Take My Right-Wing Comedy Show -- Please!

Earlier this summer, MediaPost's David Goetzl made the interesting suggestion that Comedy Central should establish a conservative counterweight to offset its liberal-leaning programming (i.e. "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report").  The reader response to this column was swift and heated, with readers claiming:  1) that Stewart doesn't lean left, he just exposes hypocrisy; and 2) that conservatives can't be funny because they are so mean to the disadvantaged.

The notion that "The Daily Show" favors neither party is one that Jon Stewart himself tries to advance.  During his June appearance on Chris Wallace's Fox News show, he claimed he had no partisan agenda. He said repeatedly that he is "a comedian first" and that "The Daily Show" is only about highlighting absurdity and corruption. 



Is it possible that Stewart actually believes what he says?  That all he's doing is finding laughs wherever they are and that almost all the absurdity and corruption is on one side of the aisle?  Although it seems obvious to me that he runs a "liberal" show, sometimes we have to take people at their word.  Maybe he's spent so much time in his own circle of like-minded friends that he can't even imagine what others might find absurd or corrupting in, say, more government regulation, teacher unions or Obama-worship.

I don't doubt that Jon Stewart is a comedian first; and he does bring to the show a comedian's full bag of tricks, including wit, sarcasm, accents, and funny faces.  Partly because of this, his commentaries are frequently fresher and more incisive than anything on the official news shows.  But it strains credibility to argue that he has no general political objective.  Anyone who watches "The Daily Show" with an open mind can see that Jon Stewart, with his relentless ridicule of conservative politicians and obsession with Fox News, wants to move the country to the left. 

Having a political agenda is not the same as being partisan, and it is true that Stewart sometimes criticizes the Democrats (usually for being insufficiently liberal).  He was, for example, pretty aghast that President Obama reached a deficit reduction deal that did not include tax increases.  And he will poke gentle fun at Democrats from time to time, but you always feel that he's laughing with them, not at them.

In any event, back to Goetzl's original point: does Comedy Central need a conservative counterweight?  Probably not.  Could it make more money if it had one?  Yes.  (And don't try to argue that Comedy Central already has a conservative alternative with "The Colbert Report."  Colbert plays a conservative character, all right -- one who's dim and egocentric.  This character is funny because he and his ideas are shown to be ridiculous, not because he delivers the conservative viewpoint with humor.)

To be clear, a conservative comedy show would not draw viewers from Fox.  Although Fox and Stewart constantly snipe at one another, they are not really competitors.  Fox's audience is older white men, while Comedy Central's is a completely separate cohort of younger guys.  If Comedy Central did have a conservative political show, it would steal audience from other networks with young male audiences, such as ESPN, SpikeTV and Discovery.

My guess is that Comedy Central viewers are not inherently political one way or another.  Sure "The Daily Show" and Colbert probably have nice niche audiences among Capitol Hill staffers, White House staffers and other aspiring political operatives, but I bet that their typical viewer is more like my son, a largely apolitical college sophomore who likes Jon Stewart for the same reason he likes Daniel Tosh and Demetri Martin: bcause they are funny.

Indeed, a younger male audience is probably ripe for conservative humor.  This generation has suffered from the straight jacket of political correctness, liberal professors and self-satisfied Baby Boomers. As it is, they have no outlet for their frustrations other than tasteless shock radio, which takes the anti-PC approach way too far over the edge.

But if there is no demand-side barrier to a conservative show on Comedy Central, there is definitely a supply-side problem.  If you Google "conservative comedians," the result is pretty slim, which is no surprise, since everyone knows that being a conservative in Hollywood or New York can kill your career.   It would take a brave comedian or writer to come out of the closet and announce admiration for, say, Sarah Palin (and how much funnier would it be if it this comedian were also a woman?). 

In the meantime, there is one Comedy Central show that actually does what Jon Stewart claims to do: it skewers hypocrisy and cant where it exists, regardless of politics, religion or race. The name of that show is "South Park."  We can only dream of what a talk mock news show hosted by Trey Parker and Matt Stone would look like.

7 comments about "Take My Right-Wing Comedy Show -- Please!".
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  1. Evan Brown from Atlatl Media, August 17, 2011 at 4:19 p.m.

