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June 15, 2003
Why Me Laugh: It's All About Stereotypes (My First Fisking Ever)
Posted by Frank J. at 11:53 AM | View blog reactions | Comments (30)

John Hawkins recently took a post of mine about Hillary Clinton and turned it into a top ten list (he has special permission to do that). In the comments section, though, some woman named Elaine, angered by my attacks against Hilary just because she is "democratic, outspoken, and a woman", took it upon herself to prove that I'm a fraud as a satirist by saying that almost all the jokes I made about Hillary could easily be applied to any politician and be just as funny.

Oh, silly, silly girl.

If you don't mind me being long-winded and not very funny for a bit (though there is a brand new top ten list at the end of the post), let's take some time to analyze this. Let me put on my scientist hat...

UPDATE: The Gingrinch list has put placed on the Democratic Underground by my inside man, my brother Joe foo' the Marine. Let's see if Whinus Liberalus reacts to the stimuli.

Now, I'm not saying my jokes about Hillary were my best work, but let's take a second to analyze why my list was funny, or, at least, where it attempted humor. As I discussed some time ago, humor and laughter is used as a social function to disapprove of certain behavior (or people). Despite Elaine's assertion, almost all the items on the list was tailored to the stereotypes people who don't like Hillary Clinton would hold of her, and so it probably wouldn't be funny to someone who did like her. Let's go through each of them, shall we.


10) Exactly how many people she estimated her universal health plan would kill.

I'd have to say that's the worst of the list. The joke is she made her health plan with the intention of harming people, but, really the statement is really just a polemic, and someone would only laugh at it because they hate Hillary so much they'd laugh at anything bad said about her (like me).

9) That Chelsea Clinton was played by a child actor.

What this plays off of is that the fact that many people believe the Clinton's lives to be quite staged for the camera, and, this, of course, is a joke about the extreme nature they would go to keep up appearances for the camera.

8) Whether she shot Vince Foster execution style or gangsta style.

Many people think Hillary is just plain evil, and the joke here is one would assume that she had murdered Vince Foster, and it was only a question of how.

7) What are the exact details of her pact with Satan.

This I would say is one of the weaker ones (not everything has to be knock you down funny, but it's nice to just keep a tempo going until the next really good joke). All it is is a Hillary is evil joke, since many people believe her to be evil.

6) Whether her banshee-like scream can cause people's heads to explode just like if she were a Scanner.

Rumors of Hillary's temper are well known, and this is just an exaggeration of that idea.

5) Whether regular bullets can kill her or do you need to use silver ones.

This is another Hillary is evil joke, but more clever than the previous. It's playing off the idea she is not only evil, but also some demonic harpy, creature or what not.

4) That every time she lies, her thighs grow larger.

This seemed to be everyone's favorite. I've honestly never noticed it myself, but people say Hillary has enormous thighs. This joke is good because it plays on two stereotypes of Hillary at the same time: the size of her thighs and that she's a liar. Plus it makes a subtle Pinocchio reference (references, especially one's that take a short amount of thought, make great humor because it's showing you share special knowledge with the person hearing the joke... well, that's a topic for another time).

3) How many genetic scientists did she kidnap to make flying monkeys for her.

Hillary is a witch, so she needs flying monkeys. Another "Hillary is evil" joke.

2) For what purpose does she like to drink the blood of small children.

Again, Hillary is evil, so she drinks the blood of small children. This is another demonic, evil reference (and one, frankly, I think lacks a certain kick to it).

1) Who would win in a fight between her and Aquaman.

This is the only item that has nothing to do with Hillary. It's a running joke for my Know Thy Enemy™ pieces (which Elaine probably didn't know), and it's only funny because Aquaman is so lame why would you compare him against anyone.

Now Elaine tried to apply all these jokes to Newt Gingrinch to demonstrate that they were derivative and stupid. Let's look at her results.

10) Exactly how many people he estimated his proposal for privatization of Welfare would actually benefit.

Okay, that one is not even trying to be a joke.

9) That Newt's emphasis on "family values" was supposed to be a sham all along.

That's just a polemic. There is a joke to be made about Gingrinch being hypocritical about family values, but this doesn't even try.

8) Whether he soiled Calista Bisek's little blue skirt accidentally or in an attempt to copycat the president.

There might be a joke of Gingrinch actually wanting to be like Clinton, I think this would work a lot better if it referred to an actual incident.

7) What are the exact details of his pact with Satan.

As I said before, this was one of the weaker jokes, and, as a result, could actually apply just as easily to any politician someone would think is evil. The only comment I would make, though, is that a list against Newt Gingrinch would probably be aimed at liberals who tend not to be as receptive to a stark, biblical good/evil reference.

6) Whether his banshee-like voice can cause people excessive brain damage if they listen to him for extended periods of time.

