#166 Grow a Funny Bone, Get Liberated

Americans have long had sophisticated humor about their politicians, except for conservatives who are humorless. From Tom Paine to Mark Twain to Jon Stewart, this country has a long, beautiful history of being able to see the failures and comedy in our political mismanagement. Jolly old England is reasonably quick witted, politically. Their tabloids are jammed with slapstick observations of the Royals. Most of western Europe, the Germans in the last half of the last century, and, occasionally, Italians spawn a fair quantity of capable comedians and cartoonists. The Dutch, Swiss, and Swedes are hilarious. The rest of the world, not so much. Honestly, I don't know much about Japanese political humor, but you'd think a cartoon or two would have crossed the boarders and I can't remember ever seeing a single snatch of Japanese political humor. Koreans, Arabs, Chinese, Russians, most of South America, and Africa are dry wells, if you are looking for something to laugh about.

Humor is an absolute requirement for a country to have a chance in hell of a democratic government. The mark of every third world country suffering a political tyrant is a country filled with humorless people. I realize this could be a chicken-and-egg situation, but I am going out on a limb here in declaring that I think the egg came first. The chickens are an aftereffect of a nation going egg-less.

One advantage (?) of the uncontrolled, irrational immigration the US has experienced in the last decade is that we've all had the opportunity to get to know a fair number of folks from those "countries without humor." And, mostly, I've discovered that they don't get the joke, even when they are removed from the dull, humorless environment from which they came. So, I'm beginning to doubt the problem is "nurture" and suspect the root of the obstruction is in their "nature." Possibly, everyone with a sense of humor and revolution have been bred and murdered out of those cultures. Probably, the same tendency that draws these populations to superstitions and genocide could be linked to an absence of humor and rational thought.

Let's face it, North Korea's Kim Yung Ding Dong wouldn't get through a day in office, at the lowest level, in the US without taking some comedic heat for his asexual appearance, girlyman voice, insane pronouncements, and over-inflated opinion of himself. Of course, our conservatives would love him and praise him as he jabbered monkey-talk and spilled food on himself, but the sentient portion of the country would be howling in the isles every time he opened his mouth. All of which points out the obvious, these humorless countries are all insanely conservative. The terrible truth is that conservatives have no sense of humor. Examples of conservatives trying to demonstrate humor are frightening, terrible, and not funny. Rush humiliating 13-year-old Chelsea Clinton for her lack of teenage sex appeal, for example. Wild Man Watergate Boy Gordon Liddy's only funny routine is putting out cigarettes on his forehead. (Or was that David Crosby? I can't tell one bald redneck from the other.) Oliver North is consistently unintentionally funny, but couldn't tell a joke if he used Robin Williams as a translator. The sad fact of conservatism is that, at best, conservatives only laugh at other's misfortune, but they rarely even manage that unless someone explains the joke to them. If it weren't for slapstick, conservatives would have no cause to flex their jowls in an upward direction. That goes for Ann Coulter's strangely plastic-surgeon-tweaked jowls, too.

A few conservatives recognize this as a critical intellectual failure, so they attempt to imitate folks they've identified as "funny." Usually, the only point of humor reference conservatives have is Bob Hope, who had a full-time team of liberal comedy writers attempting to trowel comedic makeup over Hope's total lack of funniness. Dennis Miller went from occasionally funny to relentlessly boring the moment he decided to go for the cash and think conservatively. A stroke wouldn't have stripped off more IQ points than did Miller's political conversion. Any rational IQ test would include a "sense of humor test," but many academics are as impaired as political conservatives. This, of course, explains the core curriculum of all business management programs. You might see this as some sort of conspiracy, but you'd be over-estimating conservative intelligence. They do these dumb things, without a chuckle, because they are simply not clever enough to see the joke or a solution to the real problems.

It's a long-standing truth that conservatives are not artistic. Conservative attempts at art, movies, music, and architecture are painful reminders of this fact. Country western music is as close as conservatives get to creativity and C&W is just obsolete R&R performed by folks who failed to attract attention as R&R'ers. Fundamentalists, of all sorts, are universally devoid of humor. Can you imagine the Ayatollah or Billy Graham laughing?  Me either. How about Chairman Mao, Adolph Hitler, Stalin, British Royalty, Rush Limbaugh or George Bush? (Smirking or sneering does not count.) Nope, me either. The more conservative they get, the less funny they become. 

Not all liberals are endowed with cleverness, either. However, the word "liberal" has received something of a distorted image by modern politics. Teddy Kennedy, the neocon's posterboy for liberalism, is actually pretty funny when he wants to be. Ralph Nader possess the driest sense of humor I've ever experienced. However, more radical liberal types appear to be obeying some version of quantum mechanics and have swung so far left that they are coming around the other side and turning into radical conservatives, humor-wise.

Today, I want to add another conservative and anti-liberty characteristic to the common knowledge; a lack of humor. Even more important, any nation that wants to foster creativity, liberty, and prosperity has to put a fair effort into being funny. The evidence points to the possibility that you can't be free without being funny.

December 2006

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