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Save Comedy to Save America?

Christopher Bedford of the Federalist highlights the importance of jokes.

Conan O’Brien did his final late night show last week, after 28 years on air. He’s stepping away at the right time. Whether you liked his comedic style or not, he really was trying to make people laugh.

When was the last time you watched “The Late Show” in order to laugh? That’s a trick question: Nobody who watches Stephen Colbert is laughing. Laughter is entirely beside the point: Colbert’s show is political catechism in nightly hour-long installments.

One of Colbert’s masterworks in June was a song “parody” titled “500 Vials,” which didn’t even have a joke — it was just telling everyone to get the vaccine. It may be the least funny video ever created. …

… Increasingly, though, Colbert is the norm for late-night shows. For four years, limited big-tent political comedy got replaced by an aggressive churn of anti-Donald Trump Resistance theater barely papered over by jokes.

Some have just about given up the ghost entirely: John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” is pretty much nothing but lectures on what a liberal is supposed to be mad about this week. It’s also very stupid.

And remember “The Daily Show”? While certainly steeped in sarcastic vitriol, it’s impossible to say it’s been relevant since Trevor Noah took the reins nearly six years ago. …

… Forget about being allowed to actually make “Blazing Saddles.” No one is allowed to watch “Blazing Saddles” today without looking over both shoulders and closing the blinds. In the film, there are jokes about incredibly adult matters: Hate and racism, women versus men, Chinese people, black people, American Indians, the Irish!, murder, and even rape. Based on that description, why would it be funny? Why wouldn’t we cancel every single participant in that atrocity?

Because it was funny, and it made fun of us — every single one of us. It made fun of our weaknesses and our pride, and in the end, the good guys and the bad guys were clear.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...