Leftists lack true humor, something a handful of leftists proved again today, both in trying to make jokes and in failing to understand them.
Does it sound funny to say that leftism is without humor? After all, all the late-night hosts are leftists. Sarah Silverman is a leftist. Jon Stewart is a leftist, and they’re all funny, right? Right?
Well, funny up to a point. All can crack a good joke about bananas or bicyclists, same as the next person and, because they’re professionals with staffs of writers, they’re probably funnier than the next person.
In other words, they’re funny about the things that don’t matter to them.
About the things that do matter to them, they’re not so funny. Regular readers of my blog know that for years, when Mr. Bookworm insisted on watching them, I was irritated by how profoundly unfunny Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee, and John Oliver were. Likewise, when they get on political topics, neither Jimmy Fallon nor Jimmy Kimmel is funny.
They get laughs for their political “humor,” but you have to understand how cheaply earned those laughs are. The comics stand or sit before their audience. They identify a conservative target and make a cheap analogy. (They love analogies.) The analogy is never witty or intelligent. It’s often something along the lines of “Calling Donald Trump smart is like calling a wombat with his head caught in a tire a genius.”
Once having read the line of a notecard or TelePrompter, the comic smirks knowingly at the audience. The audience, primed to accept that a comic’s insult at a despised conservative is by definition “humor,” roars with appropriate laughter. None of this is actual humor, though. It’s just red meat for a hungry crowd that has neither taste nor discrimination.
Hard-edged political humor can rise above crude insults and be witty and even laugh-out-loud funny. Winston Churchill was the master. For example, because Churchill thought Ramsay MacDonald lacked a spine, he called him “a sheep in sheep’s clothing.” That’s clever, mean, and one of those insults that brutally exposes the weakness of the person insulted.
And then there’s Churchill’s most famous insult. He was in conversation with either Bessie Braddock, a socialist MP and not a very good-looking woman, or Nancy Astor, a conservative MP and a famous beauty. I’m therefore inclined to believe that Braddock was the person who accused Churchill of being “disgustingly drunk.” Drunk or not, Churchill’s rapier wit was still on call: “My dear, you are ugly, and what’s more, you are disgustingly ugly. But tomorrow I shall be sober, and you will still be disgustingly ugly.”
Churchill was on the loo when he received a call from the Lord Privy Seal. Churchill rejected the call saying, “Tell him I can only deal with one s**t at a time.” Vulgar, mean – and clever.
The problem with today’s comics isn’t necessarily that they’re bad comics. It’s that leftism is inherently humorless, something summed up in the common expression that “Democrats (or progressives or leftists) can’t meme.”
In Hollywood in1939, although there were a lot of leftists, the studios were anti-communist. That’s why they made the movie Ninotchka, starring Greta Garbo, with its then-famous slogan, “Garbo laughs.” Garbo plays a Soviet commissar sent to Paris on official business who ends up dealing with a Leon, a fun-loving, capitalist playboy. (Ironically, Melvyn Douglas, who had the playboy role, was married to Helen Gahagan Douglas, whom Nixon once implied was a communist.)
The movie is filled with insults against communism and praise for the capitalist system. And of course, as the tagline indicates, one of the running jokes is how utterly humorless communists are. Here are just some examples of a movie that is both of its time and surprisingly timeless:
Buljanoff: How are things in Moscow?
Ninotchka: Very Good. The last mass trials were a great success. There are going to be fewer but better Russians.
Ninotchka: I have heard of the arrogant male in capitalistic society. It is having a superior earning power that makes you that way.
Leon: A Russian! I love Russians! Comrade, I’ve been fascinated by your five-year plan for the last fifteen years.
Ninotchka: Your type will soon be extinct.
Ninotchka: What do you do for mankind?
Leon: For mankind? Yes, eh, not so much, for mankind. But, for womankind my record isn’t quite so bleak.
Ninotchka: You are something we do not have in Russia.
Leon: Thank you.
Ninotchka: That’s why I believe in the future of my country.
I also like this dialog, just because it’s a reminder that “social justice” is an old and Marxist concept:
Ninotchka: Why should you carry other people’s bags?
Porter: Well, that’s my business, Madame.
Ninotchka: That’s no business. That’s social injustice.
