Can conservatives ever be funny? Frank Rich says no, of course they can’t:
“In this sense, a lot of conservative comedy both expresses and panders to today’s Republican base, older white men who see America changing and feel impotent about thwarting it. The title of a CD by the comic Jeff ‘Big Daddy’ Wayne, It’s OK to Be a White Male, kind of says it all. Among the most popular conservative comics are four middle-aged men, most famously Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy, who have toured under the rubric the Blue Collar Comedy Tour. It is not quite right to say that they are to contemporary comedy what country music is to contemporary music—they really are what Grand Ole Opry–generation country-western is to contemporary music. Though Foxworthy endorsed and appeared with Romney in 2012, much of his and his peers’ humor is not political at all, but the stuff of daily domestic life, the foibles of marriage and kids and aging, much as stand-up used to be before Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, and Richard Pryor, among others, upended the form. Like the Kings of Comedy (the band of black comedians that inspired the Blue Collar Comedy Tour) and the long-touring Catskills on Broadway (an earlier revue featuring classic Borscht Belt Jewish comics), these old-timers have a sustaining audience. But it’s a declining regional niche, not a mass market.
Sometimes conservative comics do surface in bigger ‘liberal’ venues. The Blue Collar guys have appeared on Comedy Central, as has Dunham, whose Christmas special set a ratings record for the network. Nick DiPaolo has appeared frequently on Louie, and in season one he and Louis C.K. erupted into name-calling and fisticuffs over their political differences. (They are friends offscreen.) In his act, DiPaolo’s Obama jokes are nothing if not innocuous: ‘This guy makes Bryant Gumbel look like Flavor Flav.’ When he complains to Louis C.K. that the ‘white guy doesn’t have a voice in this country anymore,’ you have to wonder if the real problem is that the voices of white guys like DiPaolo won’t pay the bills. The core audience for conservative humor—like that of Fox News (median age 68)—is not exactly a lucrative demographic for television advertisers, whatever its value in winning red-state elections or cable-news ratings wars. The median age for Stewart and Colbert on Comedy Central is 43 and 42, respectively, and you have to wonder if it might be younger still were they liberated (as Colbert soon will be) from their satirical addiction to the elderly Fox News brand.”
At its best comedy is actually a deeply serious thing. It’s an equalizer. Functional satire cannot, by definition, be aimed at the weak or the poor or the powerless. Because that would simply be bullying.
Can a right-wing comedian get some yuck-yucks by telling a crowd how Barack Obama is a black Muslim Nigerian? Sure. He could also fart out loud or drop his pants to similar effect.
But actual comedy? Let alone a conservative show to rival Colbert or Stewart? It’s never going to happen for a simple reason — it’s impossible. And if you don’t believe me just follow the money, as Rich suggests — if a conservative comedy show was possible don’t you think somebody would have tried to make a few gazillion bucks off of it by now?