In between fiery political outrage, pop culture hot-takes and never-ending picspams of Mads Mikkelsen, I spend a lot of time on Twitter trying to be funny. I’d hazard a guess and say most of us who use the site are in a similar situation. We need more jokes right now, and comedy can provide understanding, catharsis, and a new perspective on whatever is on our minds. That doesn’t necessarily make me funny, believe me I am far from it, but I like to think my intent is at least earnest.
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is a man who never lets incompetence, cruelty, stupidity or just plain old incoherence get in the way of telling a few jokes. At least, I think they’re jokes. Structurally, they bear a vague similarity to the concept, but everything else surrounding them inspires bafflement and cringe in equal measure. His attempts at what I imagine he perceives to be cutting-edge satire are so painfully confusing that I’m half-tempted to set up a GoFundMe just to pay for him to hire a social media intern to stop the agony.
For Cinco de Mayo I will drink an entire jar of hot salsa and watch old Speedy Gonzales cartoons and speak Spanish all day. Happy CdMayo!— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) May 5, 2017
Not only are his “jokes” often racist, sexist, riddled with factual errors, and occasionally downright nasty, they’re objectively unfunny. They’re chock full of weird metaphors, constructed in the most jumbled manner possible, and almost always punching down. It’s hardly the surprise of the year that someone as bigoted and callous as Huckabee would pick such targets for his jokes, but it’s still exhausting to witness, not just as a decent person but as a comedy lover. I may not be funny myself, but I know funny when I see it.
Huckabee claims that he tweets “for my amusement and your amazement”, which sounds like the greatest threat to pop culture since Adam Sandler’s Netflix deal. His follow-up that his subtle brand of comedic sophistication is “way over your head” is probably true on some level - perhaps he’s committing to the Tim & Eric anti-comedy mould - but not for the reasons he thinks it is.
Comedy is a humanizing force at its very best. Self-deprecation is a hugely effective way for people to win doubters over to their side and show that yes, they’re just like everyone else. Barack Obama was great at this, as was Hillary Clinton, although she seldom got the credit for it. Politicians make fun of themselves not just because the target is quick and easy, but because it’s one on their level. The powerful attack the powerful and so the scales are balanced.
Rachel Maddow tonight reveals Amelia Earhart & Jimmy Hoffa are found; they married and had a child—Snoop Dog, who paid no taxes ever!— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) March 15, 2017
Huckabee, in contrast and like his bedfellow Donald Trump, refuse to see themselves as anything other than beleaguered underdogs. They’re victims of this cruel modern world that sees discrimination against LGBTQ people as a bad thing and not “freedom of religion”; They’re the last bastions of traditional values in a world that doesn’t see them as the default mode for greatness (even though statistically they’ll always be miles ahead of the rest of us); they’re mavericks ahead of the curve with their refusal to adhere to “political correctness gone mad”, as if our society doesn’t reward such qualities daily. In the era of fake news and rampant corruption, it’s just our fault we don’t get their jokes, ones built on strengthening a status quo they helped create.
Reading Huckabee’s Twitter feed - which I don’t recommend you do unless nursing a strong cocktail - is to delve into a staggering lack of both logic and empathy. Huckabee’s politics rely on the consistent denial of logic, from his stances on abortion and immigration to his confusion over why everyone hates him so much. When he tries to talk to that generation on their level, it falls pathetically flat because he has no idea who he’s telling the joke to. Remember when he tried to make a Jaws analogy in relation to Trump’s debating prowess, conveniently forgetting who the shark actually ate? There’s no solid foundation for comedy when your own views are so stratospherically out of line with how the world works. How do you construct a logical joke when your own policies - and even your memory of basic film history - are definitively anti-logic?
Poop Dogg has nephew named Bow Wow; both bad dogs who advocate murder and sex slavery for @POTUS and First Lady;Who let the dogs out?— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) March 17, 2017
What Huckabee’s lack of empathy reminds me of is 4Chan. After the Ghostbusters reboot came out, many fans and critics, particularly women, were swarmed by misogynistic buffoons on social media, all seemingly spewing the same handful of lines. Everything was “PC gone mad” or “feminazis” on the run or “SJW conspiracies”, and any attempt to engage or even criticize such sloppy tactics were met with the same faux-victorious cries of having “triggered” us. Never mind that triggering is a very real thing that has nothing to do with making people a bit miffed on social media; it’s the comeback du jour for the “edgy” bigot who cloaks their moral outrage in the agenda of free speech. This can often be difficult to deal with - thanks a lot, Twitter’s shitty abuse policies - but a lot of the time, it’s mostly kind of dull because it’s like going up against a bad comedian reading from the same script they use every night at open mic, regardless of how little it makes us laugh. Huckabee hasn’t adopted the alt-right language yet, but his basic act is cut from the same cloth - make bigoted and barely legible comments, then guffaw with false success at your boundary pushing when people are really just kind of confused.
Breaking news from Hollywood! Sen. Chuck Schumer cast in lead role for remake of "Boys Don't Cry."— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) February 5, 2017
It’s hard to try and make light of the current political situation. Not because the material isn’t there - it most certainly is - but because every day we must keep up with another barrage of Trump’s incompetence, his administration’s corruption and the constant threat of impending doom. We can chuckle at Sean Spicer’s hide and seek shenanigans but we’re all still living under the weight of that fear and what it could lead to. Perhaps that’s what makes Mike Huckabee’s Twitter stand-up so confusing and exhausting. A man whose own freedoms and rights aren’t for a moment at risk is trying to mock everyone’s pain and confusion, but he’s too immersed in Trumpian anti-logic to pull it off. Things may have stopped making sense, but at least there is one constant.
I don't get Mike Huckabee humor. I also didn't father a dog torturer, defend a homophobic county clerk or befriend a child molester either.— Mike (@MKChiWriting) March 21, 2017