Michael Medved: Are Conservatives always “comfortable”? Liberals always “afflicted”?

By Stephanie Klein | August 5, 2014
obama-reagan

By Michael Medved

The “Doonesbury” comic strip by Garry Trudeau has rarely delivered laughs in recent years but it often provides important perspective on the peculiar worldview of wealthy, Ivy League, establishment liberals.

In last Sunday’s installment, veteran character Mark Slackmeyer, a gay radio broadcaster for NPR, provides commentary regarding the purported failure of conservative comedians. One such up-tight right-winger is trying to do stand-up to amuse the faithful at some conservative convention (identified only as “Con Com”), beginning his set with the lame opening, “…So what’s up with wetbacks? Seriously?”

In the panels that follow, Slackmeyer wryly observes, “Hey, folks! Ever wonder why conservative comedy is so unfunny? …. Well, here’s the problem. The point of satire is to comfort the afflicted by afflicting the comfortable… Whereas the point of conservatism is the exact opposite!… Truth is, ridiculing the non-privileged isn’t particularly funny – it’s just mean!… The result? There’s virtually no good conservative comedy!… But, hey, don’t take my word for it….Hear for yourself!”

In the final panel, the bespectacled conservative comic embarrasses himself by saying, “So 20,000 illegals sneak into a bar….” while off-stage audience reaction registers as “Groan”, “Booo!” and “Hissss!”

Never mind the fact that Trudeau is flat-out wrong about the failure of conservative comedy: anyone who’s heard Dennis Miller handle a live crowd knows that he has few equals as a master of stand-up when he’s ripping liberalism to shreds, while Evan Sayet has put together a rising and significant career by poking fun, gentle and otherwise, at the fatuities of loony leftists. Moreover, the great Jay Leno aimed some of his funniest barbs at liberal icons, making Bill Clinton his favorite target and getting regular laughs at the expense of the Obama administration and its foibles. At the same time, P.J. O’Rourke is arguably the best-loved and most successful humorist in the country and a fierce advocate for his libertarian-conservative point of view, while Rush Limbaugh became the most influential political broadcaster in US history by virtue of his subversive, irresistible sense of humor, not through his bombast.

And Ronald Reagan?

Connoisseurs of presidential wit will tell you that no chief executive since Lincoln deployed humor more effectively or decisively than The Gipper. Even those who never shared Reagan’s point of view can smile while remembering his slightly exasperated “there he goes again!” put-down of Jimmy Carter in their 1980 debate, or his peerless handling of the charge four years later that he had grown too old to serve. “I am not going make age an issue in this campaign,” he declared with a straight face. “I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

Reagan also authored the delectable line: “Recession is when your neighbor loses his job. Depression is when you lose yours. And recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his.”

Do such gags illustrate Trudeau’s suggestion that “the point of conservatism” is “comforting the comfortable by afflicting the afflicted?” Actually, Reagan’s punch lines always evinced great sympathy for the afflicted, particularly those derided and disregarded honest strivers in the struggling middle class. The only ones afflicted by his humor as cited above would be powerful establishmentarians like Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale. Do you still count as a victimized underdog when you’re president or vice president of the United States?

Read more at Truth Revolt

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