‘Good humor,” according to American author Grenville Kleiser, “is a tonic for mind and body. It is the best antidote for anxiety and depression. It is a business asset. It attracts and keeps friends. It lightens human burdens. It is the direct route to serenity and contentment.”

Kleiser is long dead, but his prescient observation lives on. Americans have not been of good humor for many years now, and we are neither serene nor content. Our national mood, once upbeat and positive, has devolved into perpetual angst and outrage. Our once ready smiles replaced by dismissive sneers, and our propensity for good-natured laughter is expropriated by a proclivity for demeaning mockery.

Stand-up comedy in America is an all but dead art form, and telling a joke in a social setting today is akin to walking through a mine field wearing clown shoes. Our skins are thin and our tempers short. We are easily offended and quick to seek retribution. Sadly, we have been complicit in creating this debilitating dysphoria by allowing our once commonsensical rules of civility to be supplanted by a Gordian knot of arbitrary, nonsensical, woke dogma that’s practically indecipherable but stridently enforced nonetheless. In short, there’s not much fun in funny anymore, and there’s really not much that’s funny — or allowed to be funny — either.

Over the past few decades, political forces aligned to slice, dice and julienne American citizenry into a socio-political mélange of demographic divisiveness based on ethnicity, biological gender, gender preference, race, religion, age, body type, education, financial status, political ideology, etc. — ad nauseam. Whether through design or evolution, these now disparate “communities” — to varying degrees — have assumed a mantle of victimhood and an attitude of resentment. They also have hair triggers that are reflexively pulled to condemn, denigrate and silence anyone or any entity they perceive has offended them. The result: It’s virtually impossible to make an innocent statement, much less a joke, that doesn’t offend someone to the extent they demand justice, i.e. public retribution.

Nowhere is the humorlessness of America on more telling display than on late-night television. The days of Johnny Carson spicing up his monologue with a few well-placed political wisecracks (ex. “Did you know Richard Nixon is the only president whose formal portrait was painted by a police sketch artist?”) are, regrettably, long gone. Although today’s late night comic hosts are many (Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert, Seth Myers, et al), their individual shticks are little more than slight variations of a redundant theme that is based on one of the last demographics left deemed acceptable to joke about: Republicans.

It’s fine, Republicans are used to it, and they can take it. But one would think that even woke audiences would, over time, begin to find the nightly litany just a tad tedious and a whole lot unfunny. The two Jimmys and their peers have the smarts and talent to be consistently hilarious. But being among the wokest of the woke, these guys are either naturally disinclined, or too cowardly to push the comedic envelope, which is — or used to be — a foundational precept of creative comedy. It’s telling that late-night studio audiences often clap rather than laugh after a joke, agreeing with what was said but not finding it funny; kind of like a political rally with some tired jokes thrown in.

Fox News recently launched a new late-night show — Gutfeld! — to compete with the shows of the aforementioned comics. Despite generally poor reviews, Gutfeld! has consistently and surprisingly achieved viewership numbers that surpass all of its competitors. A small sampling of the show revealed it to be sometimes funny, just as often cringeworthy but also defiantly unwoke, which could account for its early popularity and high ratings. It’s practically inevitable Gutfeld! will run afoul of the self-appointed humor police at some point, which in itself would prove immensely entertaining. But, for the moment, at least it offers a rare and raucous respite from the homogenized partisan gobbledygook now passing for humor in America.

Johnny Carson once quipped, “I know a man who gave up smoking, drinking, sex and rich food. He was healthy right up to the day he killed himself.” Johnny’s one-liner was intended to provoke a laugh, but in today’s hyper-touchy world, it surely ticks off someone or some group somewhere. More’s the pity.

Brent Grimes writes and laughs, often uproariously and occasionally inappropriately, from the privacy of his home in Damascus. Contact him at brentongrimes@gmail.com.

(22) comments

threecents

I agree with Brent that the late night talk shows have way overdid it with the Trump jokes. There was nothing funny about him being president. Thank goodness he is out. It is absolutely pathetic that House Republicans have not let go of him. They are extremists, and it is time for reasonable conservatives to leave the GOP. When people like Liz Chaney are not conservative enough for the majority, you know the GOP has gone too far to the right. And don't even get me started on Tucker Carlson's call to indict Fauci for creating Covid-19. The GOP is the Party of Stupid now more than ever.

public-redux

“ Liz Cheney is a bitter, horrible human being,” Mr. Trump

Hilarious?

