Within the last couple of years, one of the Sunday pundit-fests ended with a tribute to the corner the left supposedly still has on the political satire market. I listened in disbelief. The left lost any claim to having a sense of humor about politics long ago.
My local newspaper carries a weekly feature called “Latelaughs.” It prints the jokes of late night hosts as well as “Saturday Night Live.” Not those told during the previous week for some reason, but very stale material. In fact, on December 3, 2016, they printed jokes from as far back as November 7 through 9, the week of the late election. I have been noting for some time that at least half of the jokes in this column have been political. This week, they printed more jokes than usual and all but two related to the election.
The jokes mainly reflect the cluelessness of the leftward mainstream of popular culture. Conan O’Brien described the election results as “a massive shock,” which is only because the big media spent the election cycle in their own bubble, never bothering to take seriously what was happening on the ground. (I myself bet that Hillary Clinton would win, even though I told myself that I could be wrong. That’s why I only bet three bucks on her.)
One of the better jokes recorded in “LateLaughs” compared every newsreader reporting the results on election night to “a child slowly realizing that no one was showing up to his birthday party.” Like all decent jokes, this contains a kernel of truth, but in doing so it exposes the fact that the big media outlets a) had bamboozled themselves into believing that the election was going in the opposite direction from where it went, and 2) they had a dog in the fight rather than being unbiased.
A few jokes illustrate the cluelessness of the jokesters themselves:
Conan O’Brien said, “Two things happened last night. Donald Trump got elected president, and my job just got easier for the next four years.” He would have been unable to make easy jokes with Bill Clinton back in the White House?
He continued: “The first thing I did this morning was call my old high school bully and congratulate him.” Couldn’t he have done the same if the winner had been Hillary Clinton, the woman who added insult to injury by bullying every woman that her husband sexually abused?
But you see, leftists have a tin ear when it comes to knowing where the political jokes are. The joke, in this case, is on O’Brien.
Jimmy Kimmel did no better: “Tomorrow we will elect either Biff from ‘Back to the Future’ or one of the robots from ‘Westworld’.” Rather bite-less.
Kimmel went ahead: “…Donald Trump reached out and grabbed America by the Virginia….” Yes, yes. A reference—this time with some bite—to the "Access Hollywood" tapes, but it is almost as if this joke had been written before it was known that Trump was not going to win in Virginia (though his loss there was no surprise), except that is also not possible because the writers never thought he was going to win the presidency. The joke is a stretch in any case.
Kimmel goes on: “It turns out these [pre-election] polls are no different from those experiments where they make hamsters ring a bell for a dropper full of sugar water. They’re meaningless.”
I myself made a better version of this joke in a tweet:
Nov 9: Over weekend, #CoastToCoast show cited numerous psychics who predicted Clinton win. Only one predicted #Trump. Sounds just like pollsters.
Michael Che of “Saturday Night Live” said, “Donald Trump is the next president of the United States. Haha, ‘United’.” So it would have been united if HRC had been elected? No, but that wouldn’t have mattered to the soft totalitarians on the left. If they can’t MAKE unity, they PRETEND it. (Even now, they are pretending she won in their safe spaces.)
One or the other of SNL’s “Weekend Update” anchors, Che or Colin Jost, went on to rant lengthily (for a joke) to belabor Trump’s lack of experience in government during his seventy years on earth. “A 70 year old holding a new career is not how the presidency is supposed to work….” I’m sorry, but this seems more like an unfunny, boring, whiny editorial than the set up to a joke. Meanwhile, is it not much funnier that so many politicians who pretend they know how to run the private sector from Washington, DC—including the current occupant of the White House—have never held a real job, period? (Aside from Barack Obama, who allegedly at least had a pretend job at a private law firm for five minutes, we have Senator Charles "Chuck" Shumer who has never worked outside of government his entire adult life.)
Ever since Al Franken went to the 1992 Democratic Convention on behalf of Comedy Central and could not bring himself to make fun of it, it has been abundantly clear that political satire in the popular culture is dominated by leftists with a tin ear for what is actually absurdly funny on the political scene—because they themselves are too often part of the joke.
SNL lost it long ago, but I fully realize it 27 October 2012 when SNL opened with a skit based on the last presidential debate between Mitt Romney and President Obama. In the skit, actors playing Romney, Obama and moderator Candy Crowley, re-enacted the moment when Romney said that Obama had waited 14 days to call the Benghazi attack an act of terrorism. Crowley—both in the debate and as portrayed on SNL—proceeded to read from a transcript she just happened to have, and showed that Obama had mentioned the word “terrorism” in his remarks on 12 September 2012. Thereupon, the actor playing Obama stepped to the foot of the stage and dropped his microphone. That was the only real departure from the historical event, the rest of which was played straight (in a comedy sketch, mind you). While making up its punch line, the skit completely missed the actual humor throughout the situation being portrayed, which was inherently absurd. First of all, did no one notice the humor of an alleged moderator suddenly becoming the president’s debate partner? And how did they miss the rather obvious humor of the “moderator” just happening to have a transcript of the president’s remark from over two months previous?
Finally, if I were writing the sketch and making up further developments after portraying what actually happened, I would have played on the novel role of the moderator as the president’s in-studio helper by borrowing from the game show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” (On the game show, a contestant can ask for help from either someone in the studio or someone on the telephone.) The actor playing Romney should have responded to being double-teamed by citing the game show rules and asking for a “lifeline” of his own. The liberal bias need not have been sacrificed entirely: “Romney” could have called “Rush Limbaugh,” who could have said, “Mitt, you’re on your own.” Underneath, though, the point would have been made that what Crowley did was bizarre (not to say unethical). It could have been played on for what it was: Funny if it were not so pathetic. But what ended up being more pathetic was SNL’s failure to find satire when it had already been written for them and was directly in front of their faces.
If Romney actually had reached out to Limbaugh at that moment, of course, the talk show host would have pointed out that Obama only mentioned the word “terrorism” during his 12 September remarks; he did not identify the Benghazi attack as an example of such an act. Indeed, Crowley herself, in an interview immediately after the debate, admitted that “Governor Romney was right in the main,” but that she had tripped him up on a “technicality.” It would not have been hard for a comedy writer to have seen this interview and understood its implications, but, of course, his career at SNL would have been over, and the skit would have been rewritten as something closer to what it was, not the funnier version that it could have been.
The left cannot claim to have a corner on political satire, whether on late night talk shows or variety-sketch shows like SNL, if they cannot see the real jokes that reality has written for them.