"When humor goes, there goes civilization."
— Erma Bombeck
Comedic actor Jack Lemmon popularized the saying, "Dying is easy, comedy is hard." He'd have no idea how hard comedy would get in the 2017 Orwellian world of PC police and millennials who have been taught to be perpetually offended.
The left dominates humor. Their "jokes" have devolved to be condescending, self-righteous and not funny. They make themselves the heroes in their own jokes, as with the Second Amendment right after the Las Vegas shooting. Daily Show host Trevor Noah simplistically sniffed, "I'm sorry that we live in a world where there are people who will put a gun before your lives." The self-important comments about gun control, which would not have stopped the Vegas madman, were on display from late-night comics. According to their theory, they would have saved 59 people from death; but by you not being totally on board with them, you caused the deaths.
My response to Vegas last week was some (maybe too soon) humor on a radio show. The host asked, "What was your thought when you first heard about Stephen Paddock shooting 59 people?" I said that I thought Stephen was an odd name for a Muslim.
Back in the Rat Pack days, we could say more. Once arrested for carrying a gun, Dean Martin was asked a leading PC question by a reporter: "Do you think people should have guns?" Martin said, "Well, in a perfect world no — just me." Unfettered humor makes you both laugh and think about an issue. We can't lose that.
The few of us who write political satire from the libertarian, right-of-center side get our jokes called "mean" if the left disagrees. We are called "racist" if we joke about Obama, the NFL or crime stats, and "sexist" if we do not totally agree with Hillary Clinton. The left uses identity politics to fan the fires of racial division. After eight years, it backfired on them when Trump turned that anger into his improbable election.
Humor can be hard to define. One man's humor is another's insult. In her book "What Happened," Hillary Clinton blamed sexism, racism, and pretty much every "ism" — and others — for her election loss. Bookstores don't know which fiction section to put her book in: horror or humor.
Pointing out irony where there is truth makes for humor. Saying you feel sorry for Hillary that Presidents' Day and Valentine's Day often fall on the same day is an example. Unlike slapstick pratfall comedy, political humor makes you think and laugh and is a powerful medium feared by the elites. It's also the reason the leftist media make sure all late-night show hosts are committed to their agenda and use their platform to advance it.
Mel Brooks joined the recent chorus of comedians who say that the PC culture has gone too far in stifling comedy. He says his classic movie "Blazing Saddles" would not be made today, and he blames the "stupidly politically correct." Other comedians such as Jerry Seinfeld, Larry the Cable Guy, Dennis Miller, John Cleese and Chris Rock agree. Many say they will not play college gigs anymore because of the rigid PC pushback.
Since Aristotle, evolved and free societies have used political satire to make society better. It keeps community leaders in check and paves the way for progress. In the world of the left, socialists would not allow anything to be funny unless government declared it so. Think North Korea. We don't want to become that.
I have found, contrary to the left's narrative, the right to be far more tolerant of humor than the left. Twelve years ago, the only major pushback on my column from the right was displeasure at the title of a column about the hypocrisy of several televangelists, like the Revs. Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart, caught with their pants down. Its title was "Ministers Should Do More Than Lay People." More religious-right-type newspapers wouldn't run it. It was one of the rare pushbacks from the right. Most meddling with my column comes from left.
Francis Bacon said, "Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he's not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is." I think God gave us a sense of humor in order to cope, and he clearly has one himself. The latest example: Hugh Hefner's death. "Hef" died on a Wednesday, Hump Day.
Contact Ron Hart, an op-ed humorist, author and TV/radio commentator, at Ron@RonaldHart.com or Twitter @RonaldHart.