Deep Thoughts

It’s So Funny, You Don’t Even Laugh

February 26, 2013

Multiple Pages
It’s So Funny, You Don’t Even Laugh

In the otherwise forgettable movie Betsy’s Wedding, the chichi event planner swoons over a cake sample: “It’s so subtle you can’t even taste it!”

That line sprang to mind this week after CNN’s Christiane Amanpour wished Robert Mugabe a happy birthday on Twitter.

Amanpour’s response to the inevitable outbreak of confusion and outrage? She informed her detractors with an almost audible sigh that they had an “irony deficit” that rendered them unable to appreciate her brilliantly witty and supposedly obvious “scorn” for the African dictator.

And indeed, how could we have missed it? Her exact words—“Happy Birthday, President Mugabe”—are fairly dripping with double, nay, triple entendre, no? Remember that time Marilyn Monroe sang to JFK because, as anyone could clearly see, she totally hated his guts?

It’s no secret that cable news is broken. Along with all its other problems, it has a severe problem with humor. Consider MSNBC’s recent round table discussion of “race jokes.”

“It’s no secret that cable news is broken. Along with all its other problems, it has a severe problem with humor.”

This segment pissed off everyone, left and right, for all the wrong reasons:

“Can you imagine if Fox News had aired this?” “Race is no laughing matter!” “The host clearly hates white people!” “The host’s mother is white, dude!”

And the one I hate most:

“Those jokes weren’t even funny.”

It’s not that the jokes weren’t funny. It’s that they weren’t actually jokes.

OK, there was one. Even with a professional comedian on the panel, only the host, Melissa Harris-Perry, told a joke—a Jewish mother-in-law gag, no less.

The other panelists–well, the crew of the Pueblo looked more relaxed and certainly made their points more effectively. These MSNBC guests served up meandering word sequences without punch lines, all of which limply mocked—you’ll never guess—white men.

So much for those brave, iconoclastic, ever-so-clever progressives, who insist ad nauseam that on top of everything else, they’re funnier than conservatives, too.

A scant ten years ago, here’s what a televised “race joke” panel looked like. Note that the funniest, most outspoken participants are non-liberal white males. (PS: The show was quickly canceled.)

How we have fallen. Politically correct “comedy controversies” now occur with menstrual regularity. (Last week it was Lisa Lampanelli Tweeting the word “nigga”.)

A depressing “dialogue” inevitably begins about whether or not the offending joke was funny. I’m troubled by such arguments because, well, I’m a weirdo. (I put up pictures of Gene Wilder in my locker and sent Johnny Carson a birthday card when I was eight.) But it’s also because I live in a country where the government can team up with two drunken lesbians to ruin a comic’s life. The fact that some people even debated whether or not this action was right or wrong was distressing enough.

That the debate often centered on whether or not the comic in question, Guy Earle, was funny—and therefore deserved support—was worse. More self-described comedians than you’d think strenuously insisted that he didn’t, that Earle was that second-worst of creatures, a “hack.” (In the stand-up lexicon, the only worse insult is “joke thief.”)

In Soviet Canuckistan, court jesters side with court!

More of those fearless, speak-truth-to-power “artists,” I guess.

We can’t rely on some immeasurable standard of “funniness” to determine whom or what to censure. Humor is arguably more subjective than beauty, although that hasn’t prevented the likes of Freud from putting comedy (and his readers) to sleep for some exploratory surgery.

(The funniest thing about The Joke and Its Relationship to the Unconscious is the title; if it hadn’t existed, Woody Allen would’ve felt obliged to invent it.)

Even comedians can’t resist: Put two comics together, and after five minutes scoffing at blowhardisms such as “Comedy is tragedy plus time,” they’ll spend the next hour expounding on their own Grand (or Not So Grand) Unified Theories of Humor.

Here’s what’s weird:

As I’ve complained about here before, bike-helmeted, nut-allergic, low-IQ Americans increasingly demand that stand-up comedians be responsible and sensitive, “fair and balanced,” as if they were journalists instead of jokers.

But because a comedian acting as a journalist has become a respectable one-man institution, now we have journalists trying to be comedians.

They’re awful at it, but when smacked down, they employ the same “I was only kidding/You’re too stupid to ‘get’ it/Bite me” excuses they castigate comedians for employing.

None of this should surprise anyone. Contrary to what they tell you (and tell you and tell you), progressives don’t have principles. Rather, they have faddish opinions that are highly unstable and often contradictory.

When confronted with evidence of said shallow hypocrisy (Al Gore, pick up the white courtesy phone…), they respond with less entertaining variations on Ring Lardner’s “Shut up, he explained.” (That line was taken from a short story they’d no doubt condemn as offensive if they bothered to read it.)

Or else they say nothing at all. MSNBC didn’t issue an apology to white people for making them the butt of jokes last week.

Are you kidding?

Leftists feel obliged to rebrand themselves every generation or so. They’ve tried out “liberal” and “progressive” already. While it’s unwieldy, might I suggest calling them the “It’s-Different-When-We-Do-Its”?

At least that has the advantage of pinpoint accuracy.


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