Saturday, June 16, 2007

Great Moments in Conservative Humor

Here's Dennis Miller discussing how Harry Reid looks old and encourages al-Qaeda:

Now, leaving aside the lunatic thesis of Dennis Miller's latest "rant," that it's borderline traitorous to point out how badly our President's war has gone, it's a perfect PERFECT example of my Great Moments in Conservative Humor thesis...That conservatives can't be funny because they are mean-spirited bullies who can't get over their hatred for the Other long enough to write a halfway-decent joke.

It's all there in Miller's little speech. He means to undermine Reid, but just makes himself look ridiculous in the process, like an angry little man lashing out at someone more powerful and significant than he. (And I'm not even a Harry Reid fan. I'd be perfectly happy to laugh to a series of cruel jokes at the callow and ineffective Reid's expense.) This kind of bilious screed isn't really funny; it's clear that Miller detests Reid, whom he expressly insists should never speak publicly again. (This gets the biggest applause of the night, an obvious nod to the pervasive authoritarian/eliminationist streak in Fox News coverage.)

Now, yes, Jon Stewart told Tucker Carlson to go away and stop talking, but not on his comedy show; he was a guest on Carlson's "news show" at the time and made that aside as part of a larger, and to my mind wholly sensible, argument. Stewart's attitude on "The Daily Show" is one of bemused concern. He's worried about the fate of our nation, sure, but he's also able to take a step back and laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. The emotional connection is with the viewer, not the Party or the Issue.

Miller doesn't even try to connect with his audience. (To be honest, this has always been one of his faults as a performer). There's nothing about Miller's performance, really, that indicates he finds Reid funny or intends to make us laugh.

"[Reid's] is a mediocre man's Thermopylae."

300 references...Nice.

"Ironic that the Senator from Vegas would be such a dim bulb."

GOOD LORD THAT JOKE SUCKS! In fact, it's so hacky, I actually think Dennis Miller might have stolen that joke from Carlos Mencia! Here's your chance, Ned! Find out the next time Miller's going to be at the Laugh Factory and pull a Rogan on him. Oh, that would be so sweet!

Much of Miller's monologue here is composed of direct insults, and the more descriptive portions sound like the preamble to rounding up a posse and calling for the man's head rather than a bit of incisive satire. NOTE: I never find direct insults funny. Anyone remember the film Grumpy Old Men. Someone clearly thought that the idea of Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon hurling plain-spoken invective at one another for 90 minutes would be funny. Instead, it's just embarrassing. Most of the exchanges consist of "You're a moron," "Shut up idiot" and the like. Miller's routine here is similar, calling Reid just about everything he could get past the Fox News Dept. of Standards and Practices.

I mean, the words that come out of Reid's "ashen piehole" sound like they're "oozing from a stuck caulking gun"? Jokes like this are why Edgar Allen Poe didn't get invited to many Friar's Club roasts...

Miller's extended simile jokes used to actually build to something funny. Here's one I remember, though I don't recall the subject of the joke.

"Finding a BLANK in the BLANK is harder than finding an outline of a naked girl on a mudflap on the back of a 16-wheeler in the parking lot of the Lilith Fair."

Not the best joke ever, sure, but it built up and had a punchline. Now it just seems like Miller's tries to squeeze as much hateful rhetoric into a single sentence as possible. The jokes don't build so much as they congeal.

"The bad guys look to you to reinforce their belief that we are the weak horse and eminently conquerable. You are making that assertion so easy for them that they no doubt view you as the derriere of said horse."


And, okay, yes, as an actual political statement, it's all completely senseless and vile. The "bad guys" give a shit what Harry Reid has to say? Most Americans couldn't pick him out of a line-up, let alone explain his position on the war. You think the guys who actually go out and try to blow up our troops day-in and day-out are paying any closer attention to the nuances of all of our Congresspeople's stated positions?

And, what's Miller's solution? The most powerful man in the Senate shouldn't criticize the President or else terrorists will think he, and by extension all Americans, are pussies? This is how middle-school students think, not grown-ups.

Some of Miller's claims are genuinely unbelievable. As in, I can't believe an adult male, let alone one who previously had a reputation as somewhat intelligent, would make these sorts of juvenile arguments on television. A critic of a failed war is a "constant bringdown"? A fucking bringdown? Oh, Dennis Miller, so sorry if Harry Reid is putting you off so terribly. I know you can barely make it through the day, with your comfortable salary and relative fame, without having to hear about your government marching a generation of American women and men to their deaths. It's all so very bothersome.

Reid deserves this drubbing, we're told, because he's "unrelentingly bleak." Yes, by all means, politicians should be shiny and happy! Cause it's just that kind of world.

Who need a Gloomy Gus interrupting our collective groove all the time? I wouldn't want to have a beer with Harry Reid, who's all old and defeatist, so therefore he should be drummed out of politics. Yeah, that makes sense. (Of course, Reid's not the one who went on TV for several years warning about all kinds of imminent terrorist attacks that never happened. Apparently, Miller feels that predicting millions of American deaths on a regular basis, Cheney-style, isn't bleak. Grim, sure, but not bleak.)

Miller also quotes from David Fincher's Fight Club in here, but I don't get the reference. Is he saying that America is Fight Club? And that Reid's betraying us by talking about what we're doing? There are two ways to read this: Miller didn't really get the point behind Fight Club, or Miller has embraced the straight-up fascist ideal of shutting up and surrendering your will to the State. (I mean...we all realize that Fincher's film doesn't actually agree with Tyler Durden's batshittery, right?...That's why Norton has to shoot himself in the face at the end?)

I would think Fight Club is a simple enough film for Dennis Miller to comprehend, so I'm tempted to go with Option B. But then again, he clearly didn't see the inherent contradiction of closing out an extended monologue on national television about Harry Reid with the observation that the man "barely matters." So anything's possible.


Anonymous said...

I've been subscribed to this RSS ever since I came across your "101 Favorite Directors" list.

This particular entry is so great that I felt compelled to write and have you know. Not like you hadn't known it yourself, but I'm leaving this comment regardless.

Lons said...

Thanks. It's hard sometimes for me to motivate to sit down and write these things after working all day, but knowing that there are a few people out there who are interesting in what I have to say really means a lot.

Jared said...

Hi Lons, I agree with anonymous. You are definitely on to something with your conservative humor thesis. To paraphrase that old saying, your conservative humor posts seem to show that 'small minds think alike'. I look forward to each of those posts (plus anything else you write)