Tuesday, December 10, 2002

They Ain't Got Time to Laugh

This morning the local AM talk station had a fellow by name of John Sebastian (no, not the Welcome Back Kotter theme guy) on the air. Sebastian claims to have a plan to become the liberal antidote to Rush Limbaugh and thinks the time is right for a nationally syndicated talk radio show that espouses the views of the Left. And perhaps he is right. However, I don't think Mr. Sebastian is the man for the job. A quick search on Google this morning revealed surprisingly little information on a man who believes he's about to be a player on the national media stage although I did learn that he worked at Minneapolis radio station KDWB back in 1974 for whatever that is worth. Going to his web site gives you a 404 error which is never a good sign. The main problem that I noticed with Sebastian during this morning's interview was that he took himself and his cause way too seriously. While he certainly displayed the typical liberal sense of entitlement (he commented that it was "un-American" that there wasn't a nationally syndicated liberal talk show) the critically important sense of humor was not apparent.

What often gets overlooked in all the complaining about the domination of the talk show airwaves by conservative hosts is that the majority of the nationally syndicated hosts are not only well spoken and intelligent they're entertaining and amusing as well. Rush is obviously the king in this realm but I would also include Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved and even Bill O'Reilly (really much more of populist than a conservative). These guys are smart and funny and that's why their shows work. Yes, politics is a large part of it and the fact that many conservatives feel that talk radio is their only media outlet is a major factor in the popularity of these programs. But if these hosts were not entertaining they would not make it on a national scale. That's why I believe that Sean Hannity won't last. He's just not that fun to listen to.

Which bring me to a question. Can a nationally syndicated liberal talk show work? Despite the portrayal over the years of conservatives as stodgy, fuddy duddies who don't know how to have fun or enjoy life I gotta wonder if, when it comes to politics today, it isn't it the liberal who needs to lighten up and not take things so seriously? I still see people here in Minnesota wearing Wellstone buttons and talking about the "oppressive regime" they now live under. Come on. Conservatives certainly weren't pleased after the election of Clinton in 1992 but instead of bemoaning our fate or hanging American flags upside down (as a DFL neighbor of a friend of mine did after this year's election) most of us pulled ourselves together, realized that our country is still the greatest on earth no matter who is president, and started to look for ways to make fun of the Arkansas rube who was our CIC.

That's because for the most part, despite what you hear about the hate and anger of the Right, conservatives are happy and optimistic people. I don't see that among many liberals particularly those who are actively involved in politics. Bitter and resentful people who consider their political views to be a defining factor in their lives consider talk radio cheap and tawdry. The pious seriousness in which they approach politics with doesn't allow time for entertainment and certainly not laughter. Who has time to laugh when you're trying to save the world?

If this Sebastian guy somehow does get a nationally syndicated talk show I give him three months. Tops.

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