Wednesday's "Fox & Friends" featured the show's hosts having a conversation with Colin Quinn about Jerry Seinfeld's recent complaint that political correctness has ruined comedy. Elisabeth Hasselbeck, in particular, didn't seem to know what comedy even was, asking questions of the sort one would expect from an alien anthropologist who barely passed her required "Human Culture" courses. "Do you feel that you’re being more and more restricted in your art, your profession, and what you do, and your freedom?" she asked, as if she knew those words were related, but only theoretically.
That's because for conservatives like her and her co-hosts, Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade, a "sense of humor" isn't about what's actually funny, but about what awful thoughts they possess that comedy would provide them the "freedom" to express aloud without facing public opprobrium.
When Kilmeade points out that in Quinn's new book, "The Coloring Book: A Comedian Solves Race Relations in America," the comedian talks "about growing up with Italians, Jews, Koreans, and Chinese," he's positively radiating jealousy. Whereas Quinn's humor originates from an intimate knowledge of the social situations into which he was born and in which he was raised, Kilmeade is enraptured by the very thought of making jokes at the expense of Italians, Jews, Koreans, and Chinese.
It was a disgusting scene, and clearly one Quinn wanted no part of, but it does answer the question of why conservatives haven't found their own equivalent of Jon Stewart or John Oliver -- or why the comedians who convert to conservative ideology, like Dennis Miller, aren't funny anymore -- and it's that their version of comedy isn't intended to be funny, it's just meant to be mean.
At least among Fox News aficionados, because in the real world, it's quite different. The single funniest human being I've ever met is a distant uncle-in-law who's also a pastor in rural Mississippi, so liberal he is not. But sit him at a kitchen table and let him observe the world around him and breathing will quickly become an issue. His comedy is situational and observational in the best sense, which points to the problem with Fox News-watching conservatives: the situation they believe themselves to be in is perpetually dire, always on the verge of cultural and moral collapse, so when they observe the world around them, all they see are enemies who need notches whipped into them.
They possess, in short, the mindset of an embattled bully being forced to live in a world in which the meek are rising against him en masse, and so they react as any cornered animal of meager intelligence would -- they lash out. Case in point, Fox News' latest attempt at a comedy program, "The Greg Gutfeld Show," in which the former "Red Eye" host sits alone in an empty studio raging against the dying of the Right:
Once you get past the fact that Gutfeld's reciting a poem here -- "With Christie on base/Hillary played race," and "I'm sorry Grey Lady, but a speeding ticket/Ain't Chappaquiddick" -- the real problem with this segment becomes evident. Namely, that it doesn't consist of premises and punchlines, it's just a catalog of decades-old conservative complaints delivered in rhyme for no reason. And what does he follow that failed bit with?
An angry diatribe about how the left has had a monopoly on "firsts," including the first black president and, if Hilary wins, the first female president. "What if the right volleys with the first transgender person?" he said, after playing a clip in which Caitlyn Jenner confessed to being a Republican. "After all, this is the age of identity." His suggestion is patently unserious, and as such isn't intended to mock conservative viewers who would consider her a viable option. The joke, inasmuch as there is one, is on Jenner and those who want to see transgender people like her represented in American politics.
"What's great about Cait," he continues, "is that she's a transgender person, which is so very progressive, but she embraces the voluptuous female stereotype, which freaks out the lefty gender warriors!" There's no acknowledgment of shared humanity there, merely an acknowledgement that their common ideology means that men like him can joke about using her as the political equivalent of a Trojan Horse -- transgender on the outside, conservative on the inside. Lest you think he's doing anything more complex than bullying here, he ends the segment by saying that his plan will work "unless the Democrats respond with an Asian sequential hermaphrodite with three nipples, [in which case] we're toast."
Luckily for Gutfeld, cloaking his hatred in that threadbare attempt at comedy means he won't be called out on it -- luckily for us, the fact that his writers had a week to put the show together and that’s the best they could come up means that that we won’t be subjected to his "comedic" stylings much longer