Why does there seem to be a lack of conservative comedy and comedy-news compared to liberal?

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4

In the United States there are a number of liberal comedians who emphasize their liberal status in their comedy, and in particular a wealth of liberal comedy focusing on recent events/news. To name a few off the top of my head, there is "The Daily Show", "Last Week Tonight", and "late night".

I'm unaware of any comedians that emphasize conservative commentary in a humorous manner. I'm aware of comedians who are also conservative, but not ones making regular conservative commentary using humor.

Are there shows like this on the conservative side that I'm unaware of, and if not is there any reason for this to be primarily a liberal/Democratic phenomenon?

dsollen

Posted 2018-08-15T16:01:57.980

Reputation: 5 884

3Comments deleted. Please note that comments are not for answering the question or discussing the subject matter of the question. Their primary purpose is to improve the question. – Philipp – 2018-08-16T13:51:47.640

9CNN's "History of Comedy" series had an episode about political comedy, and one segment of it was about conservative comedy and why it's rare. – Barmar – 2018-08-17T14:41:10.693

5

A recent article on Cracked.com talks about some of the issues. I don't agree with the article (it's written in a way that makes it seem like all right-wing comedy is garbage), but it might make you aware of the biggest mistakes that most right-wing comedians (or the most notorious ones) seem to make.

– Daevin – 2018-08-17T16:26:56.980

1Why can't it just be market forces? Supply and demand. Shouldn't this be the working hypothesis in a free country? – Trilarion – 2019-08-29T20:02:00.813

@Trilarion I'm sure it is market forces, but that is too high level an explination. what causes those market forces? why is there less of a demand for one type of comedy over the other which causes the market to not feel an advantage in providing that supply. – dsollen – 2019-08-30T13:15:58.133

E.g. Trump is just so much more easy to make fun of than Obama by comparison. He says a lot everyday and often contradicts himself or the truth and the market for comedy just jumps at this. How often did Obama order something or offered to buy Greenland? It's actually really difficult to not make fun of Trump (that would mean taking everything he says seriously). He also happens to be a conservative, but if he wouldn't be, there isn't reason to assume people wouldn't laugh about him the same. Anyone remember Anthony Weiner, the democrat? That should be the working hypothesis, I think. – Trilarion – 2019-08-30T15:46:24.320

2@Trilarion this trend predated trump by quite a bit. These sort of shows existed during obama presidency, and the grandaddy ones, like the daily show, were around pre-obama – dsollen – 2019-08-30T15:48:39.500

Obama was an exception in the other direction. Just try to make fun of him instead of Trump and you'll see it's just much harder. With Trump you just need to take a random statement like for example the North Korean leader is a great guy (he probably isn't) , and you have prime material for comedy. – Trilarion – 2019-08-31T06:37:19.567

Just from today, Trump shows a fake hurricane forecast with made-up additions by someone. It's really quite hard not to make fun of it whoever made the additions. Now try to find something comparable with Obama. It's paradise currently for comedians. – Trilarion – 2019-09-05T21:32:33.213

1What I've noticed is that a "comedian" who attacks only one side of the political divide doesn't become 50% less funny; he or she becomes 100% less funny. It doesn't matter whose ox is getting gored. – EvilSnack – 2019-10-28T01:02:29.490

Answers

79

A liberal/conservative divide happens between sparsely-populated rural areas and dense urban ones, with the rural settings more likely to be conservative, and the urban ones more likely to be liberal. I won't get into the reasons why that is, but given that mass media has historically required a large number of people with a wide variety of talents that tend to fit better into cities (a stagehand in a small town wouldn't be able to make enough to do that full-time, whereas one in NYC very well could), mass media itself has grown up as a thing of the cities, and thus of liberal thinking.

Humor is by no means a 'liberal' thing, but due to the way a comedian's career tends to play out (larger and larger in-person venues, to TV specials, to fat-man-skinny-wife sitcom, and ideally parlayed into an acting career), it tends to mirror the tendencies in mass media. You are more likely to find an audience that likes your humor in a big city, you are more likely to be paid enough to do comedy for longer periods, and you are more likely to be able to pursue careers that don't focus on general necessities of life (like comedy). So while humor isn't a liberal/conservative thing, the process of becoming a comedian (in the vein of John Stewart/John Oliver/Stephen Colbert) is heavily biased towards those willing to spend their lives in large cities.

Carduus

Posted 2018-08-15T16:01:57.980

Reputation: 13 794

17This makes sense to me, but as a counter-example, there are a lot of successful country singers that draw large audiences in conservative, rural areas. – BlackThorn – 2018-08-15T20:34:09.307

2@BlackThorn As well as the fact that Fox News, a quite popular part of mass media in the US, is highly conservative. – JAB – 2018-08-16T00:19:03.620

12@BlackThorn That's one specific niche. This is talking about "mass media", not a niche; the proper comparison would be to "the entire music industry" (which should really make the proper comparison "mass media" again). Start looking across all music genres and I bet you'll see another "liberal", but actually it's "urban", bias: hip hop, rap, R&B, salsa, etc. are heavily associated with minorities, which trend towards the Democratic side of the spectrum, for examples. Now throw in music geared towards youth and young adults... – zibadawa timmy – 2018-08-16T00:59:37.380

19@BlackThorn Popular country singers mostly play shows in large cities, just like big-name musicians in all other genres of music. The actual large concerts are rarely in 'rural' areas. Granted, the country concerts probably do draw more of their crowds from the rural areas surrounding the cities where the concerts are held than, say, a rap artist would. – reirab – 2018-08-16T05:27:43.850

7@zibadawatimmy salsa is liberal and Urban? wow, I'm learning so much about music I never knew before :P – dsollen – 2018-08-16T14:17:54.723

1@reirab youre statement is true, but at the same time I think it's pretty commonly agreed that country appiles to rural individuals, I mean the genre was named after it's emphesis on rural country life. The fact that it still draws a crowed in 'liberal' urban areas would seem to help to prove BlackThron's counter example that conservative (or at minimum rural) leaning media can still draw sufficient attention to be popular and successful in urban areas. – dsollen – 2018-08-16T14:21:12.207

3@zib I'm not sure why the entire music industry would have to be conservative to validate my counter-example. The question is why there are seemingly 0 conservative comedy shows. If the reason is that only liberal media can draw a crowd based on population dynamics, country music's existence alone is enough to prove that conservative media is capable of getting people together. Rodeos are another good example. Monster truck rallies. Nascar. The list goes on. – BlackThorn – 2018-08-16T15:15:30.817

@reirab I don't know if country singers mostly play in large cities or not, but I have seen plenty of concerts in very rural areas with crowds over 10,000 people, some much larger. Also, I mentioned rodeos, which get pretty large crowds (maybe not quite as large as a concert), and those are exclusively in small towns. The fact is that conservatives mobilize towards media/entertainment just like liberals, and it doesn't have to happen in a big city to have large turnout. – BlackThorn – 2018-08-16T15:20:44.933

This maybe made sense in the 40s with radio being the primary medium. Doesn't really make any sense in today's world of consolidated media. It's not like country musicians singing about war veterans targeting a conservative audience have a tough time selling out stadiums. – None – 2018-08-16T17:52:21.957

I'm aware of quite a few liberals who are very big and unabashedly country music fans. In fact, one person I know is a bigger fan of Country Music than her two Right of center sons. – hszmv – 2018-08-16T18:32:50.470

2@hszmv of course there are liberal country fans. There are are even liberal country acts. However, there are also a lot of country artists that do pander to a particular demographic and manage to sell out stadiums just fine. – None – 2018-08-16T20:08:43.943

9I think this answer is flawed. With the internet, the exposure of comedy is no longer limited to having American mass media as gatekeepers. Conservative comedy isn't under-represented, if anything it's simply "under-existent". I think socially conservative comedians like Dennis Miller and Jeff Dunham tend to be tragically unfunny--most of the funny ones are simply libertarians. – Amalgovinus – 2018-08-17T02:09:45.770

4@Amalgovinus, but the Asker specifically mentions three major cable TV shows (mass media). Right now people that are "internet famous" are still a lower rank than "TV famous" with the top tier still being "Movie Famous". – JPhi1618 – 2018-08-17T20:38:24.380

5Possibly worth noting that John Stewart/John Oliver/Stephen Colbert are all a product of the Daily Show, would be worth investigating if this answer still holds pre-Daily Show or if it's just the case that liberal news-comedy managed to find a niche that conservative news-comedy hasn't yet found. Saturday Night Live might be a more long term example, which is also mostly liberal from what I'm aware. – icc97 – 2018-08-21T07:08:41.633

53

Dennis Miller is an openly conservative comedian. He had several television shows, although most have been short-lived since he came out as a conservative after 9/11. His radio show lasted until 2015.

