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June 07, 2006


The standard counter-argument would note that attempting to satisfy everyone is precisely what yields the watered-down, least common denominator fare on television, about which everyone complains. Lots of people really liked Bill Hicks's material; lots of people really didn't.


Stick to poly-sci, leave comedy to the professionals.

Hi Brendan,

Again we have a difference of opinion--I found Jon's "joke" to be both ironic and insightful, in other words, political comedy at its best. But if you would like to start blogging about political comedy, maybe you could share with us some things that you do think are funny--depending on your sense of humor, that might be much more interesting.


I used to find you an interesting read. But sadly, you have lost me after over-coverage of the Duke scandle and now this. You said it's easy for satirists to give in to temptation and see themselves as serious political commentators. It is their job to attack human vices, stupidity or follies through irony, derision, or wit. Satire was developed to make a social or political point. If you can't handle such sophisticated humor as satire, I suggest you find an old three stooges movie to watch.

True not funny, and what's with the Nazi card?

Stewart should know better. I remember him sermonizing that issue a few months ago in reference to Santorum (R-PA) and Byrd (D-WV).

You know what we need to fix this? A Constitutional Amendment!


To answer your Update question, J.S. makes jokes about democrats and liberals all the time, and yes, they are just as funny. Your example, of course, is completely not funny. Is that the best you can do? Sorry, we are simply not vibing on the issue of humor.


Hey Brendan,

I thought about your comparison in the 'update' section.

Obviously it is ridiculous to suggest that people who appear to have similar views on a few issues are 'one and the same.'

However, couldn't it be said that Jon's 'joke' was not suggesting this? I think he was commenting on the scary Orwellian tone that we've all had to hum to over the past couple of years. I did not see it as a direct comparison of the Nazi's and the American Right.

Finally I'd like to say this: Comedy is all about atmosphere, timing and inflection. It's why Dave Chapelle is so friggin' funny. Neither of us were there at the Peabody Awards and we can't take a single joke out of context and critique how funny it was. By the same token, I agree with you that Colbert's Press Dinner-Thing wasn't that funny - he should have reserved some time to talk about Bears and Filliam H. Muffman. Instead he did to his audience what he does every day to the subjects of interviews - he made them visibly uncomfortable. Come to think of it - Maybe the joke was on all of us.

"Everybody's a critic", said Jon Stewart after reading Nyhan's post. Wait, that wasn't Jon Stewart. That was Ghengis Khan!

They can't all be silver bullets, Brendan. When your job is to push the envelope with incisive political humor, you'll sometimes push buttons, too. Relax.

For my part, I'm much more concerned about poisonous rhetoric from people who claim to be serious.

Comparing the Bush administration to Nazis is sophisticated humor? You've got to be kidding.

Ask and ye shall recieve:


"Yes. Adolph Hitler, one of the worst mass murders in all history, has now become the go to metaphor and comparison for anyone you have a minor disagreement with."

As far as Jon and Arjun's comments, I would ask you guys to think about how pundits use humor as a way to get away with saying things that would not otherwise be acceptable. Rush Limbaugh, for instance, did a long, supposedly comedic routine comparing Tom Daschle to the devil. Ann Coulter uses "humor" to get away with cheap shots and unfair comparisons. So does Michael Moore. Etc. etc. Just because a statement is made in the context of comedy shouldn't reduce the scrutiny that we give it.

Hi Bredan,

I also found the comments by Yglesias that you linked above to be distasteful. But I do not feel the same about J.S.'s comment.

In your previous comments regarding Yglesias, you wrote: "Almost always, the analogy isn't being used because it's accurate, but because it makes the other side look bad."

In this case, it looks like the analogy is being used because it is accurate. There are people here in the USA doing the kinds of things that Hermann Goering advocated in his quote (assuming the quote is accurate). I find the "Hermann Goering" approach for manipulating public opinion to be so distasteful that pointing it out is more than appropriate.

BTW, are you sure J.S. was referring to the Bush administration, or are you just reading that into what he said?


In this case, it looks like the analogy is being used because it is accurate.

Yeah, I've got to agree with this. There's an easily discernible difference between invoking Hitler by means of comparison to suggest someone is being uncompromising or inflexible, which is what we often see, and drawing a parallel between policies. Even if one feels Stewart's joke was inappropriate, or simply unfunny, it's still not the same in kind to the old "You're being a total Nazi about this" type thing.

Ignore the commentators, Brendan.

It's all about YOU, man. You should be the final arbitor of everyone else's conduct. Funny man Jon Stewart should stay in his place and make us laugh, laugh, laugh and laugh.

Leave this politics stuff the the acknowledged expert: Grad student Brendan Nyhan.


I thought you were acting as the comedy police in regards to Colbert, not Stewart. Colbert was funny, you just didn't get it.

Despite what the comments are above, you hit the nail on the head. People, however, put these comics on a pedestal. Let us break it down.
Pre-9/11: Mostly comics or Hollywood types on the Daily Show. This was because they were following the Jon Stewart Show's footsteps.
Post-9/11: Now they change to the political spectrum. More pundits and govt officials.

Now the proof that they were catering to the knee-slapping of the Liberal crowd: After the 2004 election, you could hear a pin drop in the audience after every joke. I felt a little uncomfortable watching it. Kinda like when the Python fellas did the Dead Parrot bit on SNL and no one laughed; at all.
So, Bush-bashing=Funny.
Bush wins election=Not Funny.
I'm thinking the audience is not leaning Conservative. ;-)
Producers have to keep those folks happy.

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