Can conservatives be funny?

Can conservatives be funny?

You would have thought that President Obama had nominated Eric Holder to succeed John Roberts as chief justice, not that Les Moonves had named a successor to David Letterman. When Stephen Colbert was promoted to the Late Show throne last month, Rush Limbaugh called in the dogs: “CBS has just declared war on the heartland of America,” he said, by hiring a partisan who would bring about “a redefinition of what is comedy.” The vitriol on the right became so thick that a couple of less excitable conservative columnists were moved to defend Colbert by observing that he is a churchgoing, Sunday-school-teaching Catholic suburbanite raised as one of 11 children in super-red Charleston, South Carolina. Subtext: Count your blessings that CBS isn’t force-feeding the heartland a neurotic urban Jew with suspect family values.

Those pillorying Colbert didn’t seem to grasp the concept that he would have to retire his parodistic right-wing blowhard comic persona once he moved from Comedy Central’s Colbert Report to a ­broadcast-network franchise that competes with the Jimmys Fallon and Kimmel. Not that it mattered: The outrage at Colbert was really just the latest flare-up of a larger, long-term complaint. It’s an article of faith on the right that conservative comedians, like conservative entertainment-industry workers in general, are either blacklisted by Hollywood’s liberal mafia or are in daily danger of being so, thus giving the left a near monopoly on comedy as practiced in the vast cultural swing district of American television. Only a few weeks before the Colbert kerfuffle, the Times had lent front-page gravity to the Friends of Abe, an association of Hollywood conservatives too fearful to disclose its members’ names lest they face “possible job discrimination.”

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