Monday, September 21, 2009

Cheap Laughs

When Christopher Hitchens' infamous "Why Women Aren't Funny" article hit the stands, I immediately retitled the piece "Why Christopher Hitchens Can't Get It Up Around Funny Broads." At that point, the Oxford-educated, tipsy one might have lost all credibility on the subject of comedy.

His latest comedy-related column in The Atlantic called Cheap Laughs, however, is worth a read.
See, there’s your problem. A sense of irony is to be carefully, indeed strictly, distinguished from the possession of a funny bone. Irony is not air-quote finger-marks, as if to say “Just kidding” when in fact one is not quite kidding. (Does anyone ever say “Just kidding” when in fact only kidding?) Bathos is not irony, though Franken and Stewart and Colbert seem unaware of this. Irony usually partakes of some element of the unintended consequence. How might I give an illustration of the laws of unintended consequences? Let us imagine that Senator Franken composed a chapter about government lying and cover-up, which involved the use of the irresistibly hilarious instance of Sandy Berger, President Clinton’s former national security adviser, being caught red-handed as he stuffed his pants with classified papers from the National Archives. In a capital city that witnesses quite frequent alternations of power between the two main parties, what will be the chances that fiasco and corruption occur at the expense of only one of them? Yet meticulous care is taken by the senator to make sure that no such “fair and balanced” laughter is ever evoked, which is quite a sacrifice for a comedian. Consistency of this kind allows no spontaneity, let alone irony. It might even go some way to explaining the howling success of the “Air America” network, the collapsing-scenery rival to the right-wing dictatorship exerted over the rest of the ether.
From this sample paragraph we can learn two things: #1 Christopher Hitchens will never be able to join Twitter. Limiting his thought to 140 characters would make his frequently hungover head explode... and... #2 When it comes to chicks he can say "Why Women Aren't Funny" but he is incapable of coming right out and saying, "Why Liberal Aren't Funny." Apparently, he has no erectile dysfunction when it comes to the left.

I agree with Hitchens' assessment of Jon Stewart. Last night, while watching the Emmy's I Tweeted (as a college dropout I only need 140 words to express my lame-ass thoughts)
Writer for Jon Stewart: "I haven't had anything to say since Bush left office." If I can write Obama jokes, so can you.
I quickly received a direct message from a fellow comic:
I thought that was supposed to be like a "haha the media thought the show would suck after obama took office...but look we won!"
I said I would accept his point if Stewart hadn't repeatedly said in print that Obama is too difficult to make fun of. My colleague replied, simply, "Touche. Touche." ( which I hope wasn't just a misspelling of "touchy, touchy.").

Obama's Humor Czars-- Stewart, Letterman and Maher-- are seasoned comedians who are perfectly capable of writing jokes about our current President. When they say they can't, what they really mean is that they won't.

Eventually, however, their unwillingness to criticize our leader will only make them look bad. As the punchlines from other humorists build to a torrent, their silence will make them look smaller and smaller, less and less capable. Their continued reliance on Dick Cheney jokes will seem more and more ridiculous to all but hardest core of lefties.

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