Left-leaning comedic talk show hosts have a difficult job these days. For all their talk about how Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is a godsend, the reality of his potential election is no laughing matter.
HBO broadcast two shortened episodes of Bill Maher’s “Real Time” during the RNC last week, and in the first installment filmmaker Michael Moore brought the house down, in a bad way, with his warning that Trump could very well defeat Hillary Clinton in November.
A gallows aspect has infiltrated the Trump-inspired comedy trove, reminiscent of when Lenny Bruce would yell, “We’re all gonna die!” in a crowded theater. Humorists engaged in news-cycle driven commentary are smart people. With Trump vs. Hillary now officially on the card, our contemporary talk hosts (I include Maher’s cable show) know the candidate they must now go on the offensive for is a real showstopper, in a bad way.
If you are at all interested in mainstream late night humor, you must accept at times brutal ridicule of conservatives and Republicans. Many right-leaning Americans hang in, and laugh along at jokes and bits preponderantly directed at them and their leaders. For the discerning viewer, cognitive dissonance creeps in. One joke casts Trump as a clown, the other as Hitlerian. The two characterizations can work together, as “The Producers” has shown, but Mel Brooks’ great film was a retrospective. The fascism tag doesn’t make for belly laughs when the barbarians—Trump’s legions (aka older white men)—are at the gate.
The barbarians are at the gate, but not the barbarians that late-night comics joke about, and who can blame them?
Maher doesn’t joke about it, but he did take heat from the left for calling out Islamic extremism as incompatible with liberal progressivism. He went, pardon the colloquialism, “off the reservation.” He liked Bernie, but with Trump and Clinton ascendant, Mr. Maher will do what every Republican should do. He will vote for his party’s nominee. He has said that Hillary’s position supporting the validity of anthropogenic climate change is enough to earn her his vote.
Dissonance crept in when “Late Show” host Stephen Colbert featured a joke about Trump’s disingenuously suggestive original logo. When you make a conceptual mistake like the logo, you’re asking to be raked over the comedy coals. In fairness, many conservatives avowed they’d not seen the obscene Rorschach everybody was laughing about when they first saw the logo. For millions more, including huge numbers of Trump voters, the imagery was all too apparent.
Colbert’s do-over of the logo blatantly showed the letters for Trump and Mike Pence engaged in an approximation of sodomy. It’s a vein some have mined, jokes about gay sexual practices, but in contemporary culture you can only play hardball if the target is a conservative or a Republican. Implicit in the humor is the hypocrisy factor, which lampoons influential opponents of LGBT rights by casting them homo-erotically.
Skepticism enters the picture when you remember that Colbert supports Hillary Clinton, an open-borders, sanctuary cities globalist, ready with the usual nefarious New World Order suspects to one-up Angela Merkel by opening America’s floodgates to unvetted refugees and immigrants from countries whose values and cultures are anathema to ours. One need only look to Germany, France, and England to glimpse the future of unchecked immigration and corrupt globalism.
What nobody has to be told, and nobody jokes about, is that sometimes the values and culture that come with open borders can be perilous, especially to more libertine, progressive populations. Like the progressive gay community Mr. Colbert would likely not savage in a joke.
At the convention, an accomplished gay man stood up and was welcomed and counted as a Republican. Like many of his brothers and sisters, he’s seen the face of the threat to the future of our society. It’s a different response to the same challenge facing our culture’s joke-smiths: the slow-drip, news-cycled catastrophe of sovereignty surrendered and political correctness gone wrong.
As the RNC wound down, with the DNC in Philly approaching, one can imagine the writers for all the mainstream late night talk shows working on their relatively softball Hillary jokes, the kind they always deliver about President Obama.
The jokes will be about emails, secret servers, and Bill Clinton’s unfaithful history. Some of them will be funny, some very funny. The humor writers will create things to laugh about when they write about the Democrats. But don’t expect any damaging comedic artillery. Michael Moore has glimpsed the future, and the reality is that the left—including their talented array of television comics—is taking Trump very seriously now. With Bernie headed for the wings, they can’t risk humor that might lose Mrs. Clinton a single vote.
When he’s not a buffoon in the leftist narrative, Trump is a dangerously powerful negative force, and since his sobering, fascinating acceptance speech, this fear-mongering aspect has definitely emerged as the big right-wing threat, and Democrat galvanizer.
When terror strikes at Western civilization, the fear is made apt, and the ridicule becomes bereft of something humor thrives on: core veracity. There are incongruities in the humorist’s mind, willful and unconscious biases, a double-standard that is amusing in the best of times, and dismissible in the worst.
The gallows humor becomes just gallows.