A 2022 Best Comedy Book, Vulture
A rousing call for liberals and progressives to pay attention to the emergence of right-wing comedy and the political power of humor.
"Why do conservatives hate comedy? Why is there no right-wing Jon Stewart?" These sorts of questions launch a million tweets, a thousand op-eds, and more than a few scholarly analyses. That's Not Funny argues that it is both an intellectual and politically strategic mistake to assume that comedy has a liberal bias. Matt Sienkiewicz and Nick Marx take readers––particularly self-described liberals––on a tour of contemporary conservative comedy and the "right-wing comedy complex."
In That's Not Funny, "complex" takes on an important double meaning. On the one hand, liberals have developed a social-psychological complex—it feels difficult, even dangerous, to acknowledge that their political opposition can produce comedy. At the same time, the right has been slowly building up a comedy-industrial complex, utilizing the humorous, irony-laden media strategies of liberals such as Jon Stewart, Samantha Bee, and John Oliver to garner audiences and supporters. Right-wing comedy has been hiding in plain sight, finding its way into mainstream conservative media through figures ranging from Fox News's Greg Gutfeld to libertarian podcasters like Joe Rogan. That's Not Funny taps interviews with conservative comedians and observations of them in action to guide readers through media history, text, and technique. You will find many of these comedians utterly appalling, some surprisingly funny, and others just plain weird. They are all, however, culturally and politically relevant—the American right is attempting to seize spaces of comedy and irony previously held firmly by the left. You might not like this brand of humor, but you can't ignore it.
That's Not Funny How the Right Makes Comedy Work for Them
About the Book
A 2022 Best Comedy Book, Vulture
"Provocative. . . . Progressives will want to take notice."—Publishers Weekly
"Astute and accessible. . . . As Sienkiewicz and Marx convincingly argue, comedy’s power can be used to shift the ideological and political needle in any direction depending on who is telling the jokes. We should be paying attention lest we ignore an entire ecosystem working to accumulate not just fans but political power."—New Review of Film and Television Studies
"Sienkiewicz & Marx have produced a very significant book that will shift the view of the relationships between humor, comedy, the media (including especially new media), and the political landscape. Their book is easy to read, devoid of jargon, and very clearly presented."—Humor
"The most fascinating and haunting comedic book of an academic nature in years."—Vulture
"A timely examination of an important contemporary cultural phenomenon…certainly likely to encourage class discussion."—Studies in American Humor"An excellent tour through the contemporary right-wing media comedy complex, an area many of us know too little about and have resisted investigating on our own. I praise the authors for how beautifully they weave analysis into their descriptions of comedic performances and texts."—Viveca S. Greene, Associate Professor of Media Studies, Hampshire College
"Looking directly at a partial eclipse, the authors of That's Not Funny push our critical considerations of humor beyond questions of taste, value, or political allegiance. They confront far-right laughter so we don't have to in their most engaging, timely, and evocative study."—Maggie Hennefeld, author Specters of Slapstick & Silent Film Comediennes
Table of Contents
Introduction: Right-Wing Comedy
1. Fox News and Mainstream Right-Wing Comedy
2. Making Comedy Great Again: Paleocomedy
3. Religio-Rational Satire: Owning the Libs One Faulty Syllogism at a Time
4. The Legions of Libertarian Podcasters
5. Trolling the Depths of the Right-Wing Comedy Complex
Conclusion: Performing Right and Left