unfunny late-night right wing 'comedy' show that Fox tried to produce as a counterbalance to Stewart and Colbert. Red something. (Sorry, I forget the title. I've tried hard to forget it exists, not for ideological reasons, but because it's bad comedy.)   Anyway, it's just completely unfunny, partly due to really mediocre writing and dismal delivery, but partly because they're so desperate to make sure that it's only the Liberals that are the ones being made fun of.  Stewart and Colbert may have a Liberal slant, but they understand what's funny and will tweak Democrats when they do something ridiculous just as much as they do Republicans. This illustrates an essential truth; (drumroll), You can't be an ideologue AND be funny.  You can lean (even lean heavily) one way or the other, but if you're completely frozen in your viewpoint, and can't see or understand a situation from more than one position, you won't be funny.  

    But also I think satire, especially political satire, will often lean left because the right more often represents the establishment and the rich and powerful.  Jesters always get more laughs making fun of the king and the ruling class than they do by poking fun at the serfs and handmaidens. Lampooning the lowly is like piling on in football. It seems cruel. It's kind of like the difference between kicking puppies and kicking a rattlesnake. People will not cringe for the snake. Similarly, people enjoy the powerful being taken down a notch by the comedian, but would cringe and feel embarassed if the same barbs were directed to someone beneath them on the economic level.

    Humor is essentially a way of leveling the playing field. When the field is already tilted towards you, it's effect is blunted.  When you support the ruling class and big business, it's hard to find a way to engender empathy for your position and that is another essential requirement for humor.

    I'm sorry for the rambling...


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