Miller is probably the most political, but there are other conservative/Republican comedians. Ranker.com has a list.

Rush Limbaugh also includes comedy in his show, although it often has a more serious tone. The farding in cars (pronounced like farting) show was pure comedy.

Greg Gutfeld has a comedy show on Fox News. The 1/2 Hour News Hour was supposed to be the conservative version of the Daily Show. Jesse Watters hosts Watters' World, which is one of those reality comedy shows that goes around asking people on the street questions.

It's also worth noting that it is easier to make comedy about the president than other politicians. So liberal comedians are more obvious when it's a Republican president. When it's a Democrat, liberal comedians have a different set of jokes. So right now, it is unsurprising that most people remember the liberal jokes about Donald Trump.

Trump also took advantage of comedy. Is there anyone in the US that does not know that Trump wanted to build a wall, ban Muslims, and Make America Great Again? When liberal comedians pilloried those positions, they also spread them. Hillary Clinton's more nuanced positions didn't draw as much criticism nor repetition.

People also tend to ignore the jokes about candidates they like. This leaves the unpopular Trump an open target. Meanwhile, people forget about fifty-seven states and the objectification of Kamala Harris.

Much of comedy is aimed at twenty-somethings. People at that age tend to be more liberal than their parents and grandparents. For the most part, they pay little in taxes, so they have little concern about what has traditionally been one of the main Republican issues. They aren't the best market for conservative humor. This pushes conservatives into other venues: talk radio (Limbaugh); sitcoms (Tim Allen, Roseanne Barr, etc.); conservative news (Gutfeld, Watters, etc.). Meanwhile the liberals dominate the late night comedy space.

It's interesting that Gutfeld is one of the more libertarian conservatives. Because a lot of comedy is about things that conservatives avoid discussing: jokes about farting and other offensive bodily functions; sex. Limbaugh disclaims the farding/farting comparison now. Howard Stern's view on taxes is quite conservative even while his views on sex aren't.

Perhaps the real problem is that taxes just aren't that funny to people who pay them. So Stern and other comedians don't do a lot of tax humor but do do a lot of not so conservative body humor. If you select a group for their willingness to make body humor jokes, perhaps it is not surprising that their politics are often not conservative.

Brythan

Posted 2018-08-15T16:01:57.980

Reputation: 86 095

2557 states was a simple misstatement, in context it was obviously meant to be 47 states, I never found it particularly funny since it doesn't even compare to some of the more sensible Bushisms. I think the Obama statement that aged the best given the 2016 election was "you're likable enough Hillary", though that says more about Clinton than Obama. – Teleka – 2018-08-16T02:59:22.563

16Yes, it was a misstatement, like most of the misstatements politicians get attacked for. That is irrelevant to this answer which merely reminds us that it did give rise to jokes. – WGroleau – 2018-08-16T03:24:53.037

58Good answer in general, but I don't really think the current POTUS has much to do with what OP is asking about. Those same set of comedy 'news' shows have been around far longer than Trump. There weren't really any widely-watched conservative ones (that I'm aware of, at least) even when Obama was President. – reirab – 2018-08-16T05:15:14.180

42Comparing a slip of the tongue of a liberal with the ridiculous, but seriously meant and repeatedly defended idea of building a wall against Mexicans. The idea that the liberal shows mentioned by OP must be mainly a lot of primitive fart and sex jokes. The idea that successful, rich comedians don't mention taxes because it's too painful to them, when liberal comedians have no problem hurting themselves by arguing against tax breaks for the rich. I get the feeling there's an agenda here, even though it's well hidden. – R. Schmitz – 2018-08-16T15:45:55.497

11@R.Schmitz Are you for real? Are we supposed to pretend that typos and misstatements are too trivial for left-wing comedians to focus on? How many months was "covfefe" a thing? – zero – 2018-08-16T17:22:10.363

2@zero If you re-read my comment, you might find that it says "Comparing a slip of the tongue of a liberal with the ridiculous, but seriously meant and repeatedly defended idea of building a wall against Mexicans." – R. Schmitz – 2018-08-16T17:43:56.250

16there's also some simply incorrect statements here. "People also tend to ignore the jokes about candidates they like". That may be true for conservatives, but not necessarily for liberals. Shows like the Daily Show and Colbert Report were just as quick to poke fun at their candidate as their opponent. – None – 2018-08-16T17:50:44.500

1@R.Schmitz I read your comment already. The points in the original answer concerning verbal gaffes and policy positions are in separate paragraphs, so I don't see how they were at all being compared to one another. – zero – 2018-08-16T18:21:16.017

3@Teleka - No, it was not meant to be 47 states. It was actually meant to be 57, but 57 primary contests (that includes caucuses) contested in the states and also in US territories (Guam, Puerto Rico, Washington DC, etc). – PoloHoleSet – 2018-08-16T18:39:31.953

3@zero Oh. No, being in different paragraphs shouldn't keep you from making a logical connection. I'm often reading texts by authors who make a point over several paragraphs, it allows discussion of more complex issues without sacrificing readability. By the way, "covfefe" was a social media post. Its way easier to control what you post on social media, so that's just another comparison that isn't really kosher. – R. Schmitz – 2018-08-17T14:08:37.133

7

@zero Surely "covfefe" became "a thing" because of the White House's absurd response to the typo? "Mr Spicer cryptically told reporters that 'the president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant' when he tweeted the word 'covfefe' at 12:06 a.m."

– ceejayoz – 2018-08-19T08:06:25.407

2I think "covfefe" was funny because it was a humorous misstatement. Does it need any other justification? – Obie 2.0 – 2018-08-19T20:18:24.950

1@WGroleau - No, the genuine accusation was that Obama didn't know how many states there were, which was an absurd accusation. While someone might get mocked for a misstatement, there isn't usually that blatant of a misrepresentation of what it does or does not mean about the candidate. – PoloHoleSet – 2019-08-29T15:42:12.207

@PoloHoleSet: you should omit the first word, since you apparently agreed with me. – WGroleau – 2019-08-29T20:04:10.060

@WGroleau - No, because you were saying the mocking was like that other politicians get, where someone might poke fun at them for misspeaking, whereas the object of ridicule was the premise that Obama was genuinely so stupid that he did not know how many states exist. It's a fundamentally different kind of criticism. – PoloHoleSet – 2019-08-30T15:21:01.043

No, I’m saying it is the same as the accusations of unfitness other politicians get (instead of legitimate criticisms of their policies). – WGroleau – 2019-08-30T15:23:27.880

46

A perspective from the United Kingdom.

Since 1990, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has regularly broadcast Have I Got News For You. They ridicule everybody, but as far as politicians are concerned, their more successful guests are more likely to be Conservative than Labour. The Conservative politicians are simply perceived to be more funny, in particular in the great British tradition of self-mockery. Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg and funny and ridiculous, they know they are, and thrive in it. But invite Jeremy Corbyn or John McDonnell or one of their allies to what is supposed to be a satirical news quiz, and they're going to answer every question with a deeply serious message about how the country needs fixing, and the audience — who are there to laugh — get bored.

I believe that Americans don't practice this art of self-mockery (very well). Would a TV show invite Sarah Palin with the expectation that she makes fun of herself? I don't think so. In the UK, very much so. In a country where people are unwilling to make fun of themselves or their allies, only their political opponents will make fun of them. So that means:

  • In the UK, comedy news shows tend to favour Conservative guests, because Brits make fun of themselves, and Conservatives are more funny.
  • In the USA, comedy news shows tend to be more progressive leaning, because Americans make fun of people they disagree with, and conservative-leaning folk are more funny.

I'm from The Netherlands. In The Netherlands, neither of the above works, because Dutch people mostly aren't funny. There's a (partially progressive-leaning) weekly show called Zondag met Lubach, which tries to mimic the American "late night (comedy) show" concept. It aired some brilliant little satirical pieces such as America First, Netherlands Second, but a lot of the show is not actually comedy.

gerrit

Posted 2018-08-15T16:01:57.980

Reputation: 40 843

1I'm curious if this holds true for the duration of Have I Got News For You. Certainly, with the current conservative government, we poke more fun at the Tories, but was this true during the Blair and Brown years or were Labour the butt of the jokes? I recall Nick Clegg of the Lib Dems holding his own when he appeared, but I can't remember if it was while they were in coalition. – Phil – 2018-08-16T12:21:26.950

1@Phil I believe it's generally true. – gerrit – 2018-08-16T13:01:38.183

11

"Would a TV show invite Sarah Palin with the expectation that she makes fun of herself?" - actually, they do all the time.

