HART: The Death Of Humor

Ron Hart Contributor
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With the passing of Norman Lear at age 101, we need to reassess how humor has been gutted in America by the unelected, woke PC police. Lear’s obit should have said, “Norman Lear was preceded in death by his wife and by Americans’ ability to laugh at ourselves.”

The power of humor to keep politicians and government in check is immense. About the first thing the Taliban did when they took over Kabul was to seek out and murder a comic who had held the mirror of reality and ridicule up to their faces. 

Gone are the days when comedians fearlessly trod the razor’s edge, poking fun at the human condition and political absurdity without fear of being canceled. Now the comedic landscape is a minefield of potential offenses, where one misinterpreted joke can send even the most seasoned joker into exile.

In this humorless dystopia, laughter has been replaced by awkward silences and forced smiles. Kids today look around to see if it is OK to laugh at something. Stand-up comedians, once intrepid truth-tellers, now tiptoe around topics like race, gender and war, afraid to offend even the most delicate sensibilities. The days of raucous, unapologetic laughter are as distant a memory as Richard Pryor. 

The left has always dominated humor, but its “jokes” have devolved to be condescending, self-righteous and not funny. Victims of their own PC standards, leftists are no longer edgy, thoughtful, or creative. Late night comics are not funny now. The same is true for “Saturday Night Live” now; it’s just leftist talking points with snark added. 

There has not been a good new comedy on TV for the past five years. Gone are the days of Norman Lear’s “All in the Family,” “Maude” and “The Jeffersons.” Even shows like “The Office” and “30 Rock” could not air today. 

Back in the Rat Pack days, comedians could say more. Once arrested for carrying a gun, Dean Martin was asked a leading PC question by a reporter: “Do you think people should have guns?” Martin responded, “Well, in a perfect world no — just me.” Do you hear any celeb saying anything thoughtfully funny today? Unfettered humor makes you both laugh and think about an issue. We can’t lose that.

Even politicians in the 60s had a sense of humor. John F. Kennedy famously made fun of himself after his election, pretending to read a telegram at the Al Smith dinner: “Dear Jack: Don’t buy a single vote more than necessary. I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay for a landslide. Love, Dad.” Nowadays I can’t even joke about election fraud without the joke being cut by some outlets.

For the few of us who write political satire from the libertarian, right-of-center side, our jokes are called “mean” if the left disagrees. We are called “racist” if we joke about Obama, the NFL or crime stats, and “sexist” if we do not totally agree with AOC. It is their way of silencing opposition. And since so many are intimidated by them, few will stand firm. 

Mel Brooks joined the recent chorus of comedians who say that the PC culture has gone too far in stifling comedy. He says his classic movie, “Blazing Saddles,” would not be made today, and he blames the “stupidly politically correct.” Other comedians like Jerry Seinfeld, Kevin Hart, Larry the Cable Guy, Dennis Miller, John Cleese and Chris Rock agree. Many say they will no longer play college gigs because of the rigid PC pushback.

There are no edgy comics on the left. They are all conformists, slaves to the PC world they have helped to create.

Humor extends lives. Comedians like Mel Brooks, Norman Lear, Carl Reiner live well into their 90s. Laughter is healthy. 

I find the right to be far more tolerant of humor; the left is perpetually offended. The woke left would be rich if being offended paid better. 

My only joke that upset a few religious right folks was: In this Christmas season, with wars over the Holy Lands and Jesus’s birthplace festering, let’s remember that with science today we are learning more about Biblical events. For example, Mary and Joseph were supposed to name their baby Joseph Jr, not Jesus Christ — until Mary stubbed her toe. 

Think before you get offended, America! There is much at stake here.

A libertarian op-ed humorist and award-winning author, Ron does commentary on radio and TV. He can be contacted at Ron@RonaldHart.com or @RonaldHart on Twitter.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.