Well, now, unfortunately, that world of real edifying and delightful late night entertainment is dead. And what has replaced it is a bunch of sanctimonious virtue signaling from self-appointed leaders of the anti-Trump resistance. Now when you turn on late night television, you will watch Stephen Colbert give f-bomb laced rants about President Trump performing oral sex on Vladimir Putin; you will see Jimmy Kimmel lecture us all week long about everything from healthcare to mental health to gun control. In fact, the latest from Kimmel is that he likened the ruling for the Christian baker and same sex wedding to refusing to serve Jewish people. What Kimmel was referring to is that a California judge, if you can believe it, yes there are still sane California judges out there, a California judge held that a Christian baker, Cathy Miller, has a First Amendment right not to create a wedding cake for a same-sex ceremony. The case was brilliantly argued, in my opinion, in that Miller’s defense was that she had no interest in discriminating against homosexuals; she’d be happy to serve anyone who came into her store; what she refused to do was participate in something; she had no interest in using her skills to participate in a wedding, and they argued she has every constitutional right not to participate. And they won.
But in the liberal la-la land of Jimmy Kimmel, that is a no-no; you are not allowed to dissent in any way, shape, or form when it comes to the LGBT fascism fad. And so, he callously likened this refusal to participate in a homosexual wedding to anti-semetic refusals to serve Jewish people. Oh, how funny; how creative; how entertaining, Jimmy; what unique insight on your part.
Now, if you happened to miss this, well, you are not alone. The fact is that nobody is really watching late night television anymore. Ben Domenech over at The Federalist points out that the late-night viewership of ABC, CBS, and NBC COMBINED is barely breaking 8 million viewers total. Just to give you a sense of how far things have plummeted for late-night television, not so long ago Jay Leno, who replaced Johnny Carson, was bringing in 6 million viewers all on his own. Johnny Carson could score 9 million viewers; nearly 20 million people watched his Tonight Show farewell. Now the total of all three network shows combined are bringing in basically what Jay Leno got on his own.
Of course there are a number of factors playing into this mass decline in audience viewership, such as the advent of YouTube, right? People can watch what they want when they want. But many believe there’s something much more going on here, because we are seeing similar ratings plummets with the NFL this year, as well as the Emmy Awards shows and even the current Winter Olympics coverage. There seems to be a one-to-one correlation between the politicalization of entertainment and a drop in audience viewership. Right? Se we saw this with the national anthem protests in the NFL, where even DirecTV had to issue refunds for viewers who boycotted the season as an expression of their outrage over their sports games becoming political commentary, and pathetic commentary at that.
But this does not seem to be bothering the late-night industry in the least. When Jimmy Kimmel was asked about whether he was worried about losing Republican viewers, he basically said: ‘Good riddance!’ Actually, he said, rather than saying ‘good riddance, I would just say: riddance.’ Which again, is so unclever, it is so uncreative, so intellectually lazy. What Kimmel is getting at here is that he and his producers recognize that when he says anything inflammatory against Trump, his ratings go up. Same with Colbert. And so the business model that the producers of these late show programs are pushing is one that goes after niche-markets, particularly political niche markets. This appears to be what Colbert and Kimmel have over Jimmy Fallon at the Tonight Show, who has stayed away from political niche markets, but as a result has seen his ratings decline. What Colbert and Kimmel are trying to do is become the late-night kings of this every diminishing and dwindling market share.
Now there are two things I think we can glean from all of this. First …
We have to understand that historically, comedy was a means of cultural critique. If we go back to ancient Greece, we find that comedy sought to address the political and social issues of their day with whimsical critique and satire. The neat thing about classical comedy is the keen insight that it gave to society. For example, Aristophanes’ Lysistrata critiqued the ancient Greek notion that women were sexually unbridled and undisciplined. In order to end the Peloponnesian War, the women of the various city-states went on a sex strike which in effect forced the men to stop fighting, since that’s all the men really ultimately wanted. So as it turns out, it is the men with the unbridled passions. You see, classical comedy employed irony and satire to make profound social commentary. And this was developed in Christianity as well. St. Phillip Neri [NEARi] was actually called ‘The Humorous Saint,’ and he used self-deprecating humor as a way to express humility. And as Anthony Esolen reminds us, laughter is one of the key motifs of our heavenly and redemptive hope.
If we take a step back here, we will notice that what we find funny actually says a lot about who we are as people. Our comedians in many respects reveal our worldviews. I remember saying a joke that was not particularly complimentary of women and the feminists in my classroom were hardly amused, they were in fact offended by it. Humor reveals what is normative and acceptable in a society, it exposes what is sacred and inviolable. And I think in many respects that is what we are seeing with the new niche-marketing in late-night television. The combination of lewd routines and virtue posturing are not aimed at converting anyone; they are aimed at the already converted. As Rich Lowry over at the New York Post commented, Stephen Colbert is not trying to convince anyone; he is scorning and mocking Trump for the benefit of people who already hate him.
As a result, the quality of comedy and richness of cultural insight just begin to disappear. Again, Lowry noted that agitprop or political propaganda just is not that funny. And so these comedians lower themselves to the kind of shock comedy found in the likes of Howard Stern and others, where cultural critique takes a back seat to fulfilling linguistic and conceptual lusts. Gone are the insightful critiques of culture, and in their place, you have a kind of pornification of humor. Through say the shock comedian, I experience perverse and lewd language and concepts that excite me precisely because these are not supposed to be said and done in public. It is basically the pornification of comedy. And then I extend that pornification to political figures and paradigms that my audience hates, and voila, I am at the top of the ratings; forget the fact that those ratings represent an ever dwindling portion of the market share. Who cares? It works for Kimmel and Cobert.
The second thing I think we need to recognize is that this decline in ratings seems to me to be another indicator that the world is really turning away from these kind of secular corporatist globalist celebrations. We are increasingly frankly bored with the virtue signaling; and we are not particularly attracted to the vulgar and lewd laced rants that substitute for classical comedy. It is just not very funny anymore; it is just not very entertaining. So people are watching their choice of Netflix series, or Fox’s late night line-up of Seinfeld or 30 Rock episodes; they are just not interested in tuning into the cultural equivalent of the losers from the Democratic National Committee.
So, all in all, I think the demise of late night television is just another indicator of the cultural rot that is the secular liberalism that so pervades our elitist institutions. The globalist vision of life is indeed dying, and unfortunately, watching rot and whither on late night television is anything but funny.