– JonathanReez – 2018-08-16T21:13:58.277

4I somewhat disagree. While I agree that conservative politicians are more prepared to appear on panel shows and use self-deprecating humour, a lot of actual British comedians are left-leaning. How much that impacts their performances varies drastically though. I agree with the sentiment that American politicians are less likely to be prepared to use self-deprecating humour than most British politicians. – Pharap – 2018-08-16T22:09:23.107

@JonathanReez Maybe I'm wrong, then. – gerrit – 2018-08-16T23:12:11.913

Maybe I get the wrong impression as an outsider, but isn't Prime Minister's Questions even pretty much just an excuse for politicians to make sarcastic jokes at each others' expense. – Tim Seguine – 2018-08-20T16:02:26.940

1"but a lot of the show is not actually comedy" That's american late night TV too. – frеdsbend – 2018-08-20T22:46:35.313

@JonathanReez That's an excellent example that perhaps helps explain what gerrit says. In that clip Trump and Fallon are making fun of all the jokes that are made about Trump.Trump is laughing at how silly the caricatures of him are.That wouldn't work for a Democrat because Democrat's aren't regularly subjected to the same over-the-top attacks. – Readin – 2018-08-21T04:55:16.093

3Upvoted for "Dutch people mostly aren't funny". – Ertai87 – 2018-08-21T13:52:09.073

3I'd say a point to add to the UK for comedians themselves being more liekly to be Labour side is that many spend years not being successful. That usually means years juggling a second job/spending time out of a job and therefore more likely to be in the lower income strata's, paying less tax and maybe even being on the dole for awhile. That means they've spent years benefiting from and living life on the "left" side of British comedy (where Tories are seen as anti-welfare). – Philbo – 2018-08-21T15:05:15.317

1Add that to comedians in the UK either doing the working men's clubs in the past (not-pc but definitely more likely to be old school left), and nowadays working the cities and big towns comedy clubs (which attract a younger audience - and people tend to move from left to right as they age), and you've got comedians working to a mostly middle to left physical audience.

Plus I disagree about HIGNFY. Paul Merton is certainly left and Iain Hislop just shows a general disdain for all politicians. Mock the Week and others use comedians that as I've said tend to already be on the left. – Philbo – 2018-08-21T15:12:03.373

1@Philbo Whilst it's true that the regular panelists are more left leaning (as is relatively common for comedians in the UK), many of the more frequent (or at least more memorable) guests are right-wing politicians - I certainly remember plenty of appearances by politician such as Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg, William Hague, and (perhaps funny for the wrong reason) Anne Widdecombe. – James_pic – 2018-08-22T10:26:30.440

@James_pic Yes but as is being said, that's because they're better at not taking themselves and their points seriously. That still means the humour is coming at their expense (or their parties expense) which means to attack the right, you come from the left. But I really don't think that's a fair focus. We're talking about shows and their slant, or the humour used. That politicians invited on can be from either side of the spectrum, in general shows like The Last Leg are hosted and use comedians that are undeniably left slanted (such as the last two Frankie Boyle has done). – Philbo – 2018-08-22T12:21:33.593

1Arguably, the Clarkson/Hammond/May Top Gear featured conservative humor... it certainly blew in the face of PC. That's what made the show so delightful... and so popular. – tj1000 – 2018-08-22T18:28:33.397

HIGNFY actually has a Dutch version as well (with 34 seasons). While not as funny as the British version, it's pretty good compared to British and American weekly comedy shows and I'd say at the same level as ZML.

– JJJ – 2018-08-26T17:29:55.730

1"Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg [are] funny and ridiculous": I'm wondering how much of the UK's current political situation can be blamed on HIGNFY... – Steve Melnikoff – 2019-09-09T09:43:09.830

44

The entertainment and media industry is incredibly liberal because the people that work there are incredibly liberal.

Take a look at the chart below, taken from here.

enter image description here

In the end of the day, you cannot reasonably expect a very biased group of people to produce a neutral content. This also explains why there are few prominent conservative leaning figures in those fields.

Of course, you might ask why are liberal people more likely to work in those industries, but that's another question.

Laetus

Posted 2018-08-15T16:01:57.980

Reputation: 669

Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.

– Philipp – 2018-09-27T15:16:17.983

26

This Atlantic article mentions a few potential reasons. But first, they make a very important counter-point to many of the theories already mentioned:

Liberal satirists are certainly having no trouble making light of liberal institutions and societies. Portlandia is about to enter its fifth season skewering the kinds of liberals who don’t understand that eco-terrorism and militant feminism may not be as politically effective as they think. Jon Stewart has had success poking fun at Obama’s policies. And Alison Dagnes, a professor of political science at Shippensburg University, has found that the liberal Clinton was the butt of more jokes on late-night shows of the 1990s than either George W. Bush or Obama would later be.

This is an important point that a lot of the other answers are ignoring. "Liberal Comedy" isn't about "mocking liberals". It's about "satirizing politics" and they are as willing to satirize the left as much as the right. And audiences are fine with that. They can appreciate the satire regardless of the target when it's done well.

The article continues. The first theory:

One explanation is simply that proportionately fewer people with broadly conservative sensibilities choose to become comedians. Just as liberals dominate academia, journalism, and other writing professions, there are nearly three times as many liberal- as conservative-minded people in the creative arts according to a recent study.

In summary, there are simply more liberals in the creative arts. Comedy is a creative art.

Theory two:

...The 1/2 Hour News Hour, the first major attempt to create a conservative counterpart to The Daily Show in 2007. It was cancelled after just 13 episodes and has remained the worst-rated show of all time on Metacritic. It was widely panned by critics who complained that it was trying to be political first and funny second, so the jokes were unsurprising and flat.

This could be interpreted a number of ways, but one way to explain that is perhaps they were "trying too hard". Comedy doesn't work well when forced.

Theory three:

Greg Gutfeld, the host of Fox’s Red Eye, can also be funny, but his willing-to-be-controversial style often comes across as more hackneyed than insightful. “You know you’re getting close to the truth when someone is calling you a racist,” he once said. Gutfeld has also railed against “greenie” leftists who shop at Whole Foods, tolerance, and football players who are openly gay. Gutfeld’s shtick works okay during its 3 a.m. timeslot, but a recent controversy over sexist jokes about a female fighter pilot highlighted just how far his humor is from working in prime time.

I think this example falls into the 'punching up vs. punching down' dilema. This article which actually focuses on liberal comics who have punched down and met push back describes that well.

And to continue with theory three, which the article spends the most time dissecting (and I'd suggest is worth a read):

But what is it about political satire that makes it so hard for conservatives to get it right?

 

Political humor, in particular, might have an inherently liberal bias. Alison Dagnes spent years looking into this question for her 2012 book A Conservative Walks Into a Bar. She spoke to dozens of working comedians who self-identified as liberals, and as many who identified as conservatives as she could find. One of the reasons she posits for a lack of conservative satire is that the genre has always been aimed at taking down the powerful, from the Revolutionary War through Vietnam and 9/11. “Conservatism supports institutions and satire aims to knock these institutions down a peg,” she wrote.

This is, essentially, also speaking to the 'punching up vs. punching down' issue.

user1530

Posted 2018-08-15T16:01:57.980

Reputation:

12

I'd disagree that it doesn't exist. Certainly, with conservatives being more supportive of established conventions, irreverent humor that tends to be particularly political in how it will mock or skewer those conventions might tend to be a liberal genre. And, certainly, the idea some conservatives espouse that mocking those conventions is a sign of the deterioration of society is going to prevent certain types of self-deprecating humor from being particularly widespread.

There are plenty of comedians who deal with either the excesses of liberalism that are conservatives, themselves. Finding the humor in everyday life, government and relationships wouldn't hold to any particular viewpoint.

Dennis Miller, while some of his rants took a more pointed and seemingly less funny turn, still can see the absurdities in life and society in a funny way, when his focus is on that and not making an angry political point.

YouTube - Weekend Update w/Dennis Miller and Dennis Miller on Gary Hart

Scott Adams, the hugely popular satirist who's Dilbert cartoons mock the silliness of workplace conventions is a decidedly pro-Trump person. Or, perhaps, more of an anti-activist-liberal, but definitely in the conservative or libertarian column.

Dilbert Comic homepage

There are conservative humorists who have shows that skewer the uber-seriousness and contortions that "social justice warriors" sometimes bend themselves into.

Tim Allen is pretty well known for being conservative, and his humor tends to deal with more real-life issues and doesn't dwell overtly on politics.

YouTube: Tim Allen - Men Are Pigs (Stand Up Comedy)

Both Tim Allen and Rosanne Barr have had hugely popular, top of the Nielsen ratings, long-running comedy shows on major networks.

Does it seem like there are more liberal comedians, or they have wider popularity and general appeal? Possibly. That might say something about the comedians, but it might also say something about the audience. If conservatives were more open to all kinds of humor, and liberals had sticks wedged in unmentionable places when it comes to issues more dear to them, it might manifest itself with liberals and "liberal humor" being more widespread and popular, as well.

