Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Soapbox: Humor and Politics

A dark cloud is descending across our great nation. I’m not talking about the economic slowdown or the possibility of an Obama/McCain presidency (take your pick). What I’m talking about is the death of humor. When did we as a nation become so serious? When did we stop being able to laugh at ourselves?
Is it another divide between right and left? Is it the fact that for the past 8 years political humor has become nothing but a series of “Bush is dumb” jokes?

Since this is just me opining, here’s some anecdotal evidence.*
Example 1:
Recently, I posted some pictures on this blog and here are the reactions I got:
Photobucket Democrats liked it because it was a funny picture of a fat old white guy sleeping. And everybody knows Republicans are all fat old white guys.

Republicans liked it because it was a funny picture of a fat old white guy sleeping. Plus, it captured perfectly the (pre-Palin) lack of enthusiasm in the Republican base about McCain as their nominee.

Republicans liked it because it plays into the stereotype of liberals wanting to raise taxes on everything. They also appreciated the wordplay on Obama’s campaign slogans of “hope” and “change”.
Democrats……pointed me to campaign websites that explain Obama’s tax proposals.
Example 2:
I as at a comedy club about a month ago. The comedian told a stock “Bush is dumb” joke. Everyone laughed. He followed it up with a decent Obama joke. Crickets. More Texas/Bush jokes. More laughs. A Hilary joke. More crickets.

Example 3:
After Palin’s nomination, Democrats pounded away at the fact Alaska is one of the least populous states in the nation. One of the GOP candidates (I forget which one) jokes that Palin got more votes for governor than Biden did in the primaries. Democrats and “fact checkers” in the main stream media pounced on the joke and produced numbers that show in number of votes tallied that Biden got more votes than Palin. What they didn’t recognize was that it was a joke used to deflect criticism of Alaska’s size and draw attention to Palin’s popularity and Biden’s relative unpopularity.

Granted, these are not the funniest jokes in the world. But, do we really need to “fact check” jokes? Have we forgotten how to recognize a joke?

Apparently, I’m not the only one who notices the lack of real humor in political discourse. When I first started thinking of this post, I came across this Forbes article by Peter Robinson about the lack of humor from the Obama campaign.

What do you think? Have we lost the ability to laugh at ourselves?

* These anecdotes point more toward Democrats’ loss of humor probably because I live on the east coast and are surrounded by them all the time so I get to see it in action.

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