Anyone who has ever tried to make an audience laugh knows how deceptively easy a talented comic can make their job look. The truth is, it is so difficult to do well that there is a famous (but difficult to source) quote reportedly made from an actor’s deathbed: “Dying is easy, comedy is hard.”
It’s going to get a lot harder for people like Jon Stewart. The competition is heating up with some of the most hilarious, and unexpected, entrants into the field of funny. Republicans from around the country are trying out their best material in an effort to amuse and deceive audiences nationwide.
First up is Republican National Committee Chairman, Michael Steele, who cracked up a room of College Republicans with his famous “Hat” routine. The premise is that it doesn’t matter how you wear your hat (to the side, backwards, etc) so long as it is a GOP hat:
I’m asking you to go out and ask your friends to wear our hat. The hat of an idea.
For this bit, Steele had four students stand so that he could pretend to put imaginary hats on them. Steele intuitively knew that the bit would be much funnier with audience members standing there for no purpose other than to grin and display their naked heads. And I have to admire the deeper meaning of the invisible hats of ideas that obviously represent the GOP’s absence ideas.
The setup included a dire admonition that Barack Obama “has asked your generation to wear his hat.” I must have missed that speech. But I did see Steele’s previous speech where he promised to deliver “change in a tea bag.” How does he keep coming up with this brilliant material?
And then there is Bill O’Reilly. In a sidesplitting debate over torture and abortion, O’Reilly challenged Juan Williams to explain why liberals object to torture but defend abortion providers like Dr. George Tiller. Williams attempted, through O’Reilly’s interruptions, to answer saying that torture is against both domestic and international law, but Tiller’s work was entirely legal. To which O’Reilly responded:
“You can dance the law dance all day long. And laws are passed by men. Laws can be revoked. They can be passed.”
The joke, as O’Reilly sees it, is the law itself. It’s just a dance and we don’t really need to comply with it because it’s just stuff that some people came up with in legislatures and courtrooms. Just imagine the comical scenarios that would ensue if we extend O’Reilly’s view of the law to burglary, rape, and terrorism. I can see O’Reilly now, defending Osama Bin Laden before a military tribunal, doing a jig while testifying that he can “dance the law dance all day long.” After all, the laws against flying planes into buildings could be revoked.
Almost as funny as his legal pirouettes is his contention that “the attorney general ruled waterboarding was not torture. It was legal.” As if the attorney general has the judicial standing to make such a ruling. He isn’t a judge. The best he can offer is an opinion, and you would think that O’Reilly has enough of those of his own. And to compound the laugh factor, O’Reilly seems perfectly satisfied to accept the constraints of the law (as he misinterprets it) with regard to waterboarding, even though he dismisses the law as it applies to abortion. Who’s dancing now?
This brings us to Newt Gingrich who made this declaration last night:
“Let me be clear. I am not a citizen of the world!”
I’m going to guess Plutonian, because he is just so out there, stretching the comedy envelope. He is objecting to a part of Obama’s speech wherein he referred to himself as “a citizen of the world.” I wonder if Gingrich knows that John F. Kennedy, George H. W. Bush, and even Ronald Reagan used the very same phrase. Gingrich also mined comedy gold by railing against the “fact” that our nation’s school curriculum doesn’t include American history. Makes you wonder how closely he was paying attention.
It’s going to be hard for working comics and satirists to compete with the new Republican Rubber Chicken Society. Not many people are better at spinning lies…er…stories than desperate Republican politicians and pundits. It may be too much to ask our professional laugh-smiths to create humor from scratch when the GOP can just pull it out of their butts. I mean, how can you compete with headlines like:
“Fox Newser Accused of Dragging Cyclist Through Central Park.” And:
“Peter Doocy [Steve's boy] Joins Fox News.” And:
“Sarah Palin Mystifies and Annoys the Republican Establishment.”
“Coburn’s STD Lecture to Congressional Interns Put On Hold Due to Pizza Dispute.”
Yes, those are real. And so is the danger that reality will make comedians obsolete. Thanks GOP.