The Death of Humor

The Death of Humor. By Matt Taibbi.

Humor is dying all over, for obvious reasons. All comedy is subversive and authoritarianism is the fashion.

Comics exist to keep us from taking ourselves too seriously, and we live in an age when people believe they have a constitutional right to be taken seriously, even if — especially if — they’re idiots, repeating thoughts they only just heard for the first time minutes ago. Because humor deflates stupid ideas, humorists are denounced in all cultures that worship stupid ideas, like Spain under the Inquisition, Afghanistan under the Taliban, or today’s United States. …

Modern humorists are allowed to laugh at bad people: racists, sexists, conspiracy theorists, Trump, anyone but themselves or the audience. … Most Trump humor was just DNC talking points in sketch form, about as funny as WWII caricatures of Tojo or Hitler.

Saturday Night Live even commemorated the release of the Mueller report and the death of the collusion theory not by making fun of themselves, or the thousands of pundits, politicians, and other public figures who spent three years insisting it was true, but by doing yet another “Shirtless Putin” skit, with mournful Putin declaring, “I am still powerful guy, even if Trump doesn’t work for me!” I defy anyone to watch this and declare it was written by a comedian, and not someone like David Brock, or an Adam Schiff intern …

Humorists once made their livings airing out society’s forbidden thoughts, back when it was understood that a) we all had them and b) the things we suppressed and made us the most anxious also tended to be the things that made us laugh the most. …

The new movement thinks it’s stamping out harmful jokes about disadvantaged groups, but truly cruel or bigoted material tends not to win real laughs. There are exceptions … but what people mostly laugh at are things that are true, which is the problem with telling people you can’t think or laugh about funny things even in private. People will either go mad, or else they’ll start laughing at you, which is why we’re already seeing something I never thought I would in my lifetime — the humor business drifting into the arms of conservatives.

Humor is about saying the unsayable, and most of the comics who insist on still doing it are either denounced as reactionaries, like Charlie Hebdo or Joe Rogan or even Dave Chappelle, or else they were openly conservative to begin with. The Babylon Bee is marketed as something from one of my childhood nightmares (“Your trusted source for Christian news satire”), and the fact that it’s now exponentially more likely to be funny than Stephen Colbert feels like a sign of the End-Times.

Humor always involves truth and pain. If either ingredient is missing, it falls flat.

Now that the left is in charge and enforcing its political fantasies, too many truths are forbidden. Hence, no lefty comedians have been any good for nearly a decade now.