Back when I had my old talk radio show on 710-KIRO, I used to reserve an hour on Saturday nights to interview local comedians, and one of the first questions I asked them was why are there so few funny conservatives? I mean, there’s satirist P.J. O’Rourke, who certainly influenced my development as an essayist back during his glory days at the National Lampoon. And I guess I’ve heard the likes of Bob Dole and Allan Simpson occasionally crack a funny line. But comedians will tell you that their profession overwhelmingly leans toward the left. And it’s hard to argue with the evidence that every conservative attempt at competing with the likes of John Stewart and Stephen Colbert has failed utterly.
In explaining why “there will never be a right wing Robin Williams,” comedian Katie Halper finally offers a satisfying explanation. The missing ingredient from conservative comedy? Empathy.
The left, however, have comedy. And that’s because, though it’s not often brought up, comedy, or good comedy, at least, is based on empathy, something the right, in general, lacks (see: immigration, affirmative action, rights of any disenfranchised groups). And that is why the right will never produce their own version of Robin Williams.
All good comedy requires empathy. Because a good comedian cares enough about people to observe them and their behavior and get into their heads. And in no area of comedy is empathy more needed than in impersonations, which requires a comedian to literally become someone else. A bad comedian impersonates someone in a way that merely makes fun of them. A good comedian can do it in a way that humanizes the person.
Thanks, Katie, for making it all make sense.