Can Someone Please Explain How This Michelle Malkin Video Is Funny?

Simply pairing stock criticisms of Obama with dance moves doesn't constitute a joke.

This video by the conservative pundit Michelle Malkin is making the rounds, as they say. Why is unclear -- if you can explain what's funny about it, I'd love to hear.

First, the background: Malkin's video is a parody of a bit that Jimmy Fallon and First Lady Michelle Obama made last week, called "The Evolution of Mom Dancing." To be honest, it's not that funny either. The premise is that moms tend to dance in a less-than-hip fashion; the gag is that the "dance moves" are a pairing of outdated motions -- "Raise the Roof!", "Out of Sync Electric Slide" -- with Things That Moms Do: "Go Shopping, Get Groceries"; "Where's Your Father? (Get Him Back Here!)" That's mildly amusing, as is the sight of Fallon done up like a suburban soccer mom.

The Malkin video, though: What's going on here? It's just a litany of shots at Democrats or Obama, with Malkin herself dancing in front of an orange screen. Samples: "Raise the Debt Ceiling," "Grab Your Wallet," the "Golfing Man." The president's affection for golf is well-known, and it's certainly possible to make a good political joke about it. Here's one. Here's another. (Both are by Nate Beeler of the Washington Examiner.) But simply pointing out that Obama likes to golf is not a joke. It is an observation.

There's an extensive literature, mostly among left-leaning academics and journalists, about the perceived lack of funniness on the right. Certainly it's true that the leading political humorists of today, the Stewarts and Colberts, are on the left. But Joshua Green pointed out in 2012 that some conservative satirists are quite successful: "Conservative satire flourishes in places like the Weekly Standard, particularly in the essays and articles of Matt Labash and Andrew Ferguson, and the cover art of Mark Fredrickson and Thomas Fluharty, whose paintings travestying braindead hippies and aging radicals are dead on and piercingly funny." Noting that while liberals dominate TV, progressive talk-radio projects like Air America have been a flop, Green offers a theory about the difference between the two formats and the two political alignments:

To me, the conservative inclination to put politics before humor goes a long way toward explaining this disparity. It's one reason why talk radio has been such a successful format for conservative entertainers (and such a challenging one for liberals, who have failed in their attempts to match it). You can't cultivate a national television audience for a comedy show if being funny isn't the first order of business.

Conor Friedersdorf has been critical of talk radio in this space, criticizing Rush Limbaugh as tasteless and tone-deafBut Malkin's foray here isn't any of those things. It's not offensive. It's not politically trenchant. Pace Andrew Sullivan, it's not worthy of hatred. It's just a vague correlation of dance moves and political pejoratives. It's not funny because it hasn't even tried to make a joke.

Presented by

David A. Graham is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he covers political and global news. He previously reported for Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, and The National.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus


Does This Child Need Marijuana?

Inside a family's fight to use marijuana oils to treat epilepsy


A Miniature 1950s Utopia

A reclusive artist built this idealized suburb to grapple with his painful childhood memories.


Why Principals Matter

Nadia Lopez didn't think anybody cared about her school. Then the Internet heard her story.


A History of Contraception

In the 16th century, men used linen condoms laced shut with ribbons.


'A Music That Has No End'

In Spain, a flamenco guitarist hustles to make a modest living.

More in Politics

Just In