THE COMPUTER –I begin each morning by checking my email. You probably do, too. I keep an eye out for political stuff, particularly jabs at opposing views. Of this, about 99 percent are cartoons, slogans, signs and such from right-wingers aimed at insulting left-wingers. Very little comes from progressives, aka, liberals.
Maybe it’s because they can’t buy a PC with their food stamps, the warden won’t let them, or they have no sense of humor.
This is some of what I got today. “President Trump has nothing to show after his first 40 days.” Then a picture of Nancy Pelosi, and: “said the woman who has nothing to show after her 30 years in elected office.” Another one: “FBI unlawfully ordered journalists not to report on Clinton-Lynch meeting.” (False news. Then how do we know all about it?) “I am a liberal & a Democrat! Nothing I say has to make sense!” A picture of Rosie O’Donnell and: “I refuse to wear Ivanka Trump’s clothes.” “Don’t worry, Rosie, they don’t come in cow sizes.” Mean-spirited, as usual, but pitifully lame. No crazy cartoons, no quotes taken out of context, nary an altered photograph. In the past, the right-wing haters turned out much better material. Zingers about Hillary, Hawaii vacations and Obamacare. Great jabs at Michelle’s White House food garden and the President’s clumsy “Navy corpes-man,” but not many racial jokes, if you overlook the signs showing Obama as a cannibal with bone through his nose.
What happened to the declining political humor on social media? Bill and Hillary Clinton were standard fodder for both GOPers and late night TV stand-ups. They could easily imitate that gravely Arkansas accent. George W. Bush was a Republican, so he was off limits and didn’t give us much material, anyway. Then came eight long years of famine. No Drama Obama was aptly named. No hot sex scandals, no bribes or stupid politician’s tricks. Almost everyone liked the First Family, Benghazi was not a humorous matter, employment rates and the economy were improving. Nothing ruins a late night TV host’s career like an honest politician.
Then came Trump. Our prayers were answered! The laughs started when he announced his candidacy, got better during the campaign, and his presidency breaks all records for comical material. But now, despite the goldmine of Trumpisms, the three wives, many girlfriends, Trump University, Russian connections, British hackers, sleazy cabinet billionaires, etc., the left side of my PC screen remains quiet. Where are those Godless commies with their funny jokes and cartoons impaling the most ridiculous presidency in our history? But it gets worse. While we mourn the lack of gotcha! humor from the rank-and-file left, now that the boot is on the other jack, we must also mourn the total lack of right-wingers’ putdowns. Their plight is obvious: their main targets – Obama and Hillary — have disappeared, melted away. Both are mostly out of sight writing their multi-million dollar memoires. Obama, as mentioned, was always dull and a joke about him now brings us hardly a smile. Hillary is old news. Telling a Hillary joke is like ridiculing Millard Fillmore, the Macarena or spats. Who cares? For a joke to be topical, it has to be, well, topical.
It is the dark side of human nature that we like to laugh at someone rather than with someone. Dems prefer dumb Trump jokes over Clinton yuks. GOPers guffaw at those stupid liberals, but not at that dyed-blond bull’s eye in the Oval Office. So the right is left, so to speak, with weak attempts at humor. Poor Dennis Millar, a very funny conservative comic, had nonstop gigs before howling Republicans while swatting liberals. Now what does he do for punchlines? “How about that Nancy Pelosi? Her face is wearing more plastic than a VISA card.” Dead silence. “They say 24 million Americans will lose their health insurance. Talk about population control. Eat your heart out, Planned Parenthood.” More silence.
The big winners are those TV comics who begin every show with Trump jokes, and he really ought to start charging them as head gag writer. Stephen Colbert has overtaken Jimmy Fallon simply by sure-fire laughs with that day’s Oval Office pratfalls. Acidic Bill Maher on HBO has seen his audience grow by almost 50 percent since the presidential elections. “The Daily Show” has its best ratings since Jon Stewart left the program in 2015. “Saturday Night Live” (or SNL as we TV critics call it) has made Trump impersonations, jokes and skits such a staple that it now has its highest ratings in 24 years. We must suspect there’s a link there. This just in: NBC knows how to milk a laugh and ratings. The network has announced its “Weekend Update” skits on SNL – filled with Trump jokes — will run during the summer while the rest of the show takes a vacation.
But it’s not just the comics who are reaping the ratings. According to The New York Times (if you can trust the press), interest in what the Trumpster’s next move will be has generated more viewers for cable news shows. The leftist MSNBC, which was on the defensive during the blah Obama years, has surpassed the down-the-middle CNN in prime time for the first time. Specifically, Rachel Maddow has more viewers than ever. On the right, Fox News, the leader in cable news viewers and sex harassment suits, has seen a 31 percent jump in its ratings since a year ago.
So we can see that across the board, or remote, TV is going through boom days, and we can thank Trump for that. But I do miss those really telling insults (President Hillary is flying in on Broom One), and downright lies (Obama the Kenyan). We are receiving cold porridge, indeed, from the old guys in their bathrobes in the basement at night churning out venom. We need a bumper crop of bumper stickers, the meaner the better.
Ashby’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org