PoloHoleSet

Posted 2018-08-15T16:01:57.980

Reputation: 19 833

14But Tim Allen and Dennis Miller don't have network conservative comedy shows. They have YouTube channels. That's so not the same thing. And the Dilbert comic has little to do with Scott Adam's personal views. I'd argue that the Dilbert comic isn't even conservative. It makes fun of business, not government. – userLTK – 2018-08-15T16:33:53.283

19Are these examples of humor-by-conservatives or conservative-based-humor? There's a big difference between them, and the former doesn't seem relevant to the question. Dilbert isn't political, even if its author is, so it's an example of the former. Doonesbury, on the other hand, would be an example of the latter (if it were conservative instead of liberal). – Bobson – 2018-08-15T16:35:51.773

6

Dilbert hits a lot of the "political correctness" in the workplace, which could make it political. If you ask Jon Stewart, he'd say that the Daily Show was not a partisan show, but hit the general stupidity of media and political messaging, with the today's US "right" just happening to be a bit more foolish. You guys have a fair point, but I think it's tricky to characterize humor as liberal or conservative. Of course, there's always this, but I didn't want to to there in my answer - https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/rationally-speaking/200905/conservatives-lack-sense-humor-study-finds

– PoloHoleSet – 2018-08-15T16:44:46.420

The psychology today article is interesting. I'll have to give it some thought, before I agree/disagree, but it's a possible answer. – userLTK – 2018-08-15T18:11:41.393

8@PoloHoleSet I wonder if Jon Stewart would really say that The Daily Show was an apolitical show. I think he is very much aware of his political leanings and how they influenced his show. He'd probably disagree if you called TDS a far left propaganda programme (and so would I), but I doubt he'd say it wasn't political. – janh – 2018-08-15T18:16:45.980

3

@jahn - he has said, on several occasions that he and the show are not *partisan*, which is the word that I used - which is not the same as apolitical - if you attack all things political, regardless of ideology, that's still "political," but not partisan. - "is non-partisan and focuses on 'absurdity,' 'anti-corruption' and 'anti lack-of-authenticity.'" He is on the record saying this over and over again, which drove partisan opinion writers up the wall. http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/attytood/No-Jon-Stewart-youre-not-just-a-comedian.html

– PoloHoleSet – 2018-08-15T21:46:40.510

@userLTK - Of course, what the study says vs what the USA Today portrays it as could also be worlds apart, so let us know if you actually look at the study and whether you think they got it right at the newspaper. – PoloHoleSet – 2018-08-15T21:49:16.003

1Are you considering Dilbert conservative? It created the PHB (pointy-haired boss) idiom which perpetuates the stereotype that bosses are stupid and workers understand the business better than the bosses do. In fact, it always had the theme of mocking management. This is a pretty pro-labor message. I don't think the traditional Democratic Party would see it as conservative. – grovkin – 2018-08-16T07:14:44.497

1@PoloHoleSet The article from psychologcialToday is not a fair judge of comedy. Of course people are more likely to interpret satire as legitimate if it supports their ideological view, because those views seem logical to them and thus not worth mocking so taking it at face value makes sense. It should practically be an corollary of Poe's Law.. If a show existed where a conservative played a satirical liberal in the reverse Colbert I'm sure liberals would be more inclined to miss the satire. – dsollen – 2018-08-16T14:13:30.337

1Some of these examples don't work, though. Scott Adams is definitely not what most would call 'liberal' politically, but his actual 'comedy'--being dilbert--is certainly not really liberal nor conservative. It's just making fun of office life. – None – 2018-08-16T17:44:43.830

1@dsollen I'm not so sure of that. Part of the huge success of The Colbert Show was that he made as much fun of liberals as he did conservatives. A big part of getting comedy across to an audience is having an audience that can empathize as well as self-reflect. Not something conservatives are necessarily known for. I actually think that Psychology Today article makes a good answer. – None – 2018-08-16T17:47:10.400

@dsollen - "is not a fair judge of comedy" - fair or not, it makes a claim I was not comfortable including in my answer, which is why it is not part of my answer. If you look at my *answer* you see that I suggest the possibility that liberals are not open to self-examination when it comes to humor. – PoloHoleSet – 2018-08-16T18:20:17.883

@grovkin - That's a pretty narrow view, since the portrayal of all the co-workers as petty, lazy, insecure, not especially competent passive-aggressive time wasters is not what I'd call a "pro-labor" message. He doesn't just mock bosses. – PoloHoleSet – 2018-08-16T18:24:01.683

@PoloHoloSet but he does have a central message that power comes from physical violence rather than from competence. Alice, while she is competent, gets her authority from being violent. And competence is inversely proportionate to position in Dilbert. Fellow workers are there to show how interactions in a workplace evolve with respect to competence vs authority. The personality traits you pointed out are methods in which the strip communicates its message. It is fundamentally very pro-labor. Wally's power comes from his manipulativeness, btw. So the relationship of power v competence holds. – grovkin – 2018-08-16T20:51:06.417

@grovkin - Not sure how you get that the idea that people getting power from violence and not competence is, again, a "pro-labor" message, since it still mocks them as incompetent. You seem to have a fundamental view that showing the absurdities of a dysfunctional system is "pro" for the group that gets the power in a dysfunctional way. Telling me that I gain status at work through violence and intimidation is only "pro-me" if you assume that the idea of being a violent bully is something I consider to be positive or flattering. That's no more positive than how the boss is viewed. – PoloHoleSet – 2018-08-16T21:07:24.750

1@PoloHoleSet re: "Not sure how you get that the idea that people getting power from violence and not competence is, again, a 'pro-labor' message", really? The collective bargaining premise is that workers need representation against the more powerful. If the most competent workers are shown as the least powerful, it strengthens this message. The strip shows (claims) that in a union-less workplace, the dysfunctional behavior multiplies. – grovkin – 2018-08-16T21:44:50.960

2@grovkin - I think we understand each other's points, without agreeing, so I won't belabor it further. – PoloHoleSet – 2018-08-16T22:05:13.857

12

I think some of the answers/comments need to be pointed out as flawed.

"The liberal media", doesn't make sense because TV is a for profit business and if a conservative comedy hour drew enough listeners, it would be aired, in fact, given that conservative listeners tend to be quite loyal, I'd go so far as to say TV stations would fight for the rights to air a conservative comedy hour that drew a sizable audience. Dennis Miller doesn't have a larger audience because he's not very funny. I would add, the Daily show would make fun of a liberal politician in a heartbeat if it made good TV. Would Dennis make fun of conservatives? If he would, I've never heard him do it.

"Punching up vs punching down", in one of the comments. While I absolutely agree with that statement, Obama was president for 8 years. George Soros is a billionaire. Nancy Pelosi was speaker of the house and a powerful congresswoman for decades, successful liberal actors who speak out are, rich and successful. Making fun of any of them IS punching up. It's incorrect to think Republicans/Wealthy are the only ones who are "up" and the only subjects to comedy.

And I tried watching that awful video by Prager U, and while some of his comments were fair, he doesn't understand comedy. Yes, there's political correctness in today's world, but not all comedians yield to political correctness. Many defy it. Political correctness might raise some objections, but some comedians tell the joke anyway and what's funny is still funny, perhaps even more so when it's edgy.

I think all of those answers miss the mark.

What it comes down to is this. Funny is hard and funny is rare. It takes a precise set of criteria to make something funny and it's not easy to do. I've heard it said that Hitler jokes are never funny, and I've never heard a funny one, so, I'm inclined to agree, but John Cleese pulled it off in Faulty Towers. That said, Cleese was brilliant, and they found a clever angle, a guest at the hotel was sensitive, so "don't talk about the war" and one thing lead to another.

But being funny is hard, especially for 4 shows a week.

The essence to this question can be summed up like this. Why is Sarah Palin comedy gold but Nancy Pelosi isn't. Sarah's clumsily worded moments invite mockery and I'm tempted to say, funny stuff, while Nancy's are simply cringe worthy, but not the material of real humor.

Sarah is comedy gold, Nancy isn't. Why is that? Basically this is just re-asking the question, but it helps narrow down what I think is the answer. The criteria for funny is easy to miss and hard to hit. There's a very narrow range where the comedy actually works, draws a sufficient audience and most important, makes people laugh out loud, cause that's what the audience is there for.

The subject is either inside the Goldilocks zone or they aren't and Nancy, or Obama, or other democrats, for better or worse, were never comedy gold. Some of Nancy's comments invited enormous reaction and repetition, but she was never quite right for comedy.

Perhaps, it's not the mistake that's funny, it's covering up the mistake that invites the comedy. That's the Lucile ball principal. It's not getting upset that's funny, it's pretending you're not upset when the audience knows you are.

