Culture

Ann Coulter’s Bombing at the Rob Lowe Roast Damaged the Conservative Brand

Coulter at CPAC 2013 (Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
Her dismal performance perpetuates the myth that the Right is humorless.

Ann Coulter reinforces many of the most negative stereotypes about conservatives — that they’re heartless, elitist, and bigoted. But last week, Coulter helped perpetuate the most pernicious myth about right-wingers — that they have no sense of humor.

For some reason, Coulter was invited to be a participant in the Comedy Central Roast of Rob Lowe, where professional comedians (and Peyton Manning) savaged the movie star with jokes about his sex tapes, his uneven career, and his drug use. The telecast finally ran on Sunday night, and somehow, during an event that featured multiple jokes about SNL comedian Pete Davidson’s father dying on 9/11, Coulter’s dreadful appearance managed to be the most squirm-inducing moment of the night.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=CwwNYXtIt2g

Coulter treated the audience members as if they were anchor babies, punishing them for even being there. She began her riff with an awkward pitch for her just-released Trump book, earning loud boos from the attendees. The Queen of Mean then rattled off a string of toothless zingers, many of them met with dead silence. (Coulter has since said that all her good material was edited out and that some of the jokes she used were actually from the Comedy Central writers themselves.)

“As a right-wing hatemonger, it’s fantastic to be at a big Hollywood shindig with all these glittering celebrities that isn’t a fundraiser for Obama,” she began, as the camera cut away to a shot of Maria Shriver looking like she’d rather be watching the Zapruder film. Coulter jabbed Ralph Macchio with a standard, “oh, you’re still alive?” joke, before complimenting him on how good he looks. “Whatever you’ve been drinking, you have to send a few cases to Hillary,” she added, indicating that she is clearly used to working rooms in which just saying the words “Hillary Clinton” is enough to provoke belly-laughs.

Even before Coulter reached the podium, it appeared she had no idea what she had gotten herself into. As speaker after speaker heaped abuse on her, she stared ahead, with a dead-eyed, emotionless gaze. (Sample jokes: Peyton Manning — Peyton Manning! — congratulated Coulter on winning the Kentucky Derby. Comedian Nikki Glazer told Coulter the only man she’d ever make happy would be “the Mexican digging your grave.”)

It would be one thing if this were just “woman bombs at celebrity roast” — certainly, more refined performers than Coulter have given cringe-inducing speeches at such events. But given the habit of liberals to hoist the most odious conservatives up as official spokespeople for the movement, this one hurt a little more than usual.

For one, as obnoxious as Coulter is, she is capable of peppering her writing with some decent witticisms. Yet she seemed completely out of her element, as if these “roasts” were just a revenge-driven plot by the 9/11 widows to make her look bad. She wasn’t in on the joke — even Manning laughed when Lowe told him he served as an inspiration to Zika babies, showing them that it could be much worse.

Coulter’s performance perpetuates the idea that conservatives are humorless and out-of-touch.

Thus, Coulter’s performance perpetuates the idea that conservatives are humorless and out-of-touch. Billions of pixels have been spilled on this subject — why there’s no conservative Jon Stewart, etc. Gone are the days when conservatives like P. G. Wodehouse could be hailed as the greatest writers of humor on the planet — now, for every P. J. O’Rourke or Matt Labash, there are dozens of John Olivers or Samatha Bees or Stephen Colberts waiting for their chance.

The true tragedy is that modern liberalism is a target-rich environment. Just ask the makers of South Park how fertile the era of microaggressions and perpetual offense is for satire. And it’s not as if progressives have a monopoly on humor — if you follow enough liberals on social media, you’ll run across plenty of links to Andy Borowitz, who is to humor what Coulter is to carbs.

Sure, Coulter’s comedy bit will be soon forgotten – but it was a missed opportunity. More importantly, it might run counter to Coulter’s own goals. If they have to listen to Ann Coulter do more standup, it will actually be the English-speaking people of America that flee the country.

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