No, LA Times, Socialism Will Not Be The Future of Comedy
The Los Angeles Times asks “can the future of the comedy be found in socialism?” I would say no, but you probably want more than a one word answer, so allow me to explain.
Per the article, it is not just the emergence of co-op improv clubs, but also the nature of jokes and who is telling them:
In the wake of nationwide George Floyd protests against police brutality and systemic racism combined with pandemic fears, practically no industry, including comedy, was spared from having its shortcomings on matters of diversity aired in public. A number of local stages were downsized before the pandemic, including geek culture hub Meltdown and iO West.
In July of last year, more than a dozen local comics told The Times that Los Angeles stages were plagued with problems of institutionalized racism, driven by a white-led power structure that marginalized diverse voices. Grievances on social media and petitions were sent to theaters such as Groundlings, Upright Citizens Brigade and Chicago’s now-shuttered iO.
Political comedy is always an uphill climb. It is almost always just another form of preaching to the choir. Why do you think all the late night hosts are being beat by Fox News’ Greg Gutfeld? Because the late night comedians are not that funny. They are just preachers.
Stephen Colbert made his name playing a satirized conservative. Now that he is just himself, he is just another liberal who sometimes tells jokes, not a comedian who happens to be a liberal. Seth Meyers is even worse, he will daily take time out of his “comedy” show to do a “closer look” which is really just a diatribe against Republicans, conservatives, Fox News, or Joe Manchin. There is no humor in it except for some eccentric metaphors. One could go on, but you get the point. Laughter has been replaced by an audience that just claps and applauds when the host disses a Republican.
Students of comedy on the left will usually say that good and true comedy is about punching up and making the powerful squirm. Not only does this leave out entire non-political, non-societal fields of jokes (like puns), the problem for lefty comics is that, as much as they may deny it, the left controls just about every institution in America. They control the culture, the education system, the news media, they currently control all three elected parts of the government, and they control corporations. If you doubt me on that last one, just look how easily corporations bend the knee to whatever the left’s latest grievance or “anti-racist” fad is.
So, they do not punch down, they just punch. Certainly insult comedy (which is different from a roast) can be funny and be used to make a political point, but it usually has very limited appeal. To use an example from the other side of the aisle, why did the left not laugh at Trump’s name calling? I think you know the answer.
Comedy is becoming increasingly difficult for the left, because they are increasingly self-serious. Back in the day, the left could poke at certain societal taboos and get a sort of Freudian laugh out the crowd. Nowadays, those taboos are not really taboos anymore, but they have been replaced not by Puritanical conservatives ones, but by leftist ones.
When you have a “silence is violence” worldview, everything becomes politicized. When you see a racist behind every corner, nothing is funny, even when the point of the joke is to laugh at the racist (see Comedy Central removing the Diversity Day episode of The Office.) You could include “sexist” jokes as well. Good nature teasing between the sexes is part of what makes male-female relationships fun, but if everything is perceived to be malicious misogyny, then you do become a humorless scold.
The Times quotes Jessica “JZ” Zepeda:
‘What’s important to me is to be solution-orientated,’ Zepeda says. ‘If someone [screws] up on stage, we’re not going to kick them out. There’s going to be accountability. We tell people to act better, and give them no tools. We need to have sensitivity training.’
Presumably these socialist comedians will need to be politically correct. Yawn.
If we look on the right, The Babylon Bee skewers the left on a daily basis, but it became popular not by being a conservative satire site, but being a Christian satire sight that was self-referential. The Bee succeeded because it was able to tear through the perception that Christians and conservatives are a bunch of uptight, humorless scolds. Even as The Bee becomes increasingly political and targets the left, it is still more self-referential and willing to go after conservatives than late night comedians are willing to go after the left.
Another reason The Bee succeed, where previous Christian and conservative attempts at comedy failed, is because, consciously or unconsciously, they know that that “funny” and “serious” are not opposites. They can be funny by making in-jokes about Church culture and still take their faith seriously. The true opposite of funny is tragedy. The opposite of serious is flippancy and flippancy, according to Uncle Wormwood, is the lowest (from his upside down perspective, the best) form of laughter as it involves laughing at virtue.
Any attempt to impose an overly political orthodoxy onto jokes will inevitably run into the first problem. If you can avoid this problem, you still risk being preachy. This is why socialists will not save comedy. Nobody wants a lecture on Marx when they want to laugh. If they do, then they already agree with you.
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