Why Bill Maher Will Make You Laugh, but Rush Limbaugh Will Not


I started my political life as a dyed-in-the-wool Republican. I became a libertarian before it was cool to be a libertarian (assuming it's cool now). Some of these points of view are highly visible in my writings even now, but I have moved on and now I proudly proclaim myself an evolved progressive. What happened? I used to be such a solid guy!

First, I learned that I like to laugh. You know, it’s just more fun to laugh than to be serious all the time. I also found out that the easiest person to laugh at is oneself. I figured out that I’m human and as such I’m not infallible. I make mistakes. While this may come as a really big surprise to many of the right wing pundits here at PolicyMic, I have been wrong in the past – the far distant past – the Pliocene perhaps. But what I learned after repeating the same mistakes for years, was that if I laugh at my mistakes, I remember them better and as a result I am better able to learn from them. Now I am able to group the world into two sets of people: Those who are intelligent enough to be able to laugh at themselves, and those who aren’t

I also used to listen to talk radio. Specifically, I listened to Rush Limbaugh. Yeah, me a "Limburger" fan! But I never laughed much while he was on. Outside of a few hours of Rush, another commentator was on. A guy who billed himself as “the Voice of Reason,” Tom Barberi. What? Reason in Utah? Who is this guy casting alleged pearls before swine? I had to listen! The first thing I noticed was that he was cracking jokes. Listening to Limbaugh for 4 hours made me angry. Listening to Barberi for 2 hours made me laugh for 2 hours. Did I mention I like to laugh?

And there’s something else. When somebody is lying to me, it isn’t funny. Even if you try to make a joke out of it, it either doesn’t go over or its obvious that it’s a lie. I can laugh at a lie if you make a joke out of the fact that it’s a lie. – A Republican, a Democrat and a Cockroach walk into a bar, the bartender says “What’s the Joke?” – Obviously a lie, cockroaches have minimum standards about who they drink with.

Now lets look at two political “entertainers” who have been in the news lately, my old friend Rush and my new friend Bill Maher. Rush is always riding the Democratic Party like a pony express rider who can’t find the relay station. It doesn’t matter what is offered, it doesn’t matter who’s idea it is, it doesn’t matter what else might be said about it. If it was mentioned by a Democrat, its evil. Once again, listening to Rush – even if I were to believe what he has to say – leaves me angry. Bill Maher on the other hand seems hell bent to destroy the Republican Party. He is willing to lambaste the Democratic party on occasion, but the GOP is his primary target. As proof, I offer his segment “dispatches from the bubble.” He has very little to say about Republicans that is complimentary. But when I listen to Real Time, Bill Maher’s HBO program, I wind up laughing for most of an hour.

Meanwhile, on the Comedy Central Channel, we have an hour, four nights a week of political humor. Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show is what brought me here to PolicyMic, when I saw a Facebook entry pointing out a Daily Show segment that was mentioned in a PolicyMic article . The Colbert Report comes up next, and is a parody of Sean Hannity. Colbert – founder of the Super Pac, Making a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow – is particularly adept at making conservative talking points sound ridiculous. All in all, these two gentlemen are an hour of hysteria in my life four nights a week. Add in Maher, and I almost want weekends not to happen.

So what’s my point? Right wing “entertainers” spend all of their air time spreading half-truths and vitriol. I know they aren’t telling the whole truth because they can’t crack a joke to save their lives, and there is never any room for compromise or mistakes. They don’t offer workable solutions to problems, they only spread hatred and anger, and they never perform outside the studio. Left wing “entertainers” on the other hand can be found outside the studio in stand up comedy shows, they often offer simple ways to solve problems (other than just eliminating the other party) in a comedic package, and after you spend an hour listening to them you have a smile on your face.

Could it be as simple as that? Did I become a progressive just because I’d rather laugh than cry? Well, wouldn’t you?