Are conservatives inherently unfunny? Sure, there are people like P.J. O’Rourke, and even Mitt Romney has his partisans. But it’s long bugged us: Why are there so few funny conservatives — or, more accurately, famous ones? Setting the comedy world aside for a moment — showbiz has never a bastion of Republicanism — for conservative politicians in particular, there’s seems to be a problem of striking the right balance between dignified and humorous (witness poor Ann Romney bending over backwards to inform Americans that in real life, Mitt isn’t “stiff,” but “wild and crazy“). We asked the Daily Show’s Aasif Mandvi, who was in D.C. this weekend for the White House Correspondents’ festivities, whether the phenomenon has more to do with natural aptitude or audience reception.
Mandvi told us that Romney is “just afraid to be funny. The system doesn’t allow him to be. I think he’s probably a funny guy behind the scenes, in private life,” the kind of funny “your uncle” is — got-your-nose funny.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton’s recent bursts of humor have been interpreted as signs she might be laying the groundwork for a 2016 run. Are liberals somehow more inclined to welcome humor from people in positions of great power?
“It’s hard to be funny and make sure that people remain afraid,” offered Mandvi. “I think a great deal of conservatism stems from a fear-based rationale about things. I’m speaking about, like, Fox News.” And yet, he says his favorite funny conservative is Glenn Beck. “Sort of Andy Kaufman-esque, staying in character for all those years and committing to that absurd character.” Maybe, then, liberals have a more liberal definition of what’s funny.