On the surface it makes no sense. Why should political ideology affect humour? Why should it be less funny to make comedy on the basis of right-wing conservative politics? Or could it be that this entire line of argument just a left-wing conspiracy?
Let’s not waste time discussing conspiracies. Instead, let us examine the facts and take a look at the hypothesis why right-wing social and economic conservatism would not be as compatible with humour as its political counterpart.
Comedy is inherently subversive. It is often used to poke fun at reality. Social conservatives tend to come out in favour of the social and economic establishment in society, and are often keen to maintain the socio-economic status quo. The anti-elitist character of comedy does not tend to favour conservatives.
Comedy is anti tradition. It points out ways things in need of change. It has, to put a finer point on it, the character of progressivism. It tends to attack those who have the power now, and argues the need to change. In this case, the anti-traditional character of comedy does tend to favour conservatives.
3. Absence of Empathy
It might well be argued that comedy, like journalism, is best when it comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable. It is certainly partly built on empathy – a quality which is inherently more prevalent on the political left.
4. No Self Deprecation
Comedy is often a coping mechanism for adverse situations. The conservative social and economic elite often stands (or aspires to stand) in contrast to the depressed and poor end of society. As opposed to the socio-economic elite, the downtrodden masses tend to be more prone to self deprecation. On top of that, one of the most well understood characteristics of comedy is that it will always be funnier to poke fun of the ones with power than the ones without.
It could be argued that a great deal of conservatism stems from a fear-based rationale about things. Authority tends to be more important to the political right. Think about the emphasis on family, social and religious authority: parents, police, preachers, the outright and unquestioned authority of these figures tends to be valued particularly in right-wing circles. These authorities need to be respected and sometimes even feared. It is hard to be funny and make sure that people remain afraid. However, in the words of Aasif Mandvi, it could also be that “liberals have a more liberal definition of what’s funny.”
Conservatives, especially the religious right, tend to take life and death seriously, and thereby miss the entire point of what makes the circle of life and death comedic – the non-serious, the playful and the sexually deviant.
7. The Truth
Without reality there would be no comedy. If there is no reality to poke fun at, comedy becomes a vacuum. In the end therefore, it might well be that the political right is not funny simply because, in the words of Stephen Colbert, “reality has a well-known liberal bias.”
In conclusion, conservatism seeks to preserve power, social class, and tradition; it is inherently non-subversive, non-irreverent, and therefore non-ironic. Humour comes at the expense of power’s sway, it undermines tradition, and revolts at the thought of conformity. Conservatism does the opposite. That’s why there is a strong argument that conservatives tend to be less funny; not because absurdity and hypocrisy – staples of political humour – are often said to be far more prevalent on the political right.