Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Daily Show et al, Political Comics that aren't funny

I really enjoyed Jon Stewart's daily show when it first came on the air. He and his comrades Lewis Black and Steve Colbert made jokes about current events and people recently in the news and it was funny. Somewhere along the line they all turned into tools.

Instead of focussing on making people laugh, the emphasis turned to making people Democrats. Every joke has the same punchline "We hate Republicans." OK, we get it, say something funny. For all you aspiring entertainers out there, let's do some math. About 30 percent of the general public is enthusiastically in favor of one political party or another. When you choose to tailor your act to cater to just one, you take 70% of your potential audience out of the equation, no matter which party you choose. That doesn't mean you shouldn't make political jokes. It just means that I shouldn't be able to determine what party you belong to by watching your act.

When I tune in to comedy, or music or movies, I'm not looking for political guidance. I'm looking for entertainment. I don't go to the hardware store looking for oranges or the grocery store looking for lumber. If you're a comic, make me laugh. If you're a musician, get my adrenaline flowing. If you're a director, give me suspense, action, excitement. If I want to know how you feel about the war or universal health care, I'll go to your blog, but frankly Scarlet....

So why would a talented entertainer intentionally sell their soul to a political party? I can only surmise that although the niche may be smaller, they have more money. Look at Barbara Striesand for example. Most people wouldn't sit through one of her concerts if you paid them, yet she can sell out venues all over the world at thousands of dollars per seat. Of course you can make good money without being a trained monkey for the establishment, but it's more work. You have to sell more for less.

Perhaps activist entertainment is just the new way. But it has created a vacuum. There is plenty of room in the market for entertainers with mass appeal. If you'd like to step into it, you don't necessarily need to shy away from offending anyone, just be sure to offend everyone. People don't mind laughing at themselves. They do mind relentless attacks that aren't even funny.

Are you an entertainer or a spokesmodel? Choose wisely grasshopper.

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