Monday, June 17, 2019

I can't think of a good title

I know. I've been away for a while. Work got a little crazy and I ended up putting in a lot of overtime last week and I just felt too exhausted to dick around on the internet looking for targets of mockery. But I do feel like I might have let down the people who look forward to reading my silly little jokes and whatnot, and I apologize to both of them.
Anyway, today Twitter handed me this on a silver platter:

How Trump Turned Liberal Comedians Conservative


Oh, you just KNOW this is going to be stupid. Just thuddingly, head-hurtingly stupid.









Once, wry satire ruled. Today it’s all outrage and punching up—and it’s not always clear where the joke is.


Okay, punching UP is good. That's what a comic SHOULD do. It's one of the reasons copnservative comics are never funny, they always pinch down. "Liberal" or "progressive" or "lefty" comedians have ALWAYS punched up. The good ones, anyway. This is not some new development in the age of Cheeto Mussolini.


President Donald Trump likes to think of himself as a statesman, an author, an A-level negotiator, but at heart, he’s one thing: an insult comic. Every day in D.C. is a roast, the insults and belittling nicknames wielded like tiny comedy bullets. 


Okay, that's true. To some extent. Only, his insults and nicknames aren't funny. There's no imagination or creativity to them. Calling people you don't like "Crazy Nancy" or "Crazy Bernie,"  "Lyin' Ted" or "Lyin' Hillary" takes no effort. There's no thought put into that. And they're not funny. When he does try to put some effort into it, he can't even get insulting nicknames right. Back before he fell in love with Kim Jong Un, he dubbed him "Rocket Man." Then someone must've pointed out to him that "Rocket Man" is actually a pretty cool nickname, so he started calling him "Little Rocket Man." Don Rickles he ain't.



The 45th president is undeniably funny—innately entertaining, whether he intends to be or not. 


No. No he isn't. He isn't funny. Even if he weren't the President, even if he didn't have access to the nuclear codes, even if he wasn't in a position where a serious person should have been, he wouldn't be funny. Because he's not clever. He's not smart. He doesn't understand humor, because he doesn't have normal human emotions. He's a sociopath. He presumably finds humor in other people getting hurt. But to actually craft amusing wordplay or wry observations is beyond him. He doesn't understand how normal people think and feel. He can't understand what would bring a normal person joy or laughter. He isn't funny and he will never be funny. It just isn't in him.

he drew chuckles at the United Nations last September, when he said his administration “has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country,” but he got a big, fully appreciative laugh with his ad-libbed follow-up: “Didn’t expect that reaction, but that’s OK.”




Oh, sure. People laugh AT him. Because he's a buffoon. But it isn't because of any actual humor on his part. When he said "Didn't expect that reaction. . ." that wasn't a clever ad-lib. That wasn't a witty rejoinder. That was him being genuinely surprised by not getting the adulation he had expected. They laughed the first time because he said something stupid, then they laughed the second time because he said something else really stupid. That doesn't make him a comedian.

Anyway, how did Hair Furor turn "liberal" comedians conservative?


from 1999 through roughly the start of the Trump administration, the prevailing comedy tone was a kind of ironic detachment, perfected by Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show.” Odds are, even if you barely watched the show, you can still picture the Jon Stewart repertoire: the knowing pop culture references, the sharp satire, the wry take on America at large. His go-to move was perplexity at the absurdity of it all, and the message was detached and a little self-deprecating: If politics was absurd, well, so were we. “You have to remember one thing about the will of the people,” he once said. “It wasn’t that long ago that we were swept away by the Macarena.”


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Stewart did make fun of both parties, but his style was fundamentally liberal, says University of Delaware communications professor Dannagal Young: playful, subversive, at once cynical and weirdly optimistic. 

Okay, but he could get angry, too. I mean, even when he was coming across as glib and detached, there was a lot of righteous anger under the surface, but other times, he could get just straight-up angry.