    Let's face facts. If you look at most major syndicated research (MRI, Simmons, Ipsos, etc.) that ask questions related to politics, those who are somewhat to very conservative outnumber those who are somewhat to very liberal by a 2-1 margin. Those surveys have sample sizes in the tens of thousands, vs. the political polls that sample between 600-1,200 people.

    Regardless of your political persuasion, that fact is not going to change. And people who are more passionate about their political views consumer more news media and also tend to lean toward the either end of the political spectrum. Middle of the road consumers tend to consume less news

    More than any other reason, Fox News has brought the other cable networks to their knees simply because the numbers are in its favor. Fox News is the only news network that is appealing to the larger political segment (30-35% of the population). All the other networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, HLN, CNBC, MSNBC) are fighting for only 15-20% of the population.

    With that in mind, it makes more sense for a Rupert Murdoch or other conservative media mogul to create a conservative comedy network than to try to force conservative programming onto Comedy Central. Why have the minority share of programming on a network targeting the smallest piece of the political pie?

    A conservative-focused comedy network could do the same thing to Comedy Central that Fox News has done to CNN.

  2. Chuck Lantz from, network, August 17, 2011 at 4:38 p.m.

    There's nothing funny about today's conservatives.

    Laughable, yes, ... but not funny.

  3. Jerry Foster from Energraphics, August 18, 2011 at 4:31 a.m.

    South Park was pretty good at slamming the left as I remember (I don't watch American TV anymore). I did manage to see Jon Stewart properly skewering so-called "conservative" pundits the other day for pretending that Ron Paul didn't almost tie Michelle Bachmann in the Iowa Straw Poll (from what I hear, Bachmann's feminist friend on the DNC, Debbie Wasserman-Slutz, enlisted Democrat women to put Bachmann ahead of Ron Paul in Iowa).

    But, yes, Jon Stewart isn't funny when he assumes that more taxes are the obvious way to go. I've seen several of his monologues that fell flat with me and it disturbed me that a young male audience (probably of slackers with no income) seemed to be applauding him.

    Your article, Gary, was great until you used the feminist fake-Tea Partier Sarah Palin as an example of a "conservative". She appeals only to older women and the kind of older man who wouldn't think of dating someone younger than 45 because he doesn't have the confidence to try (and rationalizes to himself that its immoral to try to date with an age difference). There's a reason why she's not running for President other than her desire to just make lots of money. She knows that young males of every political stripe don't like her. I never understood why anyone would pay a dime for her memoirs after she and McCain lost in 2008 as guys like me, plus all the independents, refused to vote for them.

    Real conservative males (as in small government males) and just about all independents can't stand Sarah Palin. She's seen as a religious nutcase who wants to regulate male sexual behavior (Palin accepted an endorsement from a branch of the N.O.W. when she ran for VP in 2008 and her buddy Bachmann signed a pledge a few weeks ago to ban all forms of paid sex and pornography).

    Perry and Romney are religious nutcases as well - I'm a hard core conservative just dying to see Obama replaced but I would stay home rather than vote for holy rollers who don't have the cajones to even stand up to radical feminists.

    One example of many: Perry joined feminist groups in Texas to impose a $5 tax on all strip joint patrons to fund a rape center. The courts struck this down because the bogus reasoning presented in the law was that men who watch strippers are supposedly more prone to rape women afterwards.

    Because of the way they don't like male behavior, the likes of Perry and Bachmann are not in line with what your average American man would consider conservative. Protecting so-called "male privilege" (men's rights) used to be the main mandate of a conservative politician.

    So anyone who's a fan of those two could hardly make anyone laugh, especially young males.

    There are plenty of funny anti-feminist anti-taxation males out there who could get more than half the country in stitches with their material, especially the young male demographic. They used to own the airwaves. Do a Google Search for the great 30 year old Saturday Night Live sketch that skewered "Sexual Harassment Laws". Corporate America won't help produce such funny material anymore, because powerful feminists don't want the majority to laugh at them again.

    And "conservatives" finally need to define who they are and kick the fakes like Palin, Perry and Bachmann to the curb unceremoniously.

    I predict that Obama will win again as the civil war to define "conservatism" continues.

