Now We Know What Real Humor Is….Or at Least Real Jokes

February 4, 2010

Michael Moynihan of Reason has been doing some super sleuthing. He wants to know, “Just what makes something humorous?” And now he has the answer: Jonathan Chait, to whom he has awarded the prestigious title of “The Left’s Own Topo Gigo.” If you’re not chortling and guffawing over Chait’s John McCain hand puppet telling the Sarah Palin hand puppet that he picked her as his running mate because “I was a sad, desperate old man trapped in a loveless marriage — I saw you and I saw a second chance,” then you must be like me: stupid and humorless, in the words of Matthew Yglesias, one of the smartest and funniest guys around. So smart and so funny he told my friend Veronique de Rugy to SHUT UP! about tax policy because she’s …. get this!!! … FRENCH. Ha ha! FRENCH!!!! Oh, how we laughed!

But you know, when you keep on having to say, “But I’m funny. Really!,” you ought to wonder whether maybe you’re….well, you’re just not. That you’re crude and boorish and that you really ought to apologize to the person you mocked because of her name and nationality. Or at least that your “humor” is not really suitable for grown-up conversation. (And yes, I do know that they were trying for some sort of “irony,” but they failed utterly [for one thing, saying racism is “unAmerican” and saying Jews and Catholics are “unAmerican” really are different uses of the term].) Moreover, undeniably hidden behind the protestations of humor was a very clear message to someone who disagreed about what the essence of America is [hint: not using the power to tax maliciously to punish people], and that message is:


Thanks, Jonathan and Matthew, for raising the tone of policy discourse so. You’re great guys. Class acts. Really.

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February 4, 2010 at 6:53 am
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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

The Wine Commonsewer February 4, 2010 at 2:55 am

This is nutty, the French Chick is witty, engaging, and on the right side of the barricades. Not to mention she enjoys a little red wine now and again.

I’m not sure I understand the hostility toward someone with a penchant for free market economics. Perhaps it’s just the age old libertarian passion to attack the good because it isn’t the perfect.

Aristotle February 4, 2010 at 3:33 am

You are wrong, Mr. Palmer. Telling people that you are funny makes you funny. I wrote that in my book on comedy. Now, I wonder where I put that. I had it somewhere. Maybe those two little fellows Johnny Chait and Matty Yglesias picked it up.

Abe February 4, 2010 at 5:11 am

A clue to Chait’s own self-image was provided early on: his laughter at his own anticipated hilarity, followed by a visible act of will, capped by, “Let’s see if I can make this work.” And then failure. Nonetheless, Chait is the equivalent of Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, and Aristophanes in his own mind.

Maurice February 4, 2010 at 11:38 am

And are you denying that you are in fact stupid? Or are you too fucking dumb to know how? Fuck all you libertarian dickwads.

Citizen of the World ! February 4, 2010 at 12:11 pm

wawww what an exemple of tolerance and recpect ! Congrats maurice !
Libertarian are just the synonym of liberty , and the difference between us is your sentence … we can debate and exchange in respect ! But you kind of totalitarian you can do it it’s too difficult for you, for your stupid marxist brain !

Nathalie I. VOGEL February 4, 2010 at 1:05 pm

Tom, your francophilia, as usual, is misleading you: These impertinent French with their La Fayette complex, always meddling into domestic American issues. What for? Excuse my French, mais quelle peste! And who is this Tocqueville anyway lecturing the world about America? nonsense, really. Do you actually think that people with such beautifully “Mayflowerish” names such as these two gentlemen need to be told by a French Economist what is anti-American or not? There are too many French around, if you ask me. So, I suggest you send Véronique and this Lady Liberty back where they belong, and everybody will be happy. After all, as Jules Renard said: l’ironie est un élément du bonheur. What? he was French, too? darn. NV

David R. Henderson February 4, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Nicely said, Tom. I’ve always admired Veronique for coming to this country and being willing to speak out so passionately to people in her adopted country. A fellow immigrant, eh?

Nativism is the last resort of the person who’s run out of arguments.

Aeon J. Skoble February 4, 2010 at 3:38 pm

I have read every issue of TNR since Fall of 1984, but I have to say Chait has worked very hard these last six months or so to drive me away. Way to go!

