Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Unfunny conservatives and "Mallard Fillmore" creator's DUI

From the 'humorless right-wing hypocrites' file comes this little tidbit about unfunny conservative cartoonist Bruce Tinsley.

Tinsley, creator of the conservative comic strip Mallard Fillmore, was arrested in Columbus Dec. 4 and charged with operating a vehicle under the influence -- his second alcohol-related arrest in less that four months, according to the Bartholomew County Sheriff's Department.

Tinsley, 48, who lives in Columbus, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.14 -- almost twice the level at which an Indiana driver is considered intoxicated. He posted $755 bond.

On Aug. 26, Tinsley was arrested for public intoxication, according to the sheriff's department.

Mallard Fillmore, about a conservative duck, appears in almost 400 newspapers nationwide, including The Indianapolis Star.

Well, I guess that explains why "Mallard Fillmore" is the biggest laugh-free comic strip since "The Family Circus" (though this version is hilarious). For those not familiar with Tinsley's atrocity, this feeble attempt at a cartoon is positioned as a wingnut answer to "Doonesbury". Only difference is that while Garry Trudeau's strip is often funny and ironic, "Mallard Fillmore" is neither. Often, the thing reads like a moronic wingnut whinefest with cheapshot attacks aimed at Democrats, tired political correctness cliches and liberal celebrities. Essentially, it's kinda like a comic strip from Ann Coulter, but she's actually mildly funny, albeit in an unintentionally tragic and pathetic way. Tinsley's work is simply just crude and ill-informed.

One of the problems with "Mallard Fillmore" is that conservatives, by nature, are really not funny. Often, conservative 'humor' comes off as just plain mean spirited and whiney. They also seem to just simply tread tired gags and stereotypes. Clinton blow-job jokes were a staple of late-night television in the 1990s, now they're pretty worn out as conservatives still use them. Same with the hippie and tree-hugger jokes. They seem so hard-up for material, they're even trying to dig up the grave of shamed commie-baiter Joe McCarthy.

Humor and satire work much more effectively when directed toward those in power, or rather unpopular subjects. Poking fun at 'the establishment' is effective, while ribbing the disenfranchised comes across as bullying.

Humor also has a self-depricating quality to it. Without it, the budding jokester comes across as a shallow hypocrite (as Tinsley has in his mocking of Sen. Ted Kennedy). Many on the right claim that "The Daily Show" has an outright liberal bias toward it. Even FOX 'News', as well as a few others, are planning their own answer to it. But "The Daily Show" often mocks those on the left as well, such as the funny bit about Nancy Pelosi replacing the Pledge of Allegiance with a passage from The Vagina Monologues. The creators of "South Park" have a distinct advantage, as Trey Parker and Matt Stone have been very vocal about their strong dislike of both conservatives and liberals. Maintaining a political viewpoint rarely takes precedence over a good joke. Even the occasional funny conservative such as P.J. O'Rourke realizes this. While Rush Limbaugh enjoyed some success ridiculing the party in power during the 1990s (Democrats), his show has sounded much more whiney and apologetic since the Republicans took over. Ever hear Limbaugh mock Republicans? Of course not.

All in all, when conservatives try to be funny, they most often come across as a straight-forward version of Frank Burns from the classic TV series "M*A*S*H", even though the late, great Larry Linville brilliantly played the ultra-conservative war hawk character for laughs as a satire in itself. And the character was embraced by millions because of it. Stephen Colbert gets this too, as he brilliantly satirizes conservative commentators every night.

Most of the time, conservative humor comes across as unintentionally funny. Recently, a University of Texas student group called the "Young Conservatives of Texas" created a parody Christmas nativity scene, complete with a gay couple called Gary and Joseph standing in for the expectant parents, a terrorist shepherd with a bomb strapped to himself, Marx, Stalin and Lenin as the three wise men, incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as an angel and no baby Jesus in the manger. It was an ill-informed protest directed at the ACLU, who are obviously a non-partisan group (they even defended Rush Limbaugh, for cryin' out loud!). Now, if this nativity scene parody were done by a left-leaning group, it would have been much funnier. Instead, as a conservative protest, it's mostly met with groans and eye-rolling. The last laugh came from the ACLU, who have taken the whole protest in stride: "I think it's fairly festive,' said ACLU executive director Will Harrell. "We want to make sure they have a right to freely exercise their First Amendment right. But keep in mind, nothing in the First Amendment requires that you be accurate about the information. The First Amendment protects parody as well."

Now that's funny!

Even funnier is the thought of the letters of adoration that are soon to come in over this article. Such as this one from "Peter Mccabe" (his spelling, not mine), who obviously is a big fan of this site:

From: "Peter M Mccabe"
To: ltradiomail@yahoo.com
Date: Tue, 12 Dec 2006 12:14:38 -0600

you people are full of hate

Full of 'hate'? No way! We're full of loooooove! Now, if you would have said "full of shit", then you may have a point...


Anonymous said...

The big point of difference I point out between Doonsbury and Mallard Fillmore is that Doonsbury has characterization and long term story arcs. From what I've read of it, Mallard Fillmore has two character types -- the put-upon hero and the condescending, idiot liberals that surround him.

Since funny can be subjective (often leading to "It isn't"/"Yes, it is."/"You just don't have a sense of humor." conversations) I usually get more mileage by pointing out that Doonsbury has greater aspirations than a political message, which is all Mallard Filmore tries to offer.

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