Make the left funny again.
No, really. What the hell happened to liberal comedy?
On Thursday, Stephen Colbert took some time to remind us all that Donald Drumpf is an evil fascist Nazi by doing a Roman salute on stage. With this gesture, Colbert hit an all-time low.
Watching Colbert unravel over the past year has been interesting. His transformation from keen caricutarist to unfunny moralizer mirrors a broader trend in liberal comedy, which seems to be converging on a singularity of unsubtlety in which the only joke is that Donald Trump is an idiot and everyone who supports him is a Nazi. Call it the Trevor Noah style of comedy. Laugh while being reminded that everything is racist.
The Trevor Noah style of comedy, which mixes laughs with moral seriousness, is unsubtle and lame. People watch comedy to forget about their crappy day at work, not to be brow-beaten. Moral seriousness and laughter don’t really go together. There’s a reason why bad jokes are funny. It’s because we know what’s being said is forbidden. It’s a kind of transgression.
That’s why satire has traditionally been dominated by the left. The left fights for equality. They fight the man. And we like watching funny people take the piss out of the powerful. Conservatives have traditionally made for poor comedians for the opposite reason, because they’re too damn serious all the time. It’s hard to be funny with a stick up your ass.
Liberal comedy stopped being funny when the people poking fun at the institutions became an institution of their own. The left dominates culture now. They’re the ones censoring people. They’re the ones with the sticks up their asses. And now the people being poked fun at and satirized, far from controlling the country’s culture – beleaguered Christians, for example – are an increasingly disempowered part of the country with less and less clout every year.
Where’s the fun in beating somebody while they’re down?
Of course Trump, unlike the people left behind by globalization who he champions, is very powerful. But even here, liberal comedians fall flat. There is nothing transgressive about beating on Trump or the small-town Americans who support him. Trump is a living comedy himself. Liberal comedians will never do a better job than Trump of making Trump funny.
Humor can’t be effective without subtlety. There’s nothing subtle about “DONALD DRUMPF IS SO EVIL! KILL DRUMPF NOW! DRUMPF DRUMPF DRUMPF EVIL NAZI FASCIST DRUMPF! DRUMPF!”
Liberal comedy is getting less and less subtle all the time. This has been especially true since Trump became president. Even the Onion is losing their touch with the Alex Jones parody character Doug Baxter. Everything down to the husky voice is an exact copy of Jones.
What is funny about parodying Alex Jones? No Jones imitator will ever be funnier than Jones himself, or be better at doing what Jones does. This kind of humor is just too self-conscious to be funny. That’s the thing with being self-conscious – if you try too hard, whatever you’re trying to do falls flat.
It’s time for liberal comedians to get some new material. Make the left funny again.