Now this one is just a train wreck. A banshee is a female specter, which is why it was applied to Hillary. Also, I've never heard anyone accuse Gingrinch's voice of being a mixture of screeching and wailing. There are a lot of actual stereotypes people hold of Gingrinch, and this doesn't use any of them.

5) Whether regular bullets can kill him or do you need to use silver ones.

Now here is where the subtle differences of the subject come into play. Gingrinch is seen more as a Mr. Burns type of corporate evil, and thus this isn't quite as appropriate with him.

4) That every time he lies, his belly grows larger.

The problem with this is that while Gingrinch is chubby, he's not exceptionally fat which is needed to really make this joke work. This might be better for Rep. Jerry Nadler. You really want an exceptionally large feature, so a good joke may be "Every time Ted Kennedy lies, his head grows larger." Then again, the extreme stereotypes held by the right wing against Ted Kennedy isn't that he lies. "Every time Ted Kennedy drives a woman off a bridge, his head grows larger." Okay, now that was just mean :)

3) How many genetic scientists did he kidnap to make flying monkeys for him.

The problem here again is that people who hate Gingrinch don't really see him as a witch (or a warlock).

2) For what purpose does he like to drink the blood of small children.

Could work with a little more tailoring since Gingrinch is supposed to hate orphans. Notice, though, how the weaker the joke, the more it could just be thrown on someone else.

1) Who would win in a fight between him and Toadman.

Is there even a superhero named Toadman?

Elaine wanted to prove she wasn't some leftist who loved Hillary (though she quite conspicuously doesn't deny either; come on, who other than a wacky leftist wouldn't have anything other than venomous hatred for Hillary), so she tried to do the same thing with Al Gore as the subject. Let's go through this quickly.

10) Exactly how many people he estimated his internet would kill.

Doesn't work; internet doesn't kill people. Probably some joke involving porn would work better.

9) That his entire family was played by robots.

Much of humor is all about playing off the stereotypes people hold, and people think Gore is a robot, not his family (his daughters are hot!).

8) Whether he was the one who crippled that old lady he brought to the National Debate.

Okay, this one is funny :) There were a lot of charges of his image being staged (Alpha male), so this works.

7) What are the exact details of his pact with Satan.

Gore isn't seen as evil as much as just a dork.

6) Whether his robotic boring voice can be used as an effective form of Euthanasia.

Gore's manner of speaking is considered more odd than boring. This would work better for Liberman (without the word "robotic").

5) Whether regular bullets can kill or do you have to use silver ones.

He's a robot. Bullets would bounce off him.

4) Every time he loses, he grows fatter.

This is somewhat funny because it is a witty observation.

3) How many genetic scientists did he kidnap to make flying monkeys for him.

Gore + flying monkeys = Wha?

2) For what purpose does he drink the blood of small children.

Again, this just falls way too far from the stereotypes held about Al Gore.

1) Who would win in a fight between him and Captain Nemo.

Captain Nemo?

Anyway, now lets try to make a funny list at the expense of Newt Gingrinch. Now, all this analysis is just done as a post mortem; I just write funny without any mechanical process. If I do try to break it down, though, the first thing I would do is gather what are the stereotypes held about the subject (though it would be done subconsciously). So what is that for Gingrinch?

* Hates orphans.
* Hates poor people.
* Hypocrite on family values (especially that incident in which he announced divorce to his wife while she was dying of cancer)
* Caustic figure ("males are biologically driven to go out and hunt giraffes").
* All usual right wing stereotypes.

So here is the list (not all necessarily playing off those stereotypes; you just have to go with what seems funny).


10. Is the four-time champion at “Starving Orphan Tossing”.

9. Is a natural blond, but dies his hair gray to try and fit in.

8. Was forever banned from the D.C. zoo when he was biologically driven to try and kill the giraffes.

7. Though he loved becoming Speaker of the House, he still considers his best accomplishment besting a hog in a pie-eating contest.

6. Cherishes family values so much that he keeps trying to find a more valuable family.

5. Was enraged by the Newsweek cover that declared him the "Gingrinch Who Stole Christmas" because what he really was trying to destroy was Kwanzaa.

4. His backyard is full of unmarked hobo graves.

3. Waited until his previous wife had a high fever to tell her he never actually liked her tuna casserole.

2. Once suckered punched Hillary and then ran like hell.

1. Has a doll head named Casey he holds close when he is hiding from the monsters.

Now, as an exercise, write in the comments why each of these items are or are not funny (I'll e-mail Elaine to join in).

Also, it would be a great experiment if someone with access to the Democratic Underground could post the list as is without saying where it is from and then e-mailing me the link so we can all see the reactions of authentic liberals.

In conclusion, humor is a subtle thing, and a good humorist must have a natural grip of that subtlety. It also helps to wear a good t-shirt.

Rating: 2.7/5 (29 votes cast)

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