Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Interview with a humorless liberal

One of America’s most venerable stereotypes is that of the “humorless liberal,” that odd person who is too busy being indignant at the injustices of the world to have a sense of humor about anything. But as the politically incorrect often say, stereotypes exist for a reason. So I recruited a humorless liberal at our latest meeting for an exclusive interview.

Ian: Thank you for sitting down with me.

HL: Thank you. I always appreciate a forum in which to air my grievances.

Ian: So what led to you become a humorless liberal?

HL: I care about the state of the world. There’s war, famine and other types of brazen injustices all over the world at any given time. I feel that moments of levity during those times is the height of inappropriate behavior.

Ian: So do you think conservatives are too quick to mock real world problems?

HL: Yes. But I think many so-called liberals do too. Like you, for instance.

Ian: Like me?

HL: Absolutely. I’ve been reading your blog for years and I read your Vermilion columns before that. And I have to say, you don’t take things very seriously.

Ian: Well, I beg to differ.

HL: The guys who wrote the column before you did it right. They reached out to the sheeple by jarring them out of their bucolic campus fantasies and into the dark, gritty alleyways where truth lives.

Ian: Yeah, I got the impression that these guys never smiled or tolerated anyone else doing so either.

HL: Who’s got time to smile? There’s earthquakes and nuclear meltdowns going on in Japan! We’re doing regime change all over again in Libya! There could very well be another civil war in America if the greedy corporatists continue to wage their all-out assault on the working class. Wake the fuck up!

Ian: I’m well aware of all of this. I think about it every day.

HL: You wouldn’t know that from your writing. Anyone who reads you for news would miss a lot of important events.

Ian: Anyone who reads me for news is ignorant to begin with. I don’t pretend to be a source for news. I write commentary on whatever I feel like talking about. I hope that I can make topics interesting and engaging. If I can’t, or otherwise have nothing to add, then I won’t address the subject until I can. I mean, I’m sure I could fluff out 600 words on why domestic abuse or corporate personhood is bad, but I’m not sure anyone would bother to read it.

HL: The point is not to be entertaining. The point is to be right.

Ian: There’s no point in being right if you’re boring everyone in the room. And if you write dissertations for a newspaper or blog crowd, then you’re doing worse than being boring; you’re actually turning off people. Today’s Republicans push the most wretched ideas, but they sell them so well. You know why? Because they make it seem more fun. They say, “You can be with us and laugh and enjoy your freedom, or you can side with them and feel guilty and outraged all the time and take everything deadly seriously for the rest of your life.” That’s the problem with the Democratic Party especially; they have the political and moral high ground, but they won’t let themselves appeal to the people in quite the same way. Instead, they let right-wing pundits and entertainers trash them and everything they stand for.

HL: The irony is, the right has more outrage per square inch than anyone. And they have so little to laugh at. All their “humor shows” have laugh tracks, even the ones with live audiences. And that’s because their jokes always run along the lines of, “Barack Obama’s initials are B.O.” or, “Why does Obama not have a birth certificate? He burned it up with his cigarette before he could put it on ACORN’s teleprompter.” Or they joke about liberals who, by the way, all drive Priuses and eat granola bars made of tree bark while wearing tweed jackets. Or they joke about Joe Biden being stupid, when really he’s embarrassing.

Ian: That’s funny! No offense.

HL: None taken. The main problem with conservative humor is that it directs its energies toward easy, unsophisticated jokes that target misrepresented characters. Furthermore, conservatives are almost terminally unable to poke fun at themselves. That’s why “1/2 Hour News Hour” was such a flop. It tried to be a Daily Show clone, but instead it was a hyper-partisan brew of political jokes that cared more about reinforcing political allegiances than being funny.

Ian: In other words, The Daily Show as Fox News saw it.

HL: In other words, distorted. The Daily Show, The Colbert Report and The Onion, just to name a few, have liberal bents but freely satirize all sides. All three have made savage attacks against liberal figures in ways even liberals can laugh about. They go by what’s funny, and they aren’t afraid to go dry or wry.

Ian: As a humorless liberal, do you see those media outlets as a liability?

HL: Are you kidding? I never miss any of them! They’re the wittiest things going.

Ian: But how do you reconcile that with your humorless stance?

HL: I’m just a humorless liberal and that’s that.

Ian: What makes you think so?

HL: About a year and a half ago, I was at a party and somebody told this joke: “What’s the difference between a zoo and the White House? The zoo has an African lion, but the White House has a lyin’ African.” And I didn’t laugh.

Ian: Who wouldn’t guffaw at such a universal truth?

HL: Clearly, I have no sense of humor.

Ian: That was sarcasm.

HL: So was what I said.

Ian: I guess we’re a lot alike after all!

HL: Yeah!

Ian: So one question remains: If you do, in fact, have a sense of humor, what was all that flack about me earlier?

HL: Oh, that? Satire.

Ian: Brilliant!

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