I think Comedy might be existentially anti-Centrist


#1

I just listened to the most not funny comedy podcast of all time, hosted by someone who definitely thinks they’re a comedian. And this couldn’t be funny to anyone ever. This host, like all people who consider themselves apolitical or centrist very transparently holds reactionary views, that’s not why they’re not funny and more importantly not an artist though. They’re not funny because they’re understanding of the world is so lacking, and the few things they genuinely believe in are so substance-less that they literally can’t be funny. And the reason I’ve reached the conclusion that Centrists are incapable of being successfully comedic or entertaining or artistic is because there are reactionary and straight up fascist comedians who sadly are successful on some level.

The first example that comes to mind is probably one of the best I can use, literally fascist Sam Hyde. He is a terrible person with a disgusting world view that needs to be combated at all turns. He’s also capable of being funny. And I think literal fascist Sam Hyde can be genuinely comedic because his disturbingly warped and dangerous world view is actually fuller than that of someone who considers themselves apolitical.

And on the opposite end of the spectrum there’s an endless amount of Left of Center and straight up Leftist comedians.

I doubt I’m the first person to think about this though, so I’d love to read or watch or listen to any recommendations anyone has on the politics of humor or anything related to this.


#2

I’m curious about what the definition of a centrist comedian would be. Like, are we talking about someone with genuinely centrist beliefs or someone who keeps their material “apolitical”? If it’s the latter, Jim Gaffigan’s act is pretty PG and barely acknowledges the word politics, but he’s elicited a few chuckles from me (Side note: I am not a Gaffigan scholar, I just saw a Netflix special). I don’t know his personal politics, but I’d imagine he’s not extremely leftist in any case.

But in the general sense, there’s plenty of comedy out there that takes great pains to razz “both sides”. Network TV is choc-a-bloc with this pablum, so clearly someone finds it funny. Not funny to you or I, but that’s, like, our opinion man.


#3

What frame of reference are you even saying something is “centrist”?

Cause American “centrist” is like “far right” for a lot of the other parts of the world.

And part of the reason why they are such easy targets for comedy is exactly that: their illusion that they are “apolitical” or “not on either side” when the policies they believe in are deeply conservative.


#4

I don’t think someone who actively tries to keep what we formally recognize as politics out of their routine is necessarily “centrist”.

It never does though, in my experience the people who think they make this kind of comedy don’t even know what the “sides” are. They’re typically the kind of person who think Liberals are Leftists and doesn’t actually understand anything beyond the surface of what the mostly incorrect American duality of Liberal Vs. Conservative is. That doesn’t mean nobody likes it though, plenty of people do.

That’s the context I’m using. Centrism isn’t actually a thing, hence why all Centrists are somewhat Reactionary.


#5

I think there’s a Monty Python/John Cleese bit about how the people in the ‘middle’ of the political spectrum get targetted on both sides as belonging to the other. That sounds centrists.

I guess it depends on where you put their politics at the time or if you find them funny.


#6

It’s true from your perspective, and from mine as well, but not in general. There’s a very good twitter thread on this spurred by, I believe, one of the times when Trump said a bunch of his more vile statements were “just jokes”:

The reason why centrists can yuck it up to attack helicopter jokes and other Gervaisian banalities is because these jokes appeal to them and alienate those they hate - poor people, transgender people, leftists, etc. The reason why we can’t is because these jokes put us in the out group.


#7

Very much with the above that points to very different Overton windows depending on where you are.

In terms of US comedy, one of the most visible political exports (and touchstones for the younger domestic crowd) is The Daily Show. A show that led to a Centrist rally less than a decade ago.

Yes, it’s a show that spends the majority of the time pushing against the Right, but it’s not exactly selling a rejection of capitalism. It’s providing an explicitly “can’t we all just be sensible” message and rarely walks far from the centre (which creates issues when looking back at that output through the lens of current political standards - roll the endless tape of every Jon Stewart transphobic “joke”). It’s all very #TheResistance, children of the Third Way.


#8

Look no further than most of the popular comedians in the UK. All of them are painfully centrist and inoffensive: Michael Mcintyre, Dara O’Briain, Rob Brydon. Even supposedly edgy comedians are just nasty, rather than pushing any boundaries.

Bar Frankie Boyle and Stewart Lee there are no popular comedians that actually swing for the fences in the country of my parents. We coast on the accents. There I said it.


#9

Evidence to this: Stewart’s blatant transphobia during the 2004 election campaign, Noah’s craven smears against antifa, and although not on the Daily Show itself, I’d say John Oliver is DS-adjacent enough that we can include his regurgitation of opposition smears against Maduro in this.


#10

Wait, are we pretending like Maduro is a good guy?

Edit: can’t tell if I am coming off as confrontational, I just know some people heavily affected by the current situation in Venezuela and I think Iargely blame the government.


#11

We’re recognizing that Maduro is the head of a South American regime that, due to its consistent refusal to serve as a local US lackey, is heavily targeted by a campaign of slander and open violence, using an opposition made up heavily of elements of the white ruling class and outright fascists, and that in this atmosphere, a popular US show dedicating a lengthy segment to criticizing is tantamount to an attempt to shore up support for more direct intervention.

Also, I don’t think Maduro is a socialist or revolutionary, but the expectation of constant criticism of him to accompany any criticism of US intervention in Venezuela makes me incredibly leery.


#12

Yeah, sorry for pressing the issue.

It’s always problematic discussing these things, especially trying to put myself into an American perspective. Especially when it’s put into a right-vs-left rethoric, when that horizontal axis is clearly bunk for describing politics.


#13

No need to apologize. I used to do the same all the time with Israel and Hamas. We are not conditioned to take power relations into account with these things, sadly.


#14

It’s not in the interest of any state to accurately portray power dynamics, doing so could actively hinder a state’s ability to mobilize militant force against whoever said state’s ruling class deems an enemy.


#15

Hey everyone. Humor and how it intersects with politics is an important and oft explored topic, especially now when comedy is so varied and present, and consciously interacts more often than ever before with politics. Yet, the breadth and scope of this thread is simultaneously so wide (all comedy) but so vague that it feels like this thread can veer wildly off course, and would not foster a considerate or focused discussion. More than that it seems like because of the lack of concreteness it could easily lead to code of conduct violations. With that in mind, after discussion, we have decided to close this thread


#16