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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Tuesday 19 March 2013

The Levant Rant: Political Comedy, Political Tragedy

  - Sun News Network vice-president Kory Teneycke to Sun News Network on-air personality, Ezra Levant

Trying?  Maybe.  Succeeding?  Well, if that were the case, Sun News would have the audience traction to show for it, one would imagine.

Teneycke's definition of entertaining seems to differ from that of the majority - we will laugh at a bigoted rant, because it makes us uncomfortable and might offer a bit of social commentary, but not with it - because in our polycultural society, we're well aware that vitriol could easily be pointed our way, too. 

There's a distinct difference between a bitter diatribe and a gently-poking bit of comedy, but subtly isn't everyone's strong suit.  If you want to see a rant done well, try out Rick Mercer, Canada's equivalent of John Stewart.  There's a reason the political right south of the border take such issue with The Daily Show - cwacked wegions are no match for communal laughter.

Take the Vic Toews Affair, for instance.

@Vikileaks was an unmitigated disaster - hurtful, cruel and done anonymously.  Nobody laughed.  In fact, many called foul, which it was.

#Tellviceverything, however, was cheeky fun and therefore a viral hit.  It also played a role in forcing the New Harper Government to back down on Bill C-30.

This isn't speculation or personal opinion - it's a matter of historical record.

But back to Levant's Rant.

I'm sure there's some sincerity to the bitter tone of the anti-Roma attack, but I'm also pretty sure Levant was trying to play to his crowd and draw in some more viewers.  Controversy sells, after all - nothing draws an audience like a car wreck.

It didn't work, did it?  We are drawn to car wrecks, but nobody wants to contribute to one. 
It's cheeky fun, it's allegorical and it doesn't attack Hudak directly (though it grieves me they still throw in the "who dat" bit, which is kinda lame) - instead, the focus is on his message.  This isn't a hard approach to take - "right to work" actually means "right not to pay for a union that supports workers."  It would be like calling a bid to make taxation optional "right to society."  Society is already paid for, right, with roads and schools and all?  Someone else got that, I don't need to, or something.
We'll see how well this video plays, but I guarantee it won't generate the wide-spread horror of the Levant Rant or @vikileaks; it's not mean-spirited, so how could it?
Comedy is a deliciously effective way to communicate a message and rap opponents on the knuckles without crossing the line of good taste.  The trick is to tell the joke, not become the punchline.  People have little sympathy for those who dig their own graves.
Political comms folk trying to play the game should consider this nugget of comedic wisdom from Mel Brooks:

"Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die."


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