In an email exchange I had with a buddy the other day, he pointed me to a Grantland article about the history of Weekend Update on SNL—great read—but at the end, the author points out that while people complain there isn’t a “Daily Show” for Republicans, Fox News, even though they’re not intending to be funny, is hilarious, citing plenty of examples.
But I’m not sure he completely answered the question of why there isn’t a lot of comedy on the right—I mean yes, Fox News is absurd, but it isn’t absurd to its audience, which is why parody’s like the Colbert Report are so funny—because some people actually take this shit seriously.
However, the reason “fake news” doesn’t work for the Right is that it’s really hard to tell a lie and make people laugh, because at its root, humor lies in uncovering the truth, of pointing out irony, or making light of a bad situation or problem. That’s why Seinfeld worked: it was a show about all the little truths no one ever said out loud. It was about the absurdity of people who took themselves too seriously and in so doing, couldn’t be taken seriously. I mean, what would a conservative “Daily Show” look like: people telling racist jokes and having a genuine laugh? Making fun of Sandy Hook parents? Sure, some on the Right might find that stuff pretty funny, but it would never work on the public airwaves for obvious reasons.
Plus, there’s nothing funny about defending entrenched power, or the old, white establishment, and that’s precisely what conservatism—and Fox News—is at this point. It’s about making geriatric people living off of Social Security and Medicare take the ironic position of hating government handouts. It’s about making dumb white people think that their lot in life is shit because of illegal immigrants, uppity blacks, liberals taxing corporations and the wealthy, or too many goddamn government regulations—not the fact that they didn’t finish high school or go to college—or convincing those same idiots that Climate Change is a hoax because it snows sometimes.
Notice too, that fear is always a motivator for Republicans, and fear isn’t funny. If you really believe that that “takers” are going to overwhelm the “makers”, you’re going to be too afraid to laugh. The same is true of the lie that Obama’s abusing his executive power, or any of the other dastardly conspiracy theories that conservatives believe in(Obama’s a secret, Kenyan muslim, there was a huge cover-up around Benghazi, Obamacare is going to cause “death panels”, etc.): their effect is to make you afraid and angry.
Moreover, the fact that Conservative Americans and Republicans believe any number of the ridiculous things above is itself a huge source of comedy for the Left, because they’re so completely absurd—and, as we all learned in high school, making fun of dumb people is hilarious.