Being funny is hard. Staying funny can be even tougher.
Something happens to comedians who embrace a woke sensibility, speeding up the unfortunate career arc from “hilarious” to “not so much.”
Suddenly, so many topics that once came naturally to comics are off limits. What’s worse? They often care more about pimping a point of view than leaving us in stitches.
The following comics fit neatly into this new mold. They once made us howl, but lately they’re too eager for clapter, not guffaws.
Kimmel cut his teeth on radio before finding success in mainstream gigs. His affable persona graced first “Win Ben Stein’s Money” and, later, “The Man Show.”
That gig let Kimmel tell bawdy jokes leavened by his Everyman pose. His impish appeal told audiences he didn’t take his misogyny seriously, and nor should you. He just wanted to poke societal conventions and ogle girls jumping on trampolines.
He eventually found broadcast stardom with “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” the ABC gig he’s held since 2003.
The new Kimmel, though, is a far cry from the older model. Like his late-night peers, Kimmel cares more about scoring political points than making us laugh. He’s also accepted how his newly angry self left many fans behind. When asked how he felt about losing Republican viewers he famously answered, “not good riddance, but riddance.”
His agreeable persona is gone, apparently for good. Consider the arrogance it takes to share this quote on a major podcast.
“It just so happens that almost every talk show host is a liberal,” Kimmel quipped on the Pod Save America podcast, “and that’s because it requires a level of intelligence.”
Gone is the Kimmel who cranks out killer viral videos like the twerking girl who set herself on fire. Kimmel 2.0 promotes progressive platitudes over that kind of inclusive shtick.
Part of his woke transformation may be a form of self-protection. Ogling bikini girls and dressing in blackface on a cable TV show is hardly Woke 101. If Kimmel ever stops promoting progressive talking points they might circle back and let him know just that.
The future star of Hulu’s “I Love You, America” caught the nation flat-footed when she first hit comedy stages. She was lanky and lovely, and she said the naughtiest things in her act. It wasn’t just R-rated fare, but button-stabbing swipes that made audiences roar.
No topic was taboo.
Look at this cheery young woman talking like a sailor. A drunken sailor, to be exact. Her humor wasn’t boozy, though. It takes skill to tell bawdy bits that make millions laugh.
Silverman couldn’t catch us off-guard forever. She decided to parley her fame into Alyssa Milano-style activism. Even worse? She flirted with, and then grew angry about, Cancel Culture.
Her reactions felt knee-jerk and selfish, depending on her whims. Still, her recent work no longer has that sharp comic attitude. In fact, she often gets our attention with absurd virtue signaling like apologizing for a 14-year-old joke about Paris Hilton. Comedians saying they’re sorry for old jokes is the wrong brand of funny.
Who was the old Chelsea Handler? Her book titles tell the tale.
“Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea”
“My Horizontal Life”
“Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang”
The E! superstar shredded pop culture headlines on her long-running talk show. She was rude and unapologetic, and her brand of comedy hit home with folks disgruntled with celebrity excess.
She took her shtick to Netflix, and that’s when her transformation began. She started the streamer’s talk show by admitting she knew little about politics. She’s spent the subsequent years lecturing us from her comical high horse, getting plenty wrong in the process.
These days she’s lecturing fans on their white privilege on Netflix and elsewhere.
The funniest thing she did in recent months? She shared a Louis Farrakhan clip on social media pushing pre-woke rhetoric, attacked those who blasted her for sharing an avowed racist and hater and later apologized for doing just that.
Blame age, decades of therapy, or a hunger for mainstream acceptance. Stern isn’t the same unexpurgated broadcaster he once was. How could he be? Sometimes youth brings a ferocity to a comedian’s work that’s hard to duplicate.
Time proved kind to Stern, Inc., though. He got insanely rich, joined an audio platform where he could drop all the “f-bombs” he wanted and watched his detractors move on to other cultural targets. That became clear when the press fawned over his 2019 book, “Howard Stern Comes Again,” a tome capturing his most memorable interviews.
Something else transformed his shtick.
He started making nice with select enemies, including Rosie O’Donnell. He also spent his increasing leisure time hobnobbing with fellow celebrities, making it harder for him to tease and taunt them as once before.
His 2020 turn against President Donald Trump earned him some of the kindest press he ever received.
A kinder, gentler Howard Stern proved rich, lazy and far less funny than before.
The former “Saturday Night Live” news anchor never reached the heights of his predecessors – think Chevy Chase, Dennis Miller and Norm Macdonald.
Still, Meyers knew his way around a satirical punchline and gave us plenty of laughs from the faux “Weekend Update” anchor desk. He also worked seamlessly with co-host Amy Poehler, a “SNL” era before the show abandoned any pretense of fair and balanced satire.
Meyers leveraged that fame and his extensive NBC ties to snare his own late night showcase.
He wasn’t a natural at the gig, much like predecessor Conan O’Brien. Still, Meyers quickly found his footing and established his “Late Night” perch as part of the comedy landscape.
Enter Donald Trump.
Meyers caught a nasty variant of Trump Derangement Syndrome, turning his comedy showcase into a scold-a-thon. He spent as much time calling Trump and various Republicans “sociopaths” as attempting funny bits.
Even more dispiriting? Meyers introduced a segment in 2016 called, “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell.” Why? He’s a “straight, white male,” meaning it “would be difficult for me to deliver,” Meyers himself said.
The jokes Meyers can still tell today are rarely worth hearing.
Sacha Baron Cohen
The British comic caused a pop culture earthquake by releasing “Borat” upon an unsuspecting public. The 2006 comedy – part scripted, part “Candid Camera” shtick – became a sensation for all the right reasons. It was laugh-out-loud funny, shocking and fresh.
A comedy star was born.
Yes, Cohen had previously created “Da Ali G Show,” but “Borat” elevated his profile in ways many comics dream about. And it was all downhill from there.
His follow-up feature, “Bruno,” lacked “Borat’s” gut-busting bite. Other Cohen comedies fared worse, including “The Dictator” and “The Brothers Grimsby.”
So when word leaked about a secret “Borat” sequel Cohen fans had every right to be nervous. Could it revive Cohen’s dormant funny bone? And how could any sequel match the original “Borat’s” laugh quotient?
Turns out those weren’t the questions keeping Cohen up at night. He wanted to defeat President Donald Trump at the ballot box, and he focused his attention on bits meant to do just that.
The result? “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” starts strong but the laughs quickly evaporate. What’s worse? Cohen’s anti-free speech activism, captured by his broadsides against Facebook, morphed into a woke plotline about empowering Borat’s on-screen daughter (the overhyped Maria Bakalova).
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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