The politics of humor

“And what exactly is a joke?” — Syd Barrett

Norm MacDonald died this past week at the tender age of 61. Of course, most of my friends know him as Turd Ferguson. That was the alter ego he chose when he played Burt Reynolds on SNL’s Celebrity Jeopardy. What everyone remembers is Sean Connery from those sketches, but the sketch was supposed to be a vehicle for MacDonald.

I read a fascinating retrospective on him this weekend. Of course, he was famously fired from SNL and after that he didn’t seem to do a whole lot. However, those around him talked about how tirelessly he worked on his craft. The delivery seemed so natural and so understated, but it was the result of a lot of hard work.

This entered my mind when I saw three different examples of political humor that were attempted this past week. Of course, political humor is unique already. It is part humor, part performance art, and part trolling these days. The key is how to strike that balance. If you do then you live rent free in the opposition’s head.

We start on the conservative end of the ledger. Greg Gutfield proved there is such a thing as comedic timing when he made everyone feel icky in his response to Sarah Palin. For those that don’t want to go down the rabbit hole he creepily asked whether her position or she were sexier at this point. The joke obviously felt flat because Palin was obviously uncomfortable.

I really can’t say that I blame her. I’ve never been a Palin fan and it will be hard for me to forgive John McCain for foisting her upon the American public, but no one deserves to be treated like that. She became the fodder for people that like to alter women’s images to make them look sexier than they really were. She obviously hoped she was beyond that and I can’t blame her. Gutfield is equal parts creep and jackass and zero parts funny.

The key to political humor is the knowledge that you are joking or trolling. Naturally, everyone’s mind immediately jumps to the past president. The problem was that it was obvious he was trolling in some circumstances. but in others you had no idea whether he knew or not. They always have to know you’re joking.

AOC is living rent free in conservatives’ heads and she did it again when she wore a provocative dress to a Gala this past week. The dress had “tax the rich” prominently written on it. People were up in arms about her wearing an expensive dress with that message on it. They fumed about the cost of the dress. They fumed about how much it cost to get into the Gala. They just generally fumed.

It was similar to when Melania Trump wore the infamous jacket that gave the message that she didn’t care about the kids on the border. The debate was on whether she grasped what message she was giving based on where she was going. Of course she did. Whether the troll job was worth it or not obviously depends on the eye of the beholder, but the result was pretty much the same. The Left fumed.

The final piece came this weekend when a company painted a provocative message on a truck. The message was from a “funeral home” and it told people not to get vaccinated. Apparently, it lists a website that presumably is for the funeral home, but instead takes people to a website with information about the vaccine.

Obviously, I just about fell over laughing when I saw the picture, but I imagine anti-vaxxers probably didn’t take too kindly to it. Oh well. When you are willfully stupid you deserve to be trolled and trolled something fierce. At the end of the day this proves nothing about comedic timing in politics except that it remains up to the individual and we know it when we see it.

Author: sbarzilla

I have written three books about baseball including The Hall of Fame Index. I also write for thefantatasyfix.com. You can follow me on twitter @sbarzilla.

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