A look inside “progressive comedy” at Netroots Nation 2014
posted at 12:31 pm on July 20, 2014 by Jazz Shaw
This year’s edition of Netroots Nation (the supposed liberal answer to CPAC) kicked off this week, in case you hadn’t heard. (And judging by the massive lack of media coverage, you might not have.) To be honest, I have not idea what was going on at the various panels and speeches, aside from the apparently well received socialist stemwinder from Elizabeth Warren. But there was, it seems, one get together which was a real hoot, whether intentionally or not. It was a seminar called (wait for it) … Only the Jester Speaks the Truth and it was all about the importance of liberal comedy and why they need to be funnier than conservatives. A brief taste of the description.
The Left is supposed to be funnier than the Right, damn it.
So why do we so often sound in public like we’re stiltedly reading from a non-profit grant proposal?
This panel hopes to explore humor’s unparalleled ability to deliver challenging information to the public, as well as mold and shift perspectives.
Wow. That’s hilarious. I’m nearly doubled over with laughter already. But for those of us who were unable to make it, Jon Gabriel (better known as @exjon on the Twitterz) infiltrated the hive mind and brought us a report on this important progressive comedy summit.
This defensive tone was apparent throughout the hour-plus session, brought up repeatedly by speakers and audience members. Much like a co-worker who doesn’t get anyone’s jokes but insists, “I have a great sense of humor!”
After futzing with computers for 10 minutes, the panel’s four comedians showed highlight reels, with one apologizing for the lack of audience laughs. (Her show was made for the web, you see, so it doesn’t have cues for laughter like television does.)
The crowd was most pleased with Russia Today’s Lee Camp, whose video mocked America’s regressive attitude on gays and oil drilling without noting he gets his paychecks from Vladimir Putin.
“Comedy creates oneness and that is what our side wants,” according to Julianna Forlano, host of a news parody without laughter cues called “Absurdity Today.” She noted how her stand-up performance even created “oneness” at a Pennsylvania Elks Lodge, despite the crowd being filled with racist men (you could tell they were racist from the animal heads displayed on the walls).
Jon’s full coverage is brilliant satire and could almost make you wish you’d been there for the uncomfortable, awkward silence filled spectacle. (Well, I did say “almost”) But I’ll offer up this question for your weekend consideration. Are conservative comics really more funny than blatantly liberal ones? And if so, are they really more funny in an objective way or is it just that we agree more with the points they’re making? Ron White is probably about the funniest comic I can think of who is working today, and he’s definitely conservative. But a couple of his partners – such as Larry the Cable Guy – really don’t do that much for me. But by the same token, I find Chris Hardwick (also known as the Nerdist) to be hilarious in most of his work, but if you listen to his podcast, he’s probably about as liberal as they come.
In the end, I think comedy is in the eye of the beholder. A really talented, funny comic can deliver the goods no matter the ideological bent of their material. Of course, the easiest route is probably to avoid political comedy in the first place. Jim Gaffigan is a great example of that. I’m sure you can think of others.