Sunday, March 4, 2007
Ann Coulter's Comic Genius
The fascinating thing about Ann Coulter is that when you take her out of the context of political debate and put her into the context of political satire where she belongs, she's actually kind of funny. In the same way, albeit with less intelligence, that Bill Maher, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are funny. (Or Dennis Miller, if he actually were funny.) Which is to say, crudely, offensively and often childishly.
What makes her uniquely brilliant, though, is that unlike Maher, Stewart, and Colbert, her schtick actually does as much damage to the right as it does to the left. How? Because she develops her caricature of "liberals" (by which she means anyone to the left of Chuck Hagel) as weak, gay, traitors. But she does it by adopting a persona that is itself a caricature of the rightwing nutjobs that make up the bulk of her cheering section. Which is why she's at the same time so effective and so radioactive.
Think about it. Ann Coulter is the only controversial or provocative figure in the three ring circus that passes for contemporary American politics who could conceivably switch sides of the aisle on a moment's notice without changing one word of her act. (Okay, Joe Lieberman probably could, too, but that's another story.) All it would take would be a subtle gesture (and it could remain very subtle) to tip off the audience, and the joke would suddenly be on the other guys. She'd remain just as crude, offensive and childish. But the humor would be just as effective.
Just like with Sasha Baron Cohen's Borat character, the salient aspect of Ann Coulter's routine isn't any given remark she herself makes. It's the response that she's able to elicit, both from her conservative supporters and her liberal targets, that matters. That's why Democrats calling for apologies and denunciations play right into her game and let the GOP off the hook. Hold them to their immediate reaction, there in the room, which revealed them for the caricatures they've become. And give Ann Coulter's comic genius its due.