A new kind of comedy caters to viewers tired of smug, condescending humor
A woman tells the cop who stopped her in a carpool lane she’s allowed to drive there because her pronouns are “they” and “them.”
That’s from a video by a conservative Christian satire site called The Babylon Bee. Their humor gets millions of views.
“Christian conservatives used to . . . be very dour and self-serious,” says Bee editor-in-chief Kyle Mann in my new video. Today, he says, it’s the left who are self-serious. “They’re the ones that have trouble laughing at themselves.”
For example, late-night hosts like Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert passionately defend COVID-19 vaccines. “It is a lecture,” complains Mann.
“The left used to be anti-establishment,” adds Bee actress Chandler Juliet. Now, she says, ‘They’ve become the blob. . . . We’re super happy to be leading the comedic conversation on the right.”
One Babylon Bee video, “The Woke Zone,” makes fun of the way the media ignored violence and arson during the George Floyd protests.
“Do you ever feel gratitude to the left that they give you so much material?” I ask.
“We have to write things that are funnier than things they’re actually doing,” Mann responds. “That makes our job very difficult.”
One Bee sketch portrays its writers struggling to find new material. “John Kerry warns that the war in Ukraine might distract from climate change!” suggests one. Can’t do it, explains another. “It actually happened.” “Cosmo magazine features a morbidly obese woman on the cover as the picture of health” and “Math professor says ‘two plus two equals four’ is racist!” are among other ideas that can’t be used as jokes.
“A math professor really said two plus two equals four is racist?” I ask. It’s “a colonialist, white supremacist idea,” explains Mann.
Today the Bee reaches more people than The Onion. The establishment doesn’t like that, so some people actually sic so-called fact checkers on the Bee. One article fact-checked by Snopes was titled “Bernie Sanders Vows To Round Up Remaining ISIS Members, Allow Them To Vote.”
“Does Snopes not understand that you’re making jokes?” I ask. “I think that they know what our intention is,” answers Juliet. “They just don’t like us.”
Recently, Twitter banned the Bee. Its offense was tweeting an article that named Assistant Secretary of Health Rachel Levine “Babylon Bee’s Man of the Year.”
Levine is a transgender woman. Calling her the man of the year is a joke I wouldn’t make. But it doesn’t need to be censored.
Twitter says it’ll allow the Bee back on the platform only if it deletes the tweet. Mann says he won’t. “Twitter has the capability to just delete the tweet themselves. They want us to bend the knee and be the ones to click, ‘Yes, we acknowledge hateful conduct.’ We’re not going to do that.”
Today, a lot of comedians attract sizable audiences by mocking the left. Some I found funny are JP Sears, Ryan Long and FreedomToons.
The culture is changing. The highest-rated late-night comic these days is often not Colbert, Kimmel or Jimmy Fallon but Greg Gutfeld of Fox.
Even a few left-leaning comedians like Ricky Gervais and Dave Chappelle are mocking the intolerant left. “I talk about AIDS, famine, cancer, the Holocaust, rape, pedophilia . . . the one thing you mustn’t joke about is identity politics,” says Gervais in his recent Netflix special.
Professional media critics trashed him for that. But the special was hugely popular with the public.
The Rotten Tomatoes ratings are revealing. Critics gave Gervais’ special a 29% rating, calling it “terribly unfunny” and “a detestable combination of smug and obtuse.”
Viewers gave it a 92% rating.
The same is true of Chappelle’s latest special, “The Closer.” Critics give it just 40%. The audience gives it 95%.
Clearly, many people are tired of smug, condescending humor. I’m glad The Babylon Bee and others give us an alternative.
John Stossel is creator of Stossel TV and author of “Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media.”