Commentary Struggles to Find Its Jon Stewart Mojo


For some reason the left-center in American politics has been better at political mockery than the right for the last couple of generations. Starting with the "guerilla theater" of the counter-culture, the stand-up revival of the 70s, through Saturday Night Live and now to Stewart and Colbert, the send-up of Beltway buffoonery tends to be pretty one-sided. Fox tried to counter Stewart a number of years ago with its sad "1/2 Hour News hour," and I think Roger Ailes learned his lesson. Back in his day, William F. Buckley's National Review was witty enough to qualify as a credible source of right-wing comedy. By shifting to the left, former SNL Update host and radio talker Dennis Miller comes close, as does Limbaugh in some of his recorded bits. But generally even these guys suffer from the usual malady of right-wing satire; a stridency and over-eagerness to score political points that flattens the joke. On the other hand, I am sure acolytes of both Miller and Limbaugh do think they are hilarious.


advertisement has been struggling to find a right-leaning comic sensibility to match the good production values of its ongoing video cartoon series. If you haven't seen much of videos, it may be that the polished and seemingly well-funded operation has only mustered 1.4 million YouTube views across many videos and a mere 1,425 subscribers. The brand has generated 1.1 million Facebook likes, however, so someone must be watching this stuff. Many of the videos use low-end 3D object animation but in well-produced packages that has entertaining premises. President Obama dons Indiana Jones attire to search an Egyptian tomb in Raiders of the Lost Mubarak. Great Moments in Liberal History takes aim at any and all green innovations. And "Wolf Blitzkrieg" in the "Awkward Situation Room" grills the President on his less than transparent policy of transparency in government. Perhaps the most imaginative dates back to Charlie Crist of Florida in "Charlie in Wonderland," where "Charlie Dee" and "Charlie Dum" battle over the Republican funding he received.

The weird problem with these videos is that the premises could be funny, and the production quality is actually quite good for animation created quickly in response to news. They just aren't funny, witty or insightful. They reveal no new information, which is what Stewart actually is good at, and instead just reiterate familiar tropes. One send-up of TSA screening practices has a very good Rod Stewart imitator singing a "Do You Think I'm Sexy" parody at the security checkpoints. The predictable joke about sad and lascivious TSA agent hits too hard and without wit on an obvious target that seems more like bullying people who are just doing their jobs.

The new series from gives up on comedy altogether and goes straight to right-wing hagiography. The Michael Regan-hosted "What Would Reagan Do?" kicked off last week with loving remembrance of President Reagan sending the jets into Libya, predictably contrasted to President Obama's awkward multilateral maneuverings.

The search for a conservative Jon Stewart continues.
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