That said, dissecting what makes something funny is far from a perfect science, and when I tied dumb to funny, people got offended but in a sense, dumb can be funny. There are in fact, several types of funny, some articles say 9, 10, 11, I saw one that listed 20. I still think the answer to this question lies in looking at specifically what's funny and working backwards, because there's a narrow window that actually is funny.

That's my answer. It's not about making big assumptions but about reverse engineering why things are funny. Start with the skit and work backwards and find the elements of humor. The Daily show appears liberal, though I maintain, they would make fun of a liberal politician in a minute if they thought it would get laughs.

userLTK

Posted 2018-08-15T16:01:57.980

Reputation: 3 474

9They frequently have made fun of Democrats and liberals. If it was dumb, crazy-ass politics it was in Stewart's crosshairs (I don't know much about Noah); didn't matter what the underlying party was. Stewart had several brutal takedowns of both Trump's favorite thing ever, Fox News, as well as Trumps favorite thing to hate ever, CNN. – zibadawa timmy – 2018-08-16T11:49:52.610

6Your presumption, as far as you make one, seems to be that conservatives are innately more easily mocked, I find that hard to believe. There are many conservatives and democrats, the idea that out of all the democrats out there none have managed to say idiotic, or easily mocked, things seems improbable. – dsollen – 2018-08-16T13:58:12.797

3Dennis Miller absolutely made fun of conservatives in his earlier career, when he was a lot more popular (but that was not the main thrust of his humor, even then). He can be very funny. I find him much less funny now, but that might be in part my own disagreement with his post-9/11 attitudes coloring that perception. 9/11 hardened and embittered his viewpoints, substantially. – PoloHoleSet – 2018-08-16T18:30:03.567

2@PoloHoleSet I read that Fox News gave him a comedy half hour to see if he could be a conservative version of the daily show and his ratings were absolutely terrible. I also never found him very funny. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are very talented. Personally, I'm not even a fan of Trevor Noah. I'm not sure what the Daily show's audience is like, but I no longer feel much urge to watch it like I did when it was Stewart. John Oliver is OK, but he's not in the same league as Colbert & Stewart. Comedy is hard, very few people can really pull it off. – userLTK – 2018-08-17T02:59:59.327

1@dsollen Please show me where I used the word "ALL" in my post. Provide a quote or example that backs up what you claim or stop making claims based on what you incorrectly infer. – userLTK – 2018-08-17T03:02:14.803

5I think blip is onto something with "punching down" turning people off. Humor is so subjective, and political humor, most of all. I can't really disagree with anything in your last comment, though I like Oliver quite a bit - not being in the same league as Colbert and Stewart applies to almost everyone. – PoloHoleSet – 2018-08-17T14:37:27.520

@PoloHoleSet I think there's something to punching down turning people off too, I'm just not sure that making fun of a democratic senator/congressmen/billionaire downer/famous actor or Obama is punching down. Few of us have that kind of power or influence. I found the article and it makes the point that conservatives tend to be more establishment and satire is often poked at establishment, I think that's a good point. https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/02/why-theres-no-conservative-jon-stewart/385480/ I think, this article is the best answer to this question IMHO.

– userLTK – 2018-08-17T20:39:17.797

1Re: punching up/down, while there are Democrats/liberals who are "up," on the whole the left has been the faction for "down" groups (minorities) while the right has been the faction for "up" groups. If a conservative comedian makes fun of political opponents, broadly speaking, then pretty soon he or she is going to run out of "up" to punch at and start making gay jokes (cough Jeff Dunham cough). That's when they stop being funny, outside of a limited audience of people with... unfashionable... perspectives on races, sexualities, and gender identities. – Jon of All Trades – 2018-08-21T13:59:22.337

10

I have read about several studies of the psychological differences between 'conservatives' and 'liberals'; conservatives apparently tend to be more apt to feel threatened by the new and unusual, whereas liberals are more willing to play with new ideas. I suppose this is hardly earth-shattering news - it is sort of implicit in the two terms.

Meanwhile, the subjects of humour seem very often to focus on elements of surprise and absurdity - if the above analysis is correct, conservatives would more often feel threatened/offended by it where liberals would tend to be more willing to enjoy the surprise.

I am aware that this sort of micro-explanation is bound to be superficial, but I think it has some merit.


EDIT: OK, so there's a call for citation. I didn't include any originally, firstly because I wrote in what I thought was a light tone, slightly teasing, and secondly because I thought these studies were fairly well-known. A very quick search for "study of conservative vs liberal psychology" turns up many; here are some that I think lead to quite decent publishers:

I think Scientific American and Psychology Today are respectable, at least - I am not familiar with Science Alert, but on the surface it seems OK.

j4nd3r53n

Posted 2018-08-15T16:01:57.980

Reputation: 680

4so TL/DR is basically conservatives can't take a joke? :P – dsollen – 2018-08-16T13:44:19.947

6

@dsollen Ironically, Lorne Michaels (creator of SNL) said the exact opposite in an interview on Vulture: "Republicans are easier for us than Democrats. Democrats tend to take it personally; Republicans think it’s funny." Conservatives can take a joke, which is why they're more often made fun of.

– Salmononius2 – 2018-08-16T14:21:43.233

@dsollen I don't think there is a 'right' answer - the best we can hope for is a spirited discussion in a friendly tone. Don't take it too serious, though. – j4nd3r53n – 2018-08-16T15:12:58.693

@Salmononius2 We have made similar observations in UK concerning Tories vs Labour in the recent past, but it seems to be turned a bit. I think it has more to do with which party feels more under pressure - Labour were struggling not long ago, and didn't like being laughed at - now the Tories are struggling, and don't think jokes are all that funny. – j4nd3r53n – 2018-08-16T15:20:19.160

2@Salmononius2: I'll back this up as several conservatives saterized on SNL have gotten in on the act. Sarah Palin famously did a double act with Tina Fey, her SNL double. And while Trump was not pleased with Melissa McCarthy's drag performance as Sean Spicer, real life "Spicey", famous for not having a lot of mementos on his desk, including a picture of his own wife, was rumored to have gone out and bought himself the same model Super Soaker used in the bit to wash reporter's mouths out with soapy water. – hszmv – 2018-08-16T18:50:05.100

8I have read several studies that .... NEED CITATION – K Dog – 2018-08-16T19:44:21.557

2@dsollen given our current president's reaction to tame SNL skits, that may be the case. – None – 2018-08-16T20:10:05.240

@KDog: here you are - see edit – j4nd3r53n – 2018-08-17T08:35:29.003

1

Keep in mind that many psychology studies, even those deep in the canon like Zimbardo's Stanford prison experiment, can apparently not easily be reproduced, for a variety of reasons. The field is in a deep crisis and all results must be treated with extreme scepticism.

– Peter - Reinstate Monica – 2018-08-20T15:32:35.973

@PeterA.Schneider: In science there is always reason to be sceptic - that is, in a sense, the very definition of the scientific method; but to say that because some results in experimental may be in doubt, then "the whole field is in deep crisis" - that is a strawman argument. Would you say the same about physics? Say, because the notorious cold fusion experiments were not reproducible, the whole area of fusion research is in a deep crisis? Well, perhaps you would, but I can't see that it makes sense. – j4nd3r53n – 2018-08-21T07:45:24.167

@j4nd3r53n The statement was not made lightly. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Replication_crisis#In_psychology. One reason that the crisis affects the liberal arts even more than natural sciences is that it's apparently hard to do proper statistics and robust data analyses even for experienced and mathematically competent researchers. Many psychologists fall not in that category and fail to obtain proper assistance. This leads to bad study design and bad evaluations, even when done sincerely.

– Peter - Reinstate Monica – 2018-08-21T09:00:35.610

7

I'll add to the pile of existing answers with another one about the psychology of liberalism vs conservationism. I'd like to approach with the idea that entities pushing messages have found the best way to push that message.

Liberal entities (people, organizations, comedians) view themselves as more intelligent and refined than their conservative counterparts -- it's easy to play to that bias by making individuals laugh at the absurdity of backwards conservative actions. You'll notice how most popular Liberal comedians are also part-time journalists, and journalists are part time comedians. By forcing people to laugh at conservatives, this group of liberals enhances viewers liberal bias.

Conservative entities view themselves as more morally upright and just than liberals. By making conservatives angry about Liberal immorality and degeneracy media pushers can reinforce viewers conservative bias. By the same token, most Conservative Moral Authorities are also news outlets, and most Conservative news outlets are also Moral Authorities.

To summarize, Liberal Political Media makes liberals laugh at conservatives and Conservative Political Media makes conservatives angry at liberals. I wouldn't say there is no overlap, but these strategies clearly utilize the psychological differences between conservatives and liberals to push two different agendas.

