April 18, 2021

GREAT MOMENTS IN HARD-HITTING SATIRE: Samantha Bee Is Wrong about Comedy.

‘It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it,” wrote G. K. Chesterton. Those who hold their beliefs strongly can laugh at the world, their predicaments, and themselves. Those without confidence in their beliefs cannot laugh at all, for fear the whole thing will come crumbling down. Of course the same applies to political beliefs, too, which are often now a mere stand-in for religious ideas.

Comedian Samantha Bee recently remarked that she can’t make fun of Joe Biden in the same way she made fun of Donald Trump, admitting that she pulls her punches when it comes to the 46th president:

“You’re like, okay, well we could be making jokes about, we could be making jokes about the infrastructure plan, but in general, I’m like, ‘Wow, this is great. Why would I purposefully undermine something that is, seems to be a great idea, pretty much across the board?’ Like, I don’t need to make jokes just to make jokes. I like to make really targeted jokes. There are more worthy targets right now, I think.”

Bee’s comments offer perhaps the best example of what has gone wrong with leftist comedians as of late: They think the point of comedy is to make “really targeted jokes,” to “undermine” things, or to “target” things they — and presumably their audience — disagree with. Over the last decade, late-night hosts across the board began to lay aside their relatable, everyman’s brand of comedy and pivot toward lecturing the crowd on their moral values. They went from chasing laughter — no matter who the butt of the joke may have been — to chasing applause. The result has been anything but funny.

But in the age of a massively splintered media, the palace guard approach is the safest approach to holding onto an audience that’s a sliver of what Johnny Carson enjoyed:

This is also my theory about the big entertainment awards shows like the Oscars and the Emmys. If the big, broad, general audience you used to have is gone, and deep down you think it’s never coming back, then why not make a harder bid for the loyalty of the smaller audience you’ve got left? In a time when the entertainment industry is (or thinks it is) a one-party state with no dissenters, you had better echo that politics back to your base.

What were once cultural institutions with a broad, bipartisan audience are becoming niche players with a narrow fan base. They no longer view partisan politics as a dangerous move that will shrink their audience. Instead, they’re using partisan politics as a lure to secure the loyalty of their audience, or what is left of it. Not that it’s going to work over the long term, because people who want to have their biases confirmed will just watch the five-minute YouTube clip Chris Cillizza links to the next day.

Why Late Night Hosts Like Jimmy Kimmel Are Suddenly So Political, Robert Tracinski, the Federalist, October 5, 2017.

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