Lefty Professor: Republicans Don’t Appreciate Colbert’s ‘Nuance, Irony, and Layered Thinking’

You’ve probably heard the phrase “too smart for the room.” Penn State professor Sophia McClennen thinks that Stephen Colbert is too smart for America, or at least a huge chunk of it, and that consequently he’s fallen to third place in late-night television’s ratings race. In a Monday Salon piece, McClennen argued that even though Colbert has “moved his satire into a more centrist mode” since joining CBS, that hasn’t increased his appeal to conservatives, since their dislike for his comedy has as much to do with form as content.

“Satire,” wrote McClennen, “uses irony, sarcasm, and parody to encourage critical thinking…[I]t is the sort of humor that is much less likely to appeal to Republican viewers because it depends on questioning beliefs and criticizing the status quo…[I]t is not just a question of who Colbert targets in his joke; it is also a question of how he makes the joke itself. Nuance, irony, and layered thinking may be…the problem.”

From McClennen’s article (bolding added):

While late night viewers already skew Democratic, Colbert’s viewers lean much more to the left. When asked who they would vote for in an election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, 72 percent of Colbert’s viewers said they would vote Democratic. That’s a huge jump over Fallon’s 56 percent and Kimmel’s 52 percent.  Even more revealing is the fact that 49 percent of Colbert’s viewers favor Bernie Sanders…

…Colbert [has] made a number of shifts away from the comedy he did on “The Colbert Report” and towards the mainstream…He also has a significant amount of bits that are just pure entertainment…

…[T]here is ample evidence that he has effectively moved his satire into a more centrist mode.

So why don’t Republicans like him?  According to Callum Borchers in the Washington Post, the problem is that Colbert takes positions that will enrage the GOP on topics like gay marriage and Syrian refugees…

Borchers is right, of course. But there’s more to the story…

The key difference is that Colbert still offers satirical comedy—not just entertaining comedy.  Satire…uses irony, sarcasm, and parody to encourage critical thinking… 

…[I]t is the sort of humor that is much less likely to appeal to Republican viewers because it depends on questioning beliefs and criticizing the status quo.

Recent studies have suggested that there is a significant intelligence gap between Democrats and RepublicansAs Psychology Today reports “for those who lack a cognitive ability to grasp complexities of our world, strict-right wing ideologies may be more appealing”…

…[I]t is not just a question of who Colbert targets in his joke; it is also a question of how he makes the joke itself.  Nuance, irony, and layered thinking may be more of the problem than Trump jokes…

Colbert famously quipped on “The Colbert Report” that “the facts have a liberal bias.” But it now seems clear that his smart comedy has a liberal bias too.

Last December, McClennen lauded The Colbert Report for “us[ing] satire to reclaim America for progressives.”

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