There is just something about humor that makes it inviting in almost every situation. We love to have our funny bone tickled in so many ways, and it is both the joke and its creative delivery that keeps us coming back for more. Good comedy has the power to transcend many a strong grievance and many a harsh battleground. Take politics for instance. There is seldom found a more divisive subject that can be broached between two individuals. Politics has the power to set lifelong friends to physical blows at a high school reunion, or deacons to highly charged whispers of anger while passing the collection plate in church. I think you know what I am saying, and I bet you have been there before. If you haven’t, you will be, as assuredly as death and taxes, but there I go talking politics again.
The point is that humor serves as a “pressure relief valve” that allows us all to laugh at ourselves as well as those on the other side of the aisle. Being able to do both is important. Knowing when to do it is a step toward the divine. Everyone seems to have the ability to laugh at their adversaries; however, many do it in ways that demean themselves and the comedic process. When liberals laugh in a red-eyed, frothing frenzy during Michael Moore films they are not paying homage to comedic flair, but instead are simply wallowing in the filth of partisan anger. This is because Michael Moore films are not funny, but are sad in that “I just ran over your puppy and I think I will blame it on your neighbor because he is a successful capitalist” kind of way. To applaud poor comedic attempts, or just plain acts of political sniping, is attacking one’s own sense of where true comedy resides.
Then there are true comedians that test our ability to discern funny from mean. Seth MacFarlane is such a comedic talent. Despite being your typical over-the-top liberal activist, he is truly talented. MacFarlane has collaborated in many very funny and creative television shows such as Johnny Bravo, Cow and Chicken and Dexter's Laboratory. MacFarlane’s outspoken support for gay rights, atheism, and the legalization of marijuana do not affect his ability to make us laugh when he creates something that is actually funny. Even his adult comedies Family Guy and American Dad are creative and humorous at many turns. Yes I said it, he is funny here too. Unfortunately, MacFarlane brings justified public anger upon himself in the political arena, when he does things such as attacking Sarah Palin’s child with Down syndrome.
In this case it is not that conservatives don’t have a sense of humor, as many from the right can and do laugh while watching “American Dad,” with MacFarlane’s indirect joke-poking at former president George W. Bush. What MacFarlane failed to comprehend was that attacking Down syndrome children would not be funny no matter which side of the political aisle you are on. The point is that when it comes to humor, Macfarlane often succeeds and should be acknowledge as funny despite being a liberal. Conversely, when he steps away from creating humor, and is consumed by his liberal nature and becomes mean, he should be acknowledged as a loser.
Thus enter Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and “Team Sanity.” The liberal comedic duo of over-the-top Colbert with his “ultra-conservative” funnyman shtick and Stewart with his subconscious tendency to be an “angry little man” are running around the country to locations such as the National Mall with their “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” campaign. Many parts were really funny. There I said it once again. Liberals can be funny and most often it is when they are not being mean. While the event had the feel of comedy, even though it was liberal comedy, John Stewart still found a way of taking a person’s smile and turning it upside down with a liberal diatribe about how there is no true division in the country and that negative affairs within the United States are being overblown. This, like Michael Moore and the nasty shades of MacFarlane, kills the event for comedy-seeking conservatives, the same conservatives that may at times flip to Comedy Central and have at least a momentary chuckle. Stewart failed at the National Mall, not just for being wrong about the world in which he lives—we can forgive him that, after all, he is a modern-day liberal. However, we cannot forgive him for not being funny about it.
The point of importance is that political persuasion should not be the gauge by which we decide where humor is found. If it is funny, we should laugh, even if we are at times laughing at ourselves. If it is not funny, to treat it as such, despite the political direction in which the failed attempt is directed, is to purposely demean oneself. It is laughing to the point of hurting one’s dignity.
Paul A. Ibbetson is a former Chief of Police of Cherryvale, Kansas, and member of the Montgomery County Drug Task Force. Paul received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Criminal Justice at Wichita State University, and is currently completing his Ph.D. in Sociology at Kansas State University. Paul is the author of the several books including the 2010 release, “Oliver’s Tale: A Squirrel’s Story of Love, Courage, and Revolution.” Paul is also the radio host of the Kansas Broadcasting Association’s 2008, 2009 and 2010 Entertainment Program of the Year, Conscience of Kansas airing on KSDB Manhattan 91.9 FM, www.ibbetsonusa.com. For interviews or questions, please contact him at [email protected]