It's gone beyond sad cliché to say that since the November elections, oh, we are in some very deep and stinky doo-doo. Yet even though I feel serious fear and trembling over the state of the nation and the world, I do try to remember that humor is the most effective tonic in troubling times. Initial indications from Dumbya's armies of false compassion, however, makes me wonder if some future edition of the PATRIOT Act might well ban irony, absurdity, sarcasm, facetiousness and other deadly tools of discourse from the realm of political entertainment.
Humor -- especially the ability to laugh at ourselves and our foibles -- seems in short supply over on the wrong wing side of things. I don't even have to read/see the "Left Behind" series of books/films to know there certainly aren't any chuckles surrounding the apocalypse (even if the end of life as we know it may be the biggest cosmic joke). And I highly doubt that The Passion of the Christ is a laff riot for anyone who takes such stuff seriously.
As had been noted widely by other commentators on the left side of the political aisle, it's been rather astounding how angry the big winners of November's great mistake remain. As well, they seem all but devoid of humor, something that, if you believe in God, is so essential to the human character that you have to also believe it's a gift from above. And nowhere was this humorlessness more immediately evident than in the season closer of HBO's Real Time With Bill Maher three days after the election.
Real Time is a blessed rarity among political talk shows in both Maher's openness to diversity of opinion and his devotion to skewering all colors within the political spectrum. Its last shows up to the election were just about the only relief available within that contentious time. And with the lack of any viable national humor magazine -- Why is that? Sign of the times? -- it's one of the few places where political humor is beamed to the masses.
But on Nov. 5, Real Time quickly became an unreal time. First up via satellite was former Wyoming Republican Sen. Alan Simpson, among the more reasonable of his ilk. But Maher had barely gotten past his first question when an offhand quip got Simpson grumping about "making fun of people." And that became the main point of their talk -- Simpson chiding Maher for making fun.
Uh, Sen. Simpson? That's his job. And he does it well. And he does it to everyone.
Then the panel of guests was seated and it wasn't but a few minutes before Andrew Sullivan, gay lapdog of the conservative set, also went dyspeptic. His contention? That humorists like Maher and "the Hollywood left galvanized people in the middle of the country who are tired of being patronized, condescended to and demeaned."
Phew. Guess the joke's on us. Wait The red state bunch don't even seem to see any jokes. They just want to shout down Maher for stuff like his famed crack about flying airplanes into buildings not being cowardly and lobbing missiles from many miles away hardly brave -- a piquant poke at the post-9/11 rhetoric he never should have apologized for. Or brand Michael Moore a traitor or such when -- love him or hate him -- he is without a doubt one of the great absurdist observers of our age.
In the weeks that followed, oh how I wished that Real Time was still airing every Friday night. Because what has happened since -- like the Gonzales nomination, Rumsfeld's press conference before the troops and Bush's run at picking the lockbox of Social Security, to name a few -- sure needs some sort of comic relief. Not to mention how the remnants of the Left seem to be rolling over as the neo-con artist juggernaut steams its way towards domestic and international disaster.
Real Time is set to reappear in the future, and all I can say is not soon enough. Lord above, laughter is the only foreseeable relief from the shape of things as they coalesce in Bush II, term 2. And God bless Bill Maher for still being able to crack a couple as Simpson and Sullivan fumed in the usual Limbaugh/O'Reilly/Carlson fashion. If the wrong wing is going to grump, gripe, bitch and howl, at least we can retain some shred of humanity by laughing at their inanities as well as our own.
And frankly, as far as I'm concerned, **** 'em if they can't take a joke. Because if the Bush bunch and their slim ballot box minority can't see the humor, well, forgive my somehow elitist yet also populist ass for saying so, but they really must be dumb.
Rob Patterson is a music and entertainment writer in Austin, Texas. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.