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Looking for comedy in the conservative world

Joey Falco | Sunday, February 18, 2007

It’s often tempting for a tree-hugging, anti-war, blue-state Yankee like me to get a little self-important while watching the foibles of conservative America in recent months. As if hearing President Bush say “Madam Speaker” at his State of the Union Address wasn’t satisfying enough, learning that the leader of the National Association of Evangelicals had an affair with a gay prostitute last fall almost caused me to spit my free-range chicken out onto a biodegradable recycled napkin, and what an eco-waste that would have been!I soon realized, however, that much of my liberal arrogance and ability to laugh at the antics of the Keystone Kops in the White House can be attributed entirely to the fact that nearly all of America’s current comedy is wholeheartedly liberal. Having Jon Stewart or Jay Leno cue me in on when to laugh at a presidential misnomer certainly makes me feel better for not supporting the president’s Iraq troop buildup. And hearing Stephen Colbert mock Republican ideology by sounding like a stubborn fool who honors blind faith over solid fact definitely allows me to pat myself on the back for encouraging increased measures to eliminate global warming.But what about conservatives? Maybe the reason they’re so glum all the time – picketing abortion clinics, chopping down trees, blowing up other countries, fantasizing about Jack Bauer – is that they don’t have any conservative comedians to brighten their spirits and bolster their ideology. Whenever Nancy Pelosi is feeling down, she can simply turn on “The Daily Show” and listen to Jon Stewart do his Dick Cheney impression. But what about Dick? Where does Dick turn when he needs to laugh at America’s silly liberals?Sure, there are a few bright spots of Republican humor in America. Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of “South Park,” famously announced a few years back that they voted Republican because, while they “hate conservatives, they really [expletive] hate liberals.” “South Park” is possibly the funniest show on television, but one can hardly call Parker and Stone’s outrageously offensive humor “conservative.” Then there are the members of the highly successful Blue Collar Comedy Tour – certainly some of the favorite comedians of the American South. Unfortunately, these four men are only at their best when they are either fall-down drunk (Ron White) or making fun of themselves for being hicks (Jeff Foxworthy and the Get ‘R Done guy). One could also point to the so-called “American Conservative Comedian” Brad Stine as a beacon of humorous hope for the conservative world, but a quick scan of YouTube proved that Brad Stine’s rants on the difference between cat names and dog names were about as comically inspiring as Ben Stein’s deadpan teaching voice in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” Simply put, there is no truly funny conservative comedian out there who rips into the left wing like Stewart, Colbert, and Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat) rip a new one into the political right.Then along came the programming gurus at the Fox News Channel. In an effort to tap into the market for political comedy exposed by Stewart and Colbert, Fox News introduced a conservative version of “The Daily Show” last night, cleverly titled “The Half-Hour News Hour.” Unfortunately, that title was really only clever the first time it was used – in the short-lived 1983 MTV show featuring Victoria Jackson titled “The Half-Hour Comedy Hour.” Strike one, Fox News.The new show is the brainchild of Joel Surnow, the co-creator of the most patriotic show in the history of the world, “24.” Surnow, who actually calls himself “a right-wing nut job,” decided that a conservative comedy news program was necessary because “the other side hasn’t been skewered in a fair and balanced way.” To further clarify this point, advertisements leading up to the show’s premiere announced that it might offend “the left, the far left, anyone standing to the left, gay penguins, lawyers, the ACLU, anyone with the ACLU in their name, etc.” Clearly, skewering in a “fair-and-balanced way” meant attacking both liberals and their gay counterparts in the penguin community. Unfortunately, if Morgan Freeman taught us anything last year, it’s that Americans love penguins – even penguins who like dudes. Strike two, Fox News.When portions of “The Half-Hour News Hour” were finally released to the public in the past few days, one would have expected a truly rollicking zinger to introduce the show to the world. Instead, co-anchor Kurt Long led with the following: “Illinois Sen. Barack Obama admits that as a teenager he sometimes used cocaine. This news sent Obama’s approval rating among Democrats plummeting to an all-time low of 99.9 percent.” A laugh track (I didn’t even know they still existed) filled in the awkward silence that followed until Long added, “But, in a related story, Sen. Obama has just been endorsed for president by former Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry.” Even the prerecorded laugh track had a tough time giggling after this one. Strike three, Fox News.Clearly, conservative Americans are faced with a serious dilemma. Without any truly great comedians or remotely funny political satire shows to tickle his gun-toting funny bone, what is a right-wing boy to do when he needs to let out a good laugh after a long day of melting the polar ice caps with the exhaust from his Hummer? Certainly, he cannot be expected to laugh along with Stephen Colbert as he unabashedly mocks Bill O’Reilly.No, without a talented conservative comedian to incite their laughter, right-wing Americans will simply have no choice but to continue to grumpily invade foreign nations, attack illegal immigrants and destroy the happiness of gay Americans – and gay penguins – everywhere.It’s not their fault. They just haven’t had anything to laugh at in awhile.

Joey Falco is a senior American Studies major and Journalism, Ethics, and Democracy minor. He can be reached at jfalco@nd.eduThe views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.