Sidney

Posted 2018-08-15T16:01:57.980

Reputation: 2 710

6

It's important to note that a lot of this type of media is produced in California and New York, two deeply blue (liberal) states (both states are considered D +20). So trying to get a strictly "conservative" program means going to regions of the country that aren't going to be initially receptive to that kind of message.

I think a lot of people miss that comedy tends to go after easy targets, however. In other words, despite their liberal bent, conservative humor is still produced, even from liberal sources. At the end of the day, comedy needs laughs, and avoiding great liberal source material would be detremental. Saturday Night Live (famously made in NYC), for instance, opened its post-election episode with their actress portraying Hillary Clinton promising she'd be back. But the first sketch was quite possibly one of the most conservative pieces of humor produced, showing Dave Chappelle (later joined by Chris Rock, an SNL alumnus) openly mocking the increasing derangement of their liberal friends who are stunned at the election of Donald Trump. It's biting satire from a typically liberal source. Even The Daily Show has mocked Democrats.

Machavity

Posted 2018-08-15T16:01:57.980

Reputation: 33 727

3Um a little confused by your message. You start by theorizing that liberal sources mean conservative comedy can't be made, then go on to point out conservative comedy is regularly made in those liberal locations. That seems to undermine your first hypothesis. – dsollen – 2018-08-16T13:43:32.743

@dsollen I've made an edit that should clear it up – Machavity – 2018-08-16T13:45:47.877

Not sure this answers the question directly, but it is a good point. And there maybe is an answer here...perhaps part of the issue is that conservatives (at least those attempting political humor) seem to have trouble with self deprecation and laughing at themselves. – None – 2018-08-17T03:49:36.127

agreed - consider this article that described how a stage play of 'Are You Being Served' was banned "because the script did not meet with their ‘artistic policy and values’", and other examples of "hate speech" being used to stop shows. When the media is liberal, they might like to put on a conservative comedian, but not if they're too good. Similarly the Tracey Ullman TV show lampooned Corbyn and was met with howls of outrage.

– gbjbaanb – 2018-08-21T20:34:21.123

1

and can i also point out that excellent anti-left satirical accounts are purged from some humourless sites

– gbjbaanb – 2018-08-22T15:53:21.380

5

As a non-American, I would like to offer a different perspective. One of the issues with holding a political position (being 'one of us') is that it becomes easy to cast anybody who doesn't share your position as being 'one of them'. Whether you see yourself as 'conservative' or 'liberal', you start to see everybody who attacks one of your own as being one of the others. However, most of the comedians who had satirized the previous administration are still on air and doing their jobs, satirizing the current administration. They haven't changed their position, but their position is not what you think it is. They are not there to push their personal 'liberal' or 'conservative' views, their job is to highlight and lambast the hubris, insincerity and hypocrisy of those in power, whoever they currently happen to be.

-------------- Updated

Satire: "the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues". If you relate to the people being pilloried 'us', then you tend to call the satirists 'them'. The comedians and their shows are neither left nor right, they are satirists!

------------ Update 2

Satirizing someone does not require the comedian to have the opposite position and having the opposite position does not diminish the satire. Dismissing the satire because of political beliefs you assign to the comedian just helps the target to get away with stuff they shouldn't.

Paul Smith

Posted 2018-08-15T16:01:57.980

Reputation: 195

11As a non-American, I think you may have missed the context surrounding the question. The shows mentioned in the OP are all definitely liberal and have always been that way regardless of who was in power. They most certainly are there to push a particular set of views, just in a humorous fashion. Employing humor as a means of propaganda is hardly new or unique to those shows, but those particular shows happen to be the only popular ones in their genre. – reirab – 2018-08-16T05:36:13.793

1Are they liberal only because they attack conservative values? We have them on our screens because they are entertaining, not because of their views. Liberal and conservative are meaningless to us as we consider both to be only slightly left of Genghis Khan. – Paul Smith – 2018-08-16T09:19:43.810

9Those comedians have NOT satirized the previous administration (or at least to a degree that is orders of magnitude less). They also consistently ignored things to satirize on the left. – user4012 – 2018-08-16T11:22:38.570

6@user4012 - What do you think they were doing for the previous eight years? And the forty before that? Saturday Night Live has been sending up politicians of all leanings since 1975. Some are just easier to send up then others but it is not 'us' vs 'them'. – Paul Smith – 2018-08-16T11:33:58.543

4@PaulSmith - Right wing didn't go anywhere last 8 years. And they made fund of them, NOT of Obama, by a large margin – user4012 – 2018-08-16T11:42:30.233

Are you saying that Obama provided comedians with less material then Trump or Regan because of the comedians politics? How do you explain Clinton then? Idiots provide a common source of humor, and while both sides have their fair share of idiots, the Right tends to give their idiots more voice then the Left does. Still not the comedians fault. – Paul Smith – 2018-08-16T13:48:45.340

@PaulSmith This question is specifically about "comedy news" shows like John Stewart, Steven Colbert, and John Oliver. SNL does indeed make fun of both sides, but that's an entirely different genre of shows, not what this question is about. – reirab – 2018-08-16T14:54:48.067

It's not a matter of comedy satirizing the left not existing, but rather there not being any shows in the style of the ones the OP mentions from the conservative side existing. Lots of other comedy satirizing the left does exist. They certainly provide plenty of material ripe for satire. – reirab – 2018-08-16T15:01:52.753

@user4012 they absolutely have satirized the previous administration. That's what SNL does. They satarize whichever administration we happen to have. Stewart and Colbert had no problems poking fun at liberals. And liberals had no problem laughing at themselves when they did. This notion that liberal comedy only pokes fun at conservatives is perhaps the entire issue...conservatives perhaps think political humor is only about mocking the opponent...which actually doesn't sit well with a lot of audiences. – None – 2018-08-16T18:10:59.533

@reirab weekend update has been a staple on SNL long before 'comedy news' became its own genre. I'd say SNL has long been a political show. – None – 2018-08-16T18:12:07.697

1@PaulSmith - Backing this up, consider Sarah Palin. Probably the most comparable figure to her on the other side of the isle for the potential of ridiculous behavior, self-importance, and incompetence I can think of is John Edwards. Now look at which one of the two of them is still active (even handing out endorsements to grateful recipients), and which one nobody wants anything to do with. For whatever reason, those qualities just aren't the political kryptonite on the right that they are on the left. That isn't the comedian's fault. – T.E.D. – 2018-08-16T18:34:01.737

4@blip Granted, SNL has sketches along those lines, but that's rather different from an entire show dedicated to only that, which is what this question was about and which is something that exists only on the left, at least on a large scale in the U.S. OP was talking about the likes of Colbert, Stewart, and Oliver, who, even during the previous administration, spent the vast majority of their time poking fun at the right, not the left. Which is fine, but it's a bit ridiculous to pretend that they're anything other than leftists or that they're unbiased in their satire. – reirab – 2018-08-16T19:25:44.297

3The 'update' to this answer is just wrong. Being a satirist is not mutually exclusive from being left or right. Satire is frequently exploited as a political tool by all sides and it always have been. The particular brand of satirists that this question is about happen to be left-wing and were absolutely not just satirizing whoever was in charge at the time, as this answer incorrectly suggests. Even when Democrats controlled the White House and both houses of Congress with solid majorities, the focus of these shows was still very much for the left/against the right. – reirab – 2018-08-16T19:31:06.023

@reirab that's not entirely true to say "a vast majority of their time poking fun at the right". They poked plenty of fun at the left. That's my point. Perhaps it's fair to say a majority of their time was poking fun at the right, but it wasn't necessarily a vast majority. And you are incorrect about SNL. They absolutely satirize whoever is in office. – None – 2018-08-16T20:05:15.527

@blip I think you misread my comments. I said that SNL does satirize both sides. And contrasted that with the shows (Stewart, Colbert, Oliver, not SNL) that this question is talking about. – reirab – 2018-08-16T20:13:03.903

@reirab I may have, but I'm also saying that Stewart, Colbert, Oliver have no problems satirizing the left either--and often do. – None – 2018-08-16T22:02:22.860

1I don't remember SNL ever making fun of Obama; they'd always have him play the straight man. (If you can find a counterexample, I'd be glad to see it.) Bill Clinton, however, was the butt of a lot of jokes (usually because of his sex life and "chubby chaser" stereotype). – dan04 – 2018-08-20T02:37:42.880

2@reirab, don't forget that John Oliver is British, so from his perspective the Dems are also right-wing. – Peter Taylor – 2018-08-20T07:35:47.310

3

@dan04 This one is a classic. There's also this one and this one. (Note: a couple of somewhat NSFW things in those last two.)

– reirab – 2018-08-20T08:29:43.913

3

That's in the nature of comedy itself rather than anything politically topical or contemporary like demographics or whatnot.

Humor exists as a kind of relatably pleasant surprise, even if it's somebody getting run over by a bus -- in the vein of humor what might otherwise be a catastrophe generally seems just on some unspeakable level.

