American comedians are making a pile of cash with clean humor centered on guns, God and family.
As scandals from Benghazigate to the IRS-targeting of conservative groups shake our country, I think it’s important for us to periodically re-focus on the beauty of America; the beauty of humanity and the beauty of life. I know. It sounds so cliché; so Hallmark card-ish. But it’s true.
It is easy to become cynical and to think that everyone in the world has an agenda. It is easy to get down when we hear stories about our leaders lying and cheating. But not everyone in America is like President Obama. Not everyone in America is like Eric Holder. Not everyone in America is like Janet Napolitano. Most people have good hearts.
When you look at the sort of comedy that is succeeding in America today and the new reality-TV stars that are rising to fame, you should have hope in humanity. I will give you two examples: comedian Jim Gaffigan and A&E’s reality-TV show Duck Dynasty.
Jim Gaffigan, “The King of Clean Comedy”
The Wall Street Journal hails Gaffigan the “King of Clean Comedy.” He is funny, and he does it the hard way—without relying on heavy swearing or raunchiness. Here’s the best part: College students love him. Metropolitan night clubs love him. Midwesterners love him. Everyone loves his bit about Hot Pockets.
He starts out: “I’ve never eaten a Hot Pocket and then afterwards been like, I’m glad I ate that! It was like, I’m gonna die! …I paid for that??” Gaffigan’s Hot Pockets bit has been viewed almost 2 million times on the Internet; when he performs live, audiences don’t want him to leave the stage without doing it.
Gaffigan is not Brad Pitt. He probably does not have time to hit the gym as often as he should. He enjoys eating. So, he uses self-depreciating humor and food in his shows. The Journal described his recent live show in Montclair, N.J., ‘He apologizes for being sort of fat, but explains: “I’m preparing for a role. A cinnamon roll.”’
Gaffigan is laughing all the way to the bank. He wrote a book (out this month). He was nominated for a Grammy on his last album, Mr. Universe. And he launched a 16-city tour this year. Last year, Pollstar rated him among America’s top 10 touring comedians. Yes, he’s kind of a big deal.
Gaffigan is married and has five young children who travel with him on his tour bus. He apparently has a lot on his plate—both metaphorically and literally—but he turns his hectic family life into comedic material. (His book is titled Dad is Fat.)
Gaffigan tells the Journal: “…I felt like I wasn’t done writing the joke if I was relying on a curse word. It’s like, we’re all adults here, and some of my favorite comedians are really filthy. But I’m an eccentric observation guy. If you’re talking about mini-muffins, is it really necessary to say f—?”
The Robertson Family: A&E’s Duck Dynasty
Willie Robertson is the CEO of Duck Commander, a duck call business founded by his father Phil Robertson. Willie and his three brothers, Alan, Jase and Jep as well as Phil’s brother Si all work for Duck Commander. They also own Buck Commander, a deer-hunting business. The Robertson’s are born-again-Christians who drew the attention of A&E and now they have their own family-centered reality show (starring them plus their wives and children) called Duck Dynasty.
In its third season, which wrapped up in April, Duck Dynasty became the second most popular program on cable.
Willie was on Fox’s O'Reilly Factor on April 13. Host Bill O’Reilly asked him why the show is doing so well. Roberton responded: “I really think it’s the family values, it’s something positive, kids can sit and watch, grandparents [can watch], there’s not a lot of filth on it, and it’s funny you know, it’s hard to be funny!”
O’Reilly said of their newfound success: “You are rich, but you don’t act rich and I think that might be the secret to your success.” Willie said: “We’re not all about money, we’re about family. …We try to stick to our roots. We grew up not rich at all; very poor. And so for us we can remember what it was like and so we try to stay humble, and Lord willing you know we’re doing it and we’ve been successful; God has blessed us.”
O’Reilly added: “And you do incorporate God in the show?” Willie said: “Oh yeah, we have a family prayer right at the end [of every show].”
I think the Robertsons are a testimony to the fact that growing up around hunting and guns does not turn children into mass-murderers. A loving family—not the absence of guns in the home—is the key to helping children grow up with values.
TIME Magazine recently interviewed Phil Robertson: ‘He believes that any attempt to limit weapons limits basic freedoms and that “it’s the hearts of human beings that are the problem [not guns].”’
So have faith. America is still a place where, as my cousin always tells me: “good things happen to good people.” Guns. Family. God. Amen.