07/19/2010 02:59 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Kathy Griffin, and Why Conservatives Aren't Funny

Comedian Kathy Griffin, on her Bravo show "My Life On The D-List," spoofed Sarah Palin's schooling in world affairs with index cards by having CNN's John King and Dana Bash school her on Washington politicos. A picture of Senator Scott Brown yielded the comment, "He's a senator from Massachusetts, and his daughters are prostitutes." This was followed by a quick disclaimer, in Griffin's voice, from "the Bravo legal department," that said that the girls are "not prostitutes. We now return to our previously scheduled negativity."

Conservative outrage followed, including a statement from Brown: "People can call me any name they want, but families are off limits... Kathy Griffin and Bravo ought to be ashamed of themselves."

Perhaps the source of Griffin's comment was Brown's own statement that his lovely daughters are "available." Griffin's "disclaimer" immediately showed that she was kidding. But whatever, it was just a lame comment on a silly TV show and Brown could have just let it slide and it would have gone away. But no, he had to express righteous indignation. Conservatives have no sense of humor about themselves, which is reason #1 they aren't funny.

Brown is right that families should be off-limits. Thus, Obama's daughters, John McCain's and Sarah Palin's children should be. But conservatives have no problem going after said children when they feel like it. Glenn Beck trashed Obama's daughters, then offered a phony apology. Rush Limbaugh referred to Chelsea Clinton as the "White House dog." In the 2000 primaries, a smear campaign whispered that one of McCain's daughters, adopted from Bangladesh, was his illegitimate black child. Which is the #2 reason conservatives aren't funny: they refuse to admit when they're hypocrites.

However, when a politician's family member puts themselves in the public eye, they are most definitely not off-limits. Bristol Palin is all over the place -- on the cover of US Weekly, shopping a reality series and acting in a TV show like she took lessons from Paris Hilton -- so she has officially become comedy fodder. Sarah Palin had better get ready.

On a recent "O'Reilly Factor," host Monica Crowley and guest Greg Gutfield, host of Fox News' "Red Eye," roundly trashed Griffin and how unfunny she is, as if they are both the comedy police. "Red Eye" is a show where Gutfield throws out topics to guests so desperate to be on TV that they will appear on "Red Eye," who then make snarky comments, usually trashing liberals. Which is reason #3: conservatives can only "joke" about liberals, usually with a personal insult.

Reason #4 is that conservatives don't seem to know how to actually write a good joke. A glance at Gutfield's website,, showcases Gutfield's own joke writing skills. He refers to Griffin thusly: "She's adopted the shellacked look of a botoxed, frill-necked lizard -- but that just insults all the other shellacked frill-necked lizards out there." Again, reason #3: a personal insult, not a joke, and a hack premise done a million times. If he wanted to make a joke like that, while trashing liberals, "She's adopted the shellacked look of a botoxed, frill-necked lizard -- but enough about Nancy Pelosi" would have worked better.

He also writes, "I know end tables with more guts," a line that he repeated on "O'Reilly." This is not funny on a basic joke construction level, since an end table has nothing to do with guts. To work, a joke has to have something at the beginning relate to the end, as in classics like Phyllis Diller's "My husband wanted to play peek-a-boo. He peeked and booed" or Rodney Dangerfield's "My wife, what a cook. I didn't know toast had bones." If Gutfield had said something like, "I know disemboweled anorexics with more guts," he would have been on the right track.

Also, Gutfield has adopted a tag line he repeats over and over again, a variation on "And if you disagree with me, you sir are worse than Hitler." At the end of each of his rants he posts one of these, but can't even be bothered to vary them all that much. Here they are, from one page on his site, unedited: "And if you disagree with me, you probably shop at Walmart dressed as Hitler." "And if you disagree with me, you're a racist homophobe who builds Wal-marts on native american buriel sites." "And if you disagree with me, you're a racist, spoiled, homophobic Obama-hating child." "And if you disagree with me, you're a racist homophobe fan of McDonalds." "And if you disagree with me, you're a racist homophobic Nazi." That's lazy writing at its zenith, which is reason #5: Conservatives think we're stupid and won't notice.

Gutfield's book has this review on its cover: "Greg Gutfield is the funniest person on TV. Read this book immediately and see for yourself. - Ann Coulter." There you have reason #6: Ann Coulter.

Memo to Gutfield: You have your own TV show and I don't, so good for you, but if you're going to judge what's funny, write better jokes.

To a true comedian, nothing is sacred. Which is reason #7: to conservatives, altogether too much is sacred: God, family, country, "traditional values," the free market, Christianity, and so on. Conservatives are congenitally unable to joke about these things, especially themselves and their values (reason #1). Joke about Christians and conservatives scream, "blasphemy." Joke about Sarah Palin and they shout, "liberal bias." Joke about the tea party movement and they yell, "Socialist!"

There is plenty of liberal hypocrisy out there, and liberal comics have no problem exposing it. Watch any "Daily Show" or listen to Lewis Black's skewering of Bill Clinton to see this. Liberal comics have had a field day with John Edwards. Conservatives never go after their own. They are all in the same put-upon club, holding on tight to their precious "values" for dear life against ravages of the horrible "liberal media" out to get them.

Conservatives also provide much more fodder for comedy: Sarah Palin's proximity to Russia, Larry Craig's "wide stance," Mark Sanford's hiking of the Appalachian trail, and on and on. George W. Bush made so many hilarious malapropisms that entire books were published quoting them. Barack Obama simply doesn't make similar statements. The minute he does, we'll joke about them. Comedian Rick Crom has a great Obama joke: "Obama takes so long to do things, when he pardoned the Thanksgiving turkey, by the time he finished it was a sandwich."

Finally, reason #8: comedy usually afflicts the powerful and empowers the afflicted. Conservatives afflict the afflicted: poor blacks are lazy welfare criminals, gays destroy the family, feminists are ugly and kill innocent babies, Muslims will kill you, the unemployed are spoiled and lazy. Don't even start on Mexicans. Only conservatives are good people and everyone else is trying to destroy America. That's not exactly a philosophy that lends itself to knee-slapping hilarity.

Memo to Kathy Griffin: Love you, but write better jokes.

Memo to conservatives (and politically correct liberals): Lighten the $#%! up.