  • Liberalism tends toward novelty, change, and attempts at improvement -- such pursuits are full of surprises, pleasant and otherwise.

  • Conservatism is about keeping to the tried and seemingly true. Conservatism therefore offers fewer surprises of any kind, and banks more on inevitability. Stasis is not the soul of comedy, but without humdrum expectations there'd be no surprises either -- this makes conservatives more natural straight men.

  • It's a Yin/Yang thing, where the political parties form a virtual comedic double act, the straight man is necessary to such humor, and the best straight men are well aware of that.

  • The most unfunny attempts at conservative comedy are like a straight man going solo as a comedian, perhaps by hiring their own even straighter straight man since water doesn't flow uphill. Such an act suffers from a loss of contrast.

  • Definitions: The kind of conservatism considered here is that which favors or conserves a given nation's traditions and status quo. A political proposal that's conservative in one nation might be radically liberal in another, and vice-versa, (e.g. the Russian joke at the end of this answer).

  • gerrit notes that Conservatives seem to be able to "take a joke" better than Liberals, who are more prone to take offense. Supposing that to be correct, it would follow from Liberalism favoring less presently stable ideas. An adversarial observer might infer that Liberals were more psychologically insecure, while a sympathizer might compare it to the determined seriousness of a parent defending their child against an attacker. Those two perspectives aren't necessarily mutually exclusive.

The drama of relatably unpleasant surprises is horror -- most horror movies tend to be about going too far, as with Dr. Frankenstein who goes too far scientifically, or Dracula who goes too far morally, etc. To the extent that liberalism owns comedy, conservatism owns horror.


NB: This is not to say there's no such thing as excellent and memorable conservative political humor, just that it's intrinsically less common. Universally admired conservative humor usually would involve some unfortunate change or prophecy that momentarily seems quite inevitable but doesn't really pan out, as with failed or mediocre revolutionaries:

...or dire expectations based on some troubled person's history that are stymied by that person doing well.

Even relatively dull conservative critics become solid humorists when describing the failings of any particularly unsatisfactory production they've suffered through -- from this comes a kind of critical style of humor, where modern endeavors are found wanting when compared with classics, as with the conservative Samuel Johnson.

Politically oriented Russian jokes, (i.e. jokes from Russia), often tend toward a conservative form of gallows humor:

During his visit to the USSR, Nixon was intrigued by 
a new telephone capable of connecting with hell. He spoke 
briefly with the devil, and the call cost him 27 cents. 
When he came back home, he found out that this same service 
was now available in the US too. He tried it again 
and received a bill for $12,000. Nixon was distressed.
- How come?! The same call only cost me 27 cents in the USSR.
- Well, said the operator. Over there it is a local call.

agc

Posted 2018-08-15T16:01:57.980

Reputation: 11 325

5Since most humor is variation over eternal themes that everybody can relate to (relationships, parenting, work, aging etc), is novelty really that important? Even in political comedy, do the topics change substantially, or do mainly the name of the persons and specifics of a case change? – janh – 2018-08-16T07:25:48.797

1@janh I think the point is not that the politics offer more surprise, but that the sort of people who lean towards liberalism are predisposed to prefer novelty and surprise which means they are predisposed to prefer humor based off of those things. Of course that claim effectively boils down to conservatives aren't funny and can't take a joke. – dsollen – 2018-08-16T13:35:15.483

2

@dsollen, "...boils down to conservatives aren't funny and can't take a joke...": that's excessive. It's a yin/yang thing, where the political parties form a virtual comedic double act, the straight man is necessary to such humor, and the best straight men are well aware of that. In this respect, the worst of conservative comedy is like a straight man going solo as a comedian, or perhaps hiring their own straight man -- like a rock band drummer going solo, the result is seldom good.

– agc – 2018-08-16T17:04:50.657

@janh, Those forms of laughter presently susceptible to analysis tend to involve surprise. Part of what makes any classic theme eternal is sufficient variety, (i.e. relationships et al have endless variations), its those novel and interesting variations upon a theme which surprise. – agc – 2018-08-16T17:13:33.487

5"To the extent that liberalism owns comedy, conservatism owns horror." On a similar note I've seen a British comedian argue that left-wing action films are as rare as right-wing comedians. – Peter Taylor – 2018-08-20T07:33:33.853

Might be an example: the 8/17/18 John Oliver provides an example of unfunny oddly conservative comedy, (JO was for free trade and against tariffs, as are most status quo economists), espoused by a generally liberal comedian. It isn't so much that tariffs cannot be jibed, but that that comedian's exasperated commentator style is unsuited to the task. – agc – 2018-08-23T19:24:56.170

0

My answer comes from a British standpoint and so might not be a direct answer, but I hope you will find it relevant.

For the last few decades (my lifetime) a lot of British comedy has encouraged the audience to look at life from a different angle and find humour where they didn't see it before. Many of the most successful exponents have been highly-educated, highly-intelligent people, which is perhaps not surprising because you have to be pretty smart to see those things when everyone else just follows the herd. In the UK at least, there does seem to be a correlation between high levels of education and moderate, if not liberal, political views [1]

We have a tradition of highly-intelligent comedy actors playing characters who are not highly-intelligent, but in more-or-less lovable ways. I'd like to point out 2 examples: -

The character "Alf Garnett" played by Warren Mitchell in "Till Death Do Us Part" and "In Sickness and In Health", and written by Johnny Speight, was a life-long Conservative even though his personal circumstances might have made him more likely to benefit under a left-wing government.

The character "The Pub Landlord" played by Al Murray espouses many conservative views such as are likely to be heard in many pubs up and down the country, and just occasionally draws attention to how those views can be very beguiling if you don't think about them too hard, or if you don't acknowledge that the world is nuanced.

Both of those actors have spoken publicly about how people with the same views as their characters approached them with comments like "thank you for speaking out and telling the truth" when in fact they saw their role as poking fun at the views of their characters.

The point here is that there are conservative thinkers who see conservative comedy even when it was actually intended as liberal comedy. Both of those examples are definitely political comedy, but most of the time, if something is funny, it's funny, and the viewer can superimpose their own political leanings without affecting the humour. So I don't think networks need to think about whether a proposed show is conservative-comedy or liberal-comedy; they just need to go with whatever's funny. That being so, I think we must conclude that there's just a greater supply of liberal comedy than conservative comedy.

[1] https://research-information.bristol.ac.uk/files/76762678/education_and_liberalism.pdf

Martin

Posted 2018-08-15T16:01:57.980

Reputation: 1 023

-2

1) Serious left leaning selection in media. They hire in top left leaning cities, from schools that attract clearly more left leaning people. Even before recent polarisation PEW Research was able to show existence of a serious mismatch between views of US journalists and general population.

enter image description here

2) Things especially funny for rightwingers would be a serious PC taboo violation. Which tempting targets a left wing comedian has? Christianity? Military? Big business? Trump? Sounds fine. What for right wingers? Well, there are plenty of... protected groups. Ooopsie... So only safely can mock left wing politicians, otherwise are one careless step away from a serious outrage, which is not desirable for business.

In more flexible internet environment it has been tried anyway - for example Soph. Ah... yes she has been banned from Youtube for making fun out of homosexuals. Milo Yiannopoulos? Banned from Twitter, Facebook and his visit on campuses are being attacked by angry left wing mobs. Steven Crowder after making fun of Carlos Maza from Vox? Youtube officially said that technically speaking he haven't broke any rules, but demonetised him anyway. None of those sounds like hallmarks of easy business and it seems for me logic that in such socio-political climate a big business that has much more to lose than some random comedian would like to stay away.

Counterpoints to argument raised by other answers:

A few pointed here that right wingers have less sense of humour. Funny, among right wingers there is prevalent view that the Left can't meme. Except simple explanation, that people mutually don't get jokes of those on opposite political spectrum, I can think about one more factor - right wing jokers had poor prospects in mainstream media, thus their forces were channelled towards new media and they seem quite successful there.

Certainly, there is issue of "taboo violation", but it's an issue where more religious faction of right has similar limitations like more PC faction of left. Additionally, among the right are generally counted libertarians who are generally the least sensitive group to any "taboo violations".