Awteam2021

Sounds like someone can’t laugh at himself nor tolerates others laughter. I imagine as one “woke”, laughter is therapeutic. Rather than Trump’s ‘shtick’ that led to an insurrection, attack on the capital, efforts to hang V.P. Mike Pence, five dead, over 500 now charged. I prefer a little late night laughter to whine down, over an out of control mob destroying democracy. No joke.

sevenstones1000

If Republicans would stop doing stupid and ridiculous things, normal people would stop laughing at them. Think about it.

lewisantq

Gutfield's viewership in its first week surpassed other cable shows in its time slot, not all late night shows. Fox has tried this before and the previous attempts at "comedy" crashed and burned. This will too. Bob Lewis

Dwasserba

Bill Maher Real Time.

JerryR

I'll buy the Bill Maher take - he's getting sick of the libby yahoo's like Redo below.

JerryR

Mr. Grimes, it's called cancel culture and was invented by the left to negate anything remotely associated with conservatism - pretty much psycho indoctrination. As to the Jimmy's and their ilk, they will say anything their producers tell them to because they make a S-load of money doing just that - whether it's funny, dumb, idiotic, or not. And we all know Hollywood is bat-sh_t crazy lib. One of the responders to your column on this page claim the republicans write this themselves with their antics, but you never hear the late night talk shows poke at the current administration with all of Sleepy Joe's gaffe's, stumble's and bumble's, lack of transparency, total screw ups at the border, etc - the list is long. I won't even get started as to the rest of the current administration. Typical cancel culture BS!!

public-redux

Jerry, someone somewhere thinks you are too stupid to know that you are being lied to.

"This next poll asks, ‘What is the worst trip you’ve ever taken? 50% said a family trip, 49% said a work retreat, and President Biden said ‘Walking up the stairs of Air Force One," Jimmy Fallon, March 23rd.

"Biden promised 100 million shots in 100 days. Well, last week he fulfilled that goal in 58 days. Our new president is on a roll, baby! Nothing can stop him now. Except stairs.” Stephen Colbert, March 22nd.

Comment deleted.
phydeaux994

Jerry, you won’t answer the question of why Republican Administrations keep failing, each worse than the last, and Democratic Administrations keep bringing the Country back. Granted, Biden has the toughest job of the three but he will succeed. It would be nice if you and the Republicans tried to help. But NO, you just try to make the Democratic Administration fail, as has happened with Clinton and Obama. What is that all about Jerry, why the HATE??

public-redux

Jerry, if you don’t know what “never” means, perhaps you should look it up.

Personally, I think the “late night hosts never make fun of Biden” lie was promulgated by liberals to show just how gullible some conservatives are. I didn’t fall it for but here you are doubling down. You are proving the libs right. Don’t do that.

JerryR

TBH, I don't watch any of the idiotic late shows anyway. Waste of time - and really, does any sane person actually care?

JerryR

BTW, the demo's have not got anything back in track. Joe Biden couldn't get himself back on the toilet, let alone the country. Like most demo administrations, they take credit for the previous republican administration that kicked our country through the do nothing except compromise our country demo admins. One of my good friends recently got a letter from the white house touting the the money he's getting from Covid relief - it was in Spanish!! And he's a registered republican with a German last name. OMG, they don't even know their constituency and we expect them to run our country!! In-freakin-sane!!

threecents

Jerry, Why would anyone get a letter in Spanish from the White House? I think you were misinformed. Maybe it was in English and Spanish. That would make sense.

bosco

I got my letter from Hidin' Biden taking credit for the vaccine and distribution logistics that he inherited and for the trillions in spending - and it was in English only. How presumptive.

shiftless88

"invented by the left"?? Really? As the Dixie Chicks and Rep. Cheney about cancel culture and the left

Hayduke2

Mitt might also disagree...

dabittle

Amen!!

shiftless88

But you have to admit, with the serial adulterer ex-POTUS, the phony voting laws, the panic about transgender kids competing in sports and the pitch that Trump won the election is pretty tempting fodder for any comedian. The jokes practically write themselves.

shiftless88

Interestingly, I find that any joke I have told for the last 50 years remains appropriate today. Maybe that is because my parents taught me to be sensitive as a kid. I am guessing that Mr. Grimes was totally oblivious about who his jokes used to offend and therefore is only now becoming aware that people who are handicapped, who stutter, who are generally unempowered are tired of being the butt of his tasteless jokes.

DickD

Grimes is a far right wing political nut. Using Faux News for anything as an example shows him for what he is.

pdl603

[thumbup][thumbup], Mr. Grimes.

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