  4. Malcolm Rasala from Real Creatives Worldwide, August 18, 2011 at 7:23 a.m.

    You guys enjoy a brilliant right wing comedy show. It is called Fox News. It is so laughable and off the wall as to
    be comedy of a high order. No intelligent brain can but laugh at it. Its hosts are pure comedians. They invoke laughter at themselves and exhibit slapstick nonsense and brain dead lines that keep most of America and certainly the wider world in stitches. And it is run by a comedian Rupert Murdoch who invites shaving foam pies in his face
    at every Parliament committee he is invited to. So do not pine Gary that your country lacks comedians. What with the Tea Party and Governor Perry and Sarah Palin et al you possess the laughing stock of the Western World; even Karl Rove slaps down Perry for the
    comedy words he utters against your President. Keep it up guys. We love you

  5. Mark Walker from aka Media Mark, August 18, 2011 at 10:20 a.m.

    Comedy Central will have a "conservative comedy" show the same day Faux News has a "liberal" program on its' airwaves. Did I hear someone say "Fairness Doctrine"?

    Seriously- a conservative comedy? These guys (and gals!) can't laugh at themselves- and don't realize how ridiculous the words are that already come out of their mouths!

    Pretty-much every "real" news program in America is a conservative comedy, especially as we ramp up toward the 2012 elections...

  6. Dave O'Mara from Logan Marketing Communications, August 18, 2011 at 12:10 p.m.

    Well articulated, Gary, although I find it hard to believe Jon Stewart, no matter how deeply immersed he is in the left wing bubble, honestly believes he isn't atrociously biased.

  7. T Y from Freelance Producer / DP, August 18, 2011 at 2:30 p.m.

    As to polling of citizens, most people identify themselves as moderate, independent or slightly conservative. But on the actual issues, most people actually support policies that are considered liberal by conservatives, as in EPA, clean air & water, Social Security, Medicare, single payer insurance, ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, having an FAA and CDC, providing medical care to wounded soldiers and 9/11 First Responders, and preventing governmental illegal phone and internet data collection to name a few.

    The debt ceiling deal? Most Americans favor raising taxes on the very rich and support eliminating tax subsidies for corporations and tax loopholes for corporate jets. Is it really liberal to expect the wealthy to pay the same taxes proportionally as low and middle income families?

    Big government and government spending? Both parties have equal capability to grow spending and size of government. Democrats like to tax and spend and Republicans like to borrow and spend. I think it makes more sense to pay as you go so taxing the current generation makes more sense than passing it on to our children. Liberals believe in personal and governmental responsibility and conservatives don’t. If you really want to get to the heart of the “tea party” platform, just research the concept of bankrupting America in order to destroy all social programs which dates back to the Reagan years. Many “tea parties” are sponsored by mega PACs.

    Sure Jon Stewart is liberal. So what. You are drawing a false equivalency when you compare The Daily Show with Fox “News” or other news. Mainstream news has a conservative bias and always has. Just because clowns like Rush or Sean say there is a “liberal media” doesn’t make it so. Almost every panelist on This Week with Amanpour is conservative… every week. The most “fair” those panels ever get is 2:1 conservative to liberal. This right-wing tilt is similar on the other main networks’ Sunday talkers. In actuality, conservatives will keep plugging away until there is no liberal voice in the media.

    I am surprised that neither Mr. Goetzel nor Mr. Holmes calls for even one liberal show to be added on primetime Fox “News” which is allegedly “fair and balanced” and is the top-rated cable news network. Fox even had a comedy show on at 11pm to compete against Stewart. It failed miserably. Most of all, it was not funny because it took the talking points presented on their morning shows and regurgitated them and added giggles. The conservative issues, regardless of merit, are not funny. Letting people starve, go homeless, have polluted air and water, and crumbling bridges just doesn’t get laughs except in the locker rooms of the tony country clubs. You have The Daily Show and Colbert on for one hour and then say “see, there is a liberal media.”

    The U.S. suffers from a massive amount of corporate money flowing to conservative super pacs, the Koch Bros’ fake grass roots organizations, the Murdock empire promoting all conservatives and issues, a ridiculously reactionary ultra-conservative biased Supreme Court, and you guys are worried about this small voice on a small cable channel. As Stossel says, “give me a break!”

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