It was pointed that profit factor shouldn't leave so supposedly big market unserved. Yes, it should work so, otherwise there should be some market correction. The problem is that actually we have been observing a serious market correction. I still think that explanation that corporation have been ignoring huge market for years, would be much more palatable than Fox News being extraordinary good at journalism. ;)

I suspect that's a bit tricky while living in some ideological bubble to see a huge market niche which contradicts ones views. Moreover even if someone noticed that it would be challenging and terribly risky to change in reasonable time change brand and corporate culture to tap in to such market. enter image description here

Shadow1024

Posted 2018-08-15T16:01:57.980

Reputation: 5 094

1I really don't understand about right having less sense of humor, there doesn't seem to be a final conclusion reached. As to your claim about fox representing a market correction that seems clearly flawed logic, for two points. First, fox does not do conservative comedy, so it doesn't demonstrate any kind of market correction. Second fox's high popularity is primarily because it is the sole conservative news source where as CNN and NBC split liberal news (and liberals also make more use of new media for news). this shows only that the market equally covers both sides. – dsollen – 2019-08-29T16:46:31.600

@dsollen I presented data, that seemingly simple market correction for news market needed years to actually start to work, and comedian market seems harder with that respect. I also pointed out how outrage mobs from the left managed run somewhat effective campaigns to destroy fledgling comedians, so it seems likely, that no serious channel consider such market as worth the fuss. – Shadow1024 – 2019-08-29T19:13:49.293

-3

This is due to the monopoly of the mainstream media. Conservative comedians automatically are not going to get the same type of recognition due to the culture of television, and the news. According to briansolls.com, the top 10 news outlets were:

1 – USA Today, 2,113,725, N/A

2 – The Wall Street Journal, 2,082,189, N/A

3 – The New York Times, 1,039,031, 1,451,233

4 – Los Angeles Times, 723,181, 1,019,388

5 – The Washington Post, 665,383, 868,965

7 – New York Post, 558,140, 357, 168

8 – Chicago Tribune, 501,202, 858,256

9 – The Houston Chronicle, 425,138, 583,364

10 – The Arizona Public (Phoenix), 389,701, 516,562

These are just the top 10 news outlets, there are many other liberal news sources that are popular like CBS, ABC, NBC, CNN, and MBCSN.

There are also good conservative comedians, they just aren't recognized my the mainstream media because of how our culture works in America. You may see some conservative comedians like Dennis Miller, who has always been a political comedian, but he began to favor conservative comedy following the 9/11 attacks. He used to often appear on Fox News, often agreeing with the network's republican leaning hosts. Jeff Foxworthy is another conservative comedian, and Adam Carolla supported Ted Cruz in the 2015 Republican primaries. Other conservative comedians are Joe Rogan, Larry the Cable Guy, and Tim Allen. But, when you turn on the TV, these people aren't going to be the main talk show hosts. Due to the American Culture.

There also is conservative youtube sensation Louder with Crowder, who I encourage you to check out. He has actually said that youtube attempt to audit him and some of his videos. So when you have a virtual monopoly of the media, this is normally the result putting comedians like Louder with Crowder under the shadow. The virtual media monopoly doesn't include talk show hosts, but this does affect the culture, creating people who are going to likely laugh at Jimmy Kimmel's tonight show jokes about Trump rather than Louder with Crowder's conservative jokes.

CamaroBro

Posted 2018-08-15T16:01:57.980

Reputation: 77

7Please add references that support your answer. – Rupert Morrish – 2018-08-15T20:21:22.673

15

What are those news outlet numbers? Viewership numbers? When from? Fox has topped the charts for years https://www.adweek.com/tvnewser/q1-2018-ratings-fox-news-remains-no-1-on-cable-television/360865

– Gramatik – 2018-08-15T21:30:06.300

3Just because fox has topped the charts does not mean the the majority of the media reports on a bias. First hand, this way of reporting drives people who aren't as into politics into forming an Anti-Trump mindset, which makes people laugh at Kimmel's jokes rather than Crowder. – CamaroBro – 2018-08-16T00:19:08.127

3The Wall Street Journal is hardly a liberal news source. But then it isn't really into comedy either... – BobT – 2018-08-16T00:50:31.597

1You don't understand the point I was making, read it again. – CamaroBro – 2018-08-16T00:53:39.097

9I'm sure others don't understand the point your making. It looks like your top 10 news outlets are newspapers. Not sure what they have to do with television. Does CNN not have more than 2 million viewers? Without verifying anything, I'm willing to bet they have more than The Arizona Public. – Ellesedil – 2018-08-16T01:04:11.287

1The point I was making is that most news sources put out biased material towards the left, giving many people who are not into politics a negative view on Trump and conservatives, resulting into the majority of people being more inclined to laugh at Jimmy Kimmel's jokes rather than Louder With Crowder's. – CamaroBro – 2018-08-16T01:28:25.530

4TV is a for profit business. Duck Dynasty is still on the air because it sells. Rosanne was a rare cancel. If a conservative comedy show had an audience it would air on one of the prime stations. The idea that the media monopoly automatically blocks conservative comedians is pure bunk. You might like Dennis Miller, but he almost certainly wouldn't draw an audience if he had a daily show. – userLTK – 2018-08-16T03:15:24.917

5Just because more people watch some thing than another doesn't point to a monopoly. That just points to people's preferences. Also comparing Louder with Crowder (an internet show) or Dennis Miller on Fox News (a premium channel) to Jimmy Kimmel (on ABC i.e. a broadcast network) is a false equivalence. By definition more people have access to Jimmy Kimmel's show. Joe Rogan isnt conservative as he is pro universal healthcare, universal basic income, and legalized recreational marijuana. And the host network of the Daily Show regularly features Larry the Cable Guy and Jeff Foxworthy – Jake – 2018-08-16T04:06:31.480

5In short there is a lot of falsehoods in this answer. – Jake – 2018-08-16T04:06:56.397

4You link to a site called briansolls.com, but it doesn't seem to exist. Also, you have omitted number 6 from your top 10. – Erik – 2018-08-16T05:23:20.340

1I don't understand the relevance of your listing of ten news outlets, which are all corporate owned. Surely you wouldn't argue the Wall Street Journal is on the left now? – gerrit – 2018-08-16T10:12:50.640

1You site stations, but no proof as to rather those stations have any lean politically one way or another. As such your references fail to back up your claim. In that regard Laetus did a much better job by citing some form of study that actually compared political ideology with broadcasting. Without any sort of study in that regard In this answer there is no reason follow your conjecture since your starting axioms are unproven. – dsollen – 2018-08-16T13:41:45.610

5This is a conspiracy theory, not a well sourced answer. – None – 2018-08-16T17:52:57.907

How do you assess a "biased" news report vs one that is factual, but goes against your own philosophical foundations, because I don't see a ton of examples of actual bias (like one would find on Fox News) vs news you don't personally want to hear. – PoloHoleSet – 2018-08-16T19:21:37.340

2@CamaroBro You didn't answer my question. What do those numbers represent? Where are they from (your website doesn't exist)? When are they from? Where is number 6 on the list? Why wouldn't a conservative talk show host get a program on Fox, by definition the most mainstream media outlet? – Gramatik – 2018-08-17T17:23:12.847

What are those numbers? Circulation figures? Why are there two numbers after each newspaper? Why are some of the values N/A? What's going on? – TRiG – 2018-08-19T21:24:20.113

-5

Certainly there is a market for it. The short lived Roseanne show got terrific ratings, and showed interesting twists on modern situations, until Roseanne herself shot her big mouth off. Last Man Standing is being revived, after it was shut down while ratings were still quite good.

Arguably, the Clarkson/Hammond/May Top Gear was conservative humor, it certainly ridiculed PC on a regular basis. And it had a couple of hundred million viewers worldwide. The Grand Tour hasn't done as well, though a change in humor isn't the reason why.

Are conservatives capable of outrageous humor? It's not in their general nature, although Sam Kinnison certainly pushed a conservative view about as far as it has been taken. Jesus, on when he will return: as soon as I can stop whistling through my hands.

Why aren't there more conservative humor shows, when good ones are popular? The fact that the bulk of the entertainment industry tends to lean left may be one reason why.

Why does the bulk of the entertainment industry lean left? (while committing rampant sexual abuse for the past century behind closed doors) That would make for a very good comedy show.

tj1000

Posted 2018-08-15T16:01:57.980

Reputation: 9 859

1While conservative and comedians I don't feel any of those individuals count for my requirements of using comedy to make conservative commitary on politics and recent events. I would agree the general lean towards liberalism in media likely plays some role (though I don't think it's by any means the only factor). As to the downvotes you appear to have received, I think they are likely due to your brining up sexual abuse, as the phrasing implies it's a primarily/only an issue for liberals, which is definitely not the case. It seems an unjustified attack at politics you disagree with. – dsollen – 2018-08-22T21:26:49.393

Oh, so the reports of sexual abuse in the entertainment industry have been disproven? That's news to me. I bring that up only to add perspective to the opinions expressed here that left leaning humor is more popular because it has some implied virtue. The left seems a bit selective when it applies outrage over this. When charges of sexual abuse are leveled against someone they like, such as Matt Damon, then they are 'groundless'. a contrast to the automatic endorsement of such allegations when the target isn't left leaning. It's about that implied virtue... – tj1000 – 2018-09-25T04:43:12.847