Comedians used to be funny. Al Franken was never funny, but he demonstrates clearly the danger of allowing our comedians to become political actors. In order for the public to have any confidence in their politicians, there must be an assumption of good faith. When a man like Franken can behave reprehensibly and later defend himself with the cheap line: “it was only a joke!” the problem of allowing comedians in politics becomes obvious. A comedian might be laughed at, but they can never be trusted. One cannot put good faith in a man who, upon being found out, will fall back on the claim that he’s primarily a joke maker. Comedy is the opposite of good faith.
I can remember a time before comedians became political agents — not coincidentally, this was also a time before political hysteria gripped the masses. Those who were born after the millennium have little experience with this phenomenon — the funny, self-deprecating, non-political comedian. As a child, I grew up watching non-political comedians and now as an adult, I watch re-runs.
Comedians stopped being funny when they became political (thanks, Jon Stewart) for the simple and self-evident reason that politics were never meant to be funny. Politics are serious, austere, often violent. We have forgotten this in the modern age. Nowadays every comedian is also a political commentator — it ruins both their comedic act and their appeal for everyone except hyper-partisans.
There are many things that get blamed for the political incoherence of the young generations — the media, the academies, the politicians themselves. These all have their share of blame, no doubt. But foremost above them all, we should blame political-comedians. For the length of an entire generation, Jon Stewart did more to promote political confusion than any human being on Earth. By the time he retired, it became effectively impossible to be a non-political comedian.
Comedians not only strip our ability to place good faith in our fellow human beings, they also completely erode our ability to take politics seriously. This latter quality of their comedic politics is particularly dangerous. It’s not that people aren’t “serious” about their political ideologies — one only has to engage a screeching liberal to see how “serious” they are. But the politics themselves are no longer serious: it has no depth of thought, no coherence, no understanding.
If you are able to get a liberal to stop screeching “Resist!” for long enough to answer a few basic political questions, you quickly realize that they are not serious political agents. Their ideas are confused and contradictory, though they seem not to notice. The average millennial has absolutely no political understanding at all — how else do we account for the fact that a majority of liberals now claim they want to live under socialism and they also refuse to pay any new taxes?
It is far past time we begin purging comedy from politics. We have already begun this in some respects — late-night television ratings are plummeting. The interest in watching a wealthy neo-liberal stand on stage and gripe about issues they don’t understand is waning. But this isn’t far enough: we must begin demanding seriousness from our politics and our politicians once again.
If you consider yourself primarily a “joke maker,” then you have no place in the Congress or the Senate. If you do not understand that politics are a type of warfare carried out by other means, then you have no place in the voting booth. When we finally bring the austere back to our political thinking, then we will finally be able to treat politics with the serious reverence that it deserves.