With the Sarah Palin-skewering SNL ascendant and the Republican-helmed satire An American Carol flailing at the box office (because of those pro-immigration chihuahuas), Boston Globe writer Lisa Wangsness has a provocative point to make: that events like these illustrate "the extent to which comedy has become a liberal genre in America." If you take the success of left-leaning satires like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, and couple it with the mileage wrung from the McCain/Letterman War of '08, does it augur a bold new era of Democratic ha-has?Says Wangsness:
Though the nation has been closely divided along partisan lines for years, the funniest and most politically important acts are overwhelmingly at the expense of conservatives and often carry a clear partisan message. Comedy naturally has a liberal bias, many comics and cultural critics say, because humor is inherently subversive. Most jokes are fundamentally anti-authoritarian or anti-establishment; they distort the social order or expose truths society prefers to hide. And no matter who is in the White House, they say, Republicans are more culturally aligned with the churchgoing, manners-minding establishment than Democrats ever are. "A joke has to feel like it's overcoming some kind of norm, some kind of inhibition," said John Limon, a professor at Williams College and author of "Stand-up Comedy in Theory, or, Abjection in America." "I think Republicans are always better at norms and inhibitions than Democrats."While we'd agree that SNL has gotten more out of a month of Palin than an entire year of Barack Obama, we think that has more to do with a lack of strong comedic angles on the Democratic candidate — something we doubt would be the problem were Hillary Clinton the nominee (after all, Amy Poehler has made hay with her Clinton impression for years). It's also worth nothing that late-night comics hardly shied away from covering Bill Clinton's presidency. Though Newt Gingrich was almost as powerful a figure during Clinton's administration, how many SNL skits do you remember about him? Sure, Fox News had a short-lived attempt at duplicating Jon Stewart's success with their own 1/2 Hour News Hour, but that failed because (like An American Carol), it simply wasn't good enough. And that's true of a great deal of what Hollywood puts out rather than a congenital humor defect of the Republican party — just look at John McCain's surprisingly not-bad performance at the recent Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner, or the sometimes right-leaning South Park, for that matter. Instead, we think we can explain the rise in liberal satire very simply: Republicans have occupied the White House for the last eight years, and when comedy aims to bring somebody down, there's no farther fall than from the top. Also, that Sarah Palin? She kinda looks Tina Fey!
- Comedy has become a liberal genre [Boston Globe]