Tim Cavanaugh February 4, 2010 at 9:10 pm

So when the Republicans are in power, Republican bloggers attack the French.

When the Democrats are in power, Democrat bloggers attack the French.

They were right about Jerry Lewis; maybe the French are right about everything.

Michael Pottorff February 4, 2010 at 9:57 pm

While “the French” are often fodder for late night talk show joke writers, for the joke to be effective the wit of the metphor and the fancy of the punster must strike a resonant note with the audience. Fortunately for the writers, there is an ample supply of French bureaucrats whose words and actions have supplied the requisite objective correlatives.

But, there are cases where this doesn’t work, where nationalistic sentiments become subordinate to reality. The works of Bastiat and de Tocqueville–two French guys–pretty much nailed the portrait, and, any attack on them, in general, would have bystanders asking “why?” While an attack on them because they were French would be derided as a bigoted assault, with no merit. Enter Veronique de Rugy who also has grasp of the big picture, and, it is somehow deemed acceptable to pan her review because she is French and woman? The “race card” is only played when the player has nothing else to say.

Bill Kalles February 4, 2010 at 11:44 pm

Unless it’s Julio singing a duet with Willie, there is no good reason to listen to Yglesias.

Charles N. Steele February 4, 2010 at 11:58 pm

The important lesson regarding Chait and Yglesias is that the Fever Swamp is much broader than originally supposed. Well, keep up the good work of draining it!

(Don’t listen to Nathalie, Tom. I’ve already obtained her surrender on the issue of the French, and am now converting her into an economist.)

The Wine Commonsewer February 5, 2010 at 12:27 am

Bill, that’s the best dumb joke you’ve ever made. I love it.

Glen Litsinger February 5, 2010 at 12:32 am

I love having the opportunity to counter criticism from the Left, even if I don’t happen to love Cato, which is much too inside-the-Beltway pussy-libertarian for my taste. I had to do some hasty research regarding La de Rugy before I wrote this (a friend asked me to contribute), and I listened to her expound on such radical ideas as “tax competition”. My opinion is that the only legitimate competition vis taxes is let’s allow just one nation to go without coercive taxes entirely, and we’ll see which taxed jurisdiction can compete. Like, none.

But she’s easy to like, and for precisely the reasons that the left-wing crowd bashes her. Let’s start with her name: Veronique is one of the most lovely, feminine names in any language; it rolls off the tongue and pleasures the mind, enticing the imagination with exotic boudoir visions. Compare it to the klutzy Anglocised “Veronica” — noise vs. music.

France itself is a mixed bag, like all countries infected with the socialist disorder that never sank all the way into communism. But, it’s still a bastion of culture, if not freedom. Let’s hope that its own patriots will rescue her.

As for her Americanism, Veronique is one of us as much as any other immigrant can claim to be: she came here for freedom and the opportunity to prosper in the last stronghold of capitalism. We need all the capitalists we can get, so, welcome, dear Veronique. The fact that she’s at least a partial libertarian makes the welcome all the more sincere.

As for Chait and Yglesias, if they’re the best and brightest and funniest that the Left can offer, all I can say is we need an American Idol program for comedians, so we can watch the libertarians walk away with all the prizes.

Warmest regards,
The Kosmik Kid

Will February 5, 2010 at 2:02 am

It is too funny! It is! It is! Yglesias even said so over at CafeHayek,
“Are you guys really this clueless? You really don’t get the joke we were making? I find that very hard to believe.”
And it was funny. It was. It was. Like Chait’s puppet show. We’re funny. We are.

Nathalie I. VOGEL February 5, 2010 at 6:50 am

Right, Tom. Dr Steele and I have a deal: He teaches me economics and I teach him French humor. While I am clearly making progress, he …well…
Seriously now, Véronique is a fine economist and the nicest gift of France to the US after the Statue of Liberty.

Chait-o-mania February 5, 2010 at 1:22 pm

Chait cracking himself up over a really childish skit was priceless.

Alan Bock February 5, 2010 at 4:34 pm

And here we thought the witless right had a monopoly on mindless French-bashing.

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