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There’s no greater threat to the liberal establishment than Donald Trump. And in the past three years, something about comedy has shifted. In class, Young has her college students diagram late-night jokes and label the incongruities—the hidden arguments that aren’t actually stated in the text. When they come to the May 2018 moment when Samantha Bee, in a rant about immigration on her TBS show “Full Frontal,” called Ivanka Trump a “feckless c---,” the exercise breaks down. The line drew a laugh, but there was nothing to puzzle out. No irony, no distance. She just meant it.


Yeah, not every word out of Sam Bee's mouth is a joke. She talks about a lot of serious topics, as do all the political comedians. So sometimes, she's going to say things that aren't actually funny, they're just things that she feels need to be said.


“There was no incongruity in what she did,” says Young, whose upcoming book, Irony and Outrage, examines the psychological underpinnings of political entertainment. “I don’t care she’s used the c-word a bunch. I care that she, like, didn’t make a joke.”


Yes. She didn't make a joke. So I'm not sure how illustrative this line is of Trump's supposed effect on political comedy.

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Or maybe Bee had made a joke, but a joke for the era of Trump.

No, we've already established that she didn't. We've been over this. The expert that you cited says that she did NOT make a joke.



Like the red meat at Trump’s rallies, it was pitched to the base, satisfying in the way that calling someone a “libtard” feels for people on the right; less a wry observation than a hard push back against a persistent enemy or a looming threat. If Trump has changed the tone of the presidency, he’s done the same for TV humor, creating a kind of insult comedy for the Resistance: less subtle, less civil—and, strangely, more conservative.

No, the Daily Show crew has always been insulting to people who deserve it - your Santorums, your Gingriches, Your O'Reilly's, your Hannitys. . .

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Donald Trump did not invent making decent people angry. Donald Trump was not the first conservative to be so outrageously offensive that the only possible response is shouted vulgarities. They have always been with us.



Then along came Trump, who wasn’t part of the system at all, and thus didn’t fit into Stewart’s man-versus-the-machine framework. The day Trump descended a Trump Tower escalator to announce his candidacy, in June 2015, Stewart was ecstatic. He treated the real-estate-mogul-turned-reality-star not as a viable player, but a professional clown.

As did everyone. No one had such a low opinion of the American electorate as to think he had any chance of winning. Also, Trump is absolutely part of the "system." As he has stated publicly, he made a habit of bribing politicians on both sides of the aisle. And he had spent the last several years as the de facto head of the racist idiot "birther" movement. Plus, who could be more a part of the corrupt "system" that runs this country than a (alleged) billionaire real estate tycoon with his own television show and a standing invitation to call in to FOX and discuss politics whenever he wants?

At the start of his administration, many speculated that Trump would turn more measured and sober once he felt the gravitas of the office. But his insult-comic persona isn’t artifice; he can’t be shamed or cajoled into being anyone but himself.

That’s great for his base. Most conservatives, love him or not, have found ways to brush off his rhetoric as Trump being Trump. But liberals see the language as not just authentic, but dangerous—they draw a straight line from the speeches and tweets to the murderous white-supremacist violence in Charlottesville, the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue, caged kids on the Mexican border, and nuclear retaliation threats directed toward Kim Jong Un.


Okay, it's not just "liberals" who draw the obvious line between Trump's rhetoric and incidents of racist violence. Anyone with functioning eyesight and the correct number of chromosomes can see the connection between Trump and the violent white supremacists whom he inspires. This is not a "liberal vs conservative" breakdown. This is a sane vs insane issue.
Also, whom else could you possibly blame for caged kids at the border? It's not as if Trump made some "joke" about caging kids and then coincidentally, a bunch of kids ended up in cages somehow. This is his doing. This is his policy. He makes no secret of this.
Also, too, you're a little behind on the Trump-Kim timeline. He no longer makes threats of retaliation towards Kim. Kim is his best friend now. Try to keep up.


So the chorus of left-leaning comedians who evaluate Trump every night has switched from detached amusement to sounding the warning bells.


