- The Washington Times - Monday, June 21, 2021

Late-night comedy has become a bit of a bore.

Hosts routinely make their opening monologues political – taking aim at former President Donald Trump and the Americans who voted for him – hitting them with tired jabs, lazy commentary, and the wokeness one would expect from left-leaning cable news organizations CNN and MSNBC.

That’s why it was so surprising to hear HBO’s Bill Maher and comedian Jon Stewart break from the conventional groupthink and challenge their peers to do better, be better, and break out of the politically correct commentary that has rooted itself in late-night monologues during the Trump-era.

Mr. Stewart shocked CBS’ Stephen Colbert last week when he pointed out how obvious it was to the average viewer that the coronavirus may have leaked from China’s Wuhan Lab of Virology. 

“This is not a conspiracy,” Mr. Stewart said about the lab theory. “Oh my god, there’s a novel respiratory coronavirus overtaking Wuhan, China, what do we do? Oh, you know who we could ask? The Wuhan novel respiratory coronavirus lab. The disease is the same name as the lab. That’s just a little too weird!”

He continued: “There’s been an outbreak of chocolatey goodness near Hershey, Pennsylvania, what do you think happened? I don’t know, maybe a steam shovel made it with a cocoa bean. Or it’s the f——— chocolate factory!”

The audience was clearly nervous about whether they should laugh or not, and Mr. Colbert was put off by the off-script response asking if Mr. Stewart was employed by Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, who last week was suspended by Google’s YouTube for sharing a study on the benefits of hydroxychloroquine in treating COVID-19.

The lab-leak theory was always credible, if not obvious for some, but late-night comedians self-censored and didn’t include it in their monologues, fearing everything from cancel culture for bringing it up, to believing the left-wing/Big Tech narrative it came from a wet-market because of their inherent Trump Derangement Syndrome. 

HBO’s Mr. Maher, a self-identified liberal, has continually lamented his party’s “wokeness,” on his program “Real Time,” saying Democrats are rarely satisfied with the progress this country has made. He dubbed the condition “progressophobia,” which he defined as “a brain disorder that strikes liberals and makes them incapable of recognizing progress. It’s like situational blindness, only what you can’t see is that your dorm in 2021 is better than the South before the Civil War.”

Again, his audience was uneasy – yet there are some simple truths that should be recognized, and Kevin Hart’s statement last week that “white power and white privilege is at an all-time high,” simply isn’t one of them.

Mr. Maher continued: “In 1958, only 4% of Americans approved of interracial marriage. Now Gallup doesn’t even bother asking. But the last time they did, in 2013, 87% approved. An overwhelming majority of Americans now say they want to live in a multiracial neighborhood. That is a sea change from when I was a kid.” 

He outlined how in a country “that’s 14% black, 18% of the incoming class at Harvard is black. And since 2017, white students are not even a majority in our public colleges. Employees of color make up 47% of Microsoft, 50% of Target, 55% of the Gap, as companies become desperate to look like their TV commercials.”

Mr. Maher is correct of course – and brave – for speaking out against the grain, against the groupthink of his peers.

Comedy has largely been lost in the Trump years as comedians tried to score political points against the former president and self-censored. Kudos to Mr. Maher and Mr. Stewart for confronting their peers and calling balls and strikes. In order for us to laugh again, cancel culture needs to end and no topic should be off-limits.

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