Porter: That depends on the tip.
This humorlessness about the things that matter does not exist in a free Western society. Religion matters a great deal in America – or at least, it used to. And yet one of the staples of American comedy was the joke starting with, “A minister, a priest, and a rabbi….” These jokes were meant to tie Americans together as people with a shared Judeo-Christian culture who could also share a laugh about their faiths.
And yes, there is a point to all of this. I saw two things today that perfectly illustrated the fundamental humor failure on the left, including its inability to meme. The first was an opinion piece in the WaPo that was intended to ridicule the conservative belief that the Obama administration railroaded Flynn as part of subverting the election and then, when that failed, destroying its political enemies.
Alexandra Petri’s piece is entitled, “Obamagate was the worst crime ever committed and here is what it was.” I’ll just give you the first two paragraphs, not only because of fair use restrictions but because that’s more than enough for you to see that she eschews wit and cleverness in favor of ponderous pedantry:
“What is the crime exactly that you’re accusing him of?”
“You know what the crime is. The crime is very obvious to everybody. All you have to do is read the newspapers, except yours.”
— President Trump responding to Washington Post reporter Philip Rucker
Obamagate began long ago, long before Trump even got elected, before he even knew he was running. It began before America, before time, in those early days when President Barack Obama lit the furnace of the sun, just before he fixed the paths of the planets in such a way that millennia in the future, Donald Trump would stare directly into a solar eclipse. And, of course, everyone knew about it.
Obamagate was the biggest political crime in American history by far, a fact that Barack Obama did not hesitate to tell Richard M. Nixon, causing him to shed bitter tears in an as-yet-unreleased tape. It was bigger than Teapot Dome. It was bigger than anything anyone blamed Ulysses Grant for allowing the people who surrounded him to do. Nothing could be worse than Obamagate. It went all the way to the top, where Obama floated inside a sinister Masonic eye at the apex of a pyramid on the back of a dollar bill, holding all the strings.
That’s not humor. That’s just riffing from a history book with occasional nods to some website or another entitled “World’s most famous conspiracy theories.”
The next example of the left’s lack of humor is even worse. Because we conservatives pay attention, I’m betting you remember when Biden said, “We [the Democrats] choose truth over facts.” In honor of that splendidly Bidenesque gaffe, the Trump campaign created a campaign website and video, that riffs off of the gaffe, while using it as a launching pad for the truth (and the facts) about Biden:
Team Trump is launching ‘Truth Over Facts,’ an investigative website aimed at uncovering the truth behind Joe Biden’s never-ending, seemingly incomprehensible statements during his third, plodding campaign for president.
VISIT US: https://t.co/nrKKJV9Y4M
WATCH Part 1 below! pic.twitter.com/3qoRBuMV4K
— Team Trump (Text TRUMP to 88022) (@TeamTrump) May 18, 2020
The Democrat response was even funnier than the campaign effort because leftists (just like Ninotchka) didn’t get the joke:
Joe Biden said "truth over facts" in an Iowa State Fair speech stumble. This became a meme on the right. But when the Trump campaign spun this into an obvious parody "investigative website" that referenced the gaffe, I don't think a lot of people got it… pic.twitter.com/G5nZ1vOeRh
— Emily Larsen (@emilyelarsen) May 18, 2020
Inbox: Trump Campaign Announces Launch of ‘Truth Over Facts’ Investigative Website
So I guess the war on facts has a name now. pic.twitter.com/GQBMx7Q1O5
— Christina Wilkie (@christinawilkie) May 18, 2020
How very Orwellian https://t.co/ZJluTYOtoJ
— Molly Jong-Fast (@MollyJongFast) May 18, 2020
If you’d written a satire of the Trump administration where they launched a campaign called “Truth Over Facts” it would’ve been dismissed as heavyhanded and unfair.
— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) May 18, 2020
Not only can’t leftists meme, they can’t even recognize a meme when they see one. Being a leftist is a deadly serious business.
Americans like to laugh and the Trump campaign, wisely, is using humor as a potent weapon against the Biden campaign. Even an ugly leftist like Saul Alinsky, a master of manipulating people, had as his 5th rule the statement that “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” Trump’s team gets it, while Biden’s team doesn’t even get the joke.