How could they not?
These are very dangerous times.
I don't watch any of the late night talk shows anymore because who has the time, and because I'm sick of trying to pretend that Trevor Noah is an acceptable substitute for Jon Stewart. But, if it is as you say, if they are no longer being humorous about Trump but "sounding the warning bells," that is not a change in comedic style. That is abandoning comedy because the dangers of this administration are too pressing, too urgent to sit back and crack jokes about them. Also, sounding alarm bells over Trump's abuses hardly seems like a byproduct of becoming conservative. If your premise was that Trump has caused "liberal" comics to stop doing comedy and instead give serious warnings about him, you might be on to something. But your assertion was that these comics were "becoming conservative" and you haven't presented any evidence to support that thesis other than Sam Bee using the "C-word."




That change might be personified, these days, by “Daily Show” veteran Stephen Colbert, whose Comedy Central show, “The Colbert Report,” was a masterpiece of cynical-age satire: a sustained, high-energy, high-wire parody of Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, in which the comedian played a blowhard conservative host named “Stephen Colbert.” 


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But these days, when he talks about Trump, Colbert isn’t so easygoing; his jokes are more vicious and often less surprising. In a mid-May “Late Show” monologue, Colbert described a recent Trumpian insult: comparing 2020 Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg to the MAD Magazine mascot Alfred E. Neuman. “I see the similarity,” Colbert said, “in that they both are more qualified to be president than Donald Trump.”


Um, do you even know what the word "vicious" means? Because that was pretty dang mild.


Colbert has changed less than Bee, his fellow “Daily Show” alum. In 2015, Bee was part of the “Daily Show” sketch that mocked Joe Biden for groping. She played a star-struck, self-deluded reporter who had just come from a one-on-one interview with Biden, and now had brightly-colored hand marks on her chest and rear end. (She cheerfully explained that the then-vice president had just been touching chalk, strawberry preserves, motor oil and Cheetos.) The joke lay, again, in the disconnect: The audience knew Biden’s behavior was wrong, but the establishment, represented by Bee, pretended it was perfectly normal.


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Today, Bee’s faux innocence is gone; her “Full Frontal” persona understands everything that’s happening. Her fury is directed not just at Trump, but at everyone on the right; she apologized for the c-word episode, but her anger hasn’t faded.

So. . . if she's angry at the right, that makes her more conservative. Am I getting that right?
Only conservatives get angry?
Also, she was playing a character on the Daily Show. On Full Frontal, she's herself. Of course it's going to seem different.

 A recent segment on the Alabama’s stringent new abortion law, “Sex Ed for Senators,” explained that when a woman is designated six weeks pregnant, it actually measures the number of weeks from her last period, not from the moment of conception. “Bet you didn’t know uteruses were also time travelers,” Bee said. “That’s science, bitch!”



That's it? That's your best example of Sam Bee's unrelenting anger?
Okay, I haven't seen the bit because I don't get that channel anymore, so I googled it.




Honestly, I don't see what you're talking about. She is a whole lot less angry than I would be were someone legislating my rights away. I mean, I'm sure she's furious, but she doesn't come across that way. The bit is funny. It's informative. and the line "that's science, bitch!" is delivered playfully, maybe sarcastically would be a better word? but not angrily. There is nothing in that entire segment that anyone would describe as, how did you put it, "didactic?" Or "comedy, in the sense that it contains setups and punch lines. But it isn’t necessarily fun."


This was fun. I mean, as fun as one could be while discussing such a serious and depressing topic.
There is nothing "conservative" about her style. For future reference, here's how you can tell. Conservatives are NEVER funny. They punch down and their "jokes" are based on false premises (like Obama being born in Kenya, or Nancy Pelosi coming for your guns). What Sam Bee did here was punch upwards, at government officials with much more power than she, and she based the jokes on the things that they literally have said and done on video. That's why her stuff works.

3 comments:

anne marie in philly said...

this whole dictatorship is nothing but lies and cover-ups and TREASON! NOTHING funny about that! call out the hate, lies, bullshit!

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Good post, Professor!

Professor Chaos said...

Aw, thanks!