Elmo did it. He opened the can of worms.
Elmo, as you may know, is the red, furry Muppet from Sesame Street. He made a big booboo yesterday. He went on X and tweeted, “Elmo is just checking in. How is everybody doing?”
And then the world unleashed its hellfire on Elmo, with users from all across the political spectrum immediately unloading on Elmo to tell him how disappointed, upset, and depressed they were.
Elmo is just checking in! How is everybody doing?
— Elmo (@elmo) January 29, 2024
One user replied, “Elmo, I’m suffering from existential dread over here.” Another replied, “Every morning, I cannot wait to go back to sleep. Every Monday I cannot wait for Friday to come. Every single day and every single week for life.”
Rachel Zegler, the actress from “Snow White” — a film that was reshot after she made obnoxious comments about how terrible Snow White was — tweeted that she was “resisting the urge to tell Elmo that I’m kind of sad.”
This was going on everywhere. And it’s a funny joke because a Muppet asking how everybody is doing and then everybody responding to a Muppet that they are experiencing existential angst and are upset is really funny.
Elmo then replied, “Wow, Elmo is glad he asked. Elmo learned that it is important to ask a friend how they are doing. Elmo will check again soon, friends. Elmo loves you. #EmotionalWellBeing.”
Then Joe Biden came in from the wings with a chainsaw to massacre the joke. He tweeted, “I know how hard it is somedays to sweep the clouds away and get to sunnier days. Our friend Elmo is right: We have to be there for each other, offer our help to a neighbor in need, and above all else, ask for help when we need it. Even though it’s hard, you’re never alone.”
So here’s my question today: What the hell happened to our sense of humor? Why can’t we just laugh at this? It’s really funny. Why can’t we just laugh when Elmo asks X how everyone is doing and people answer with their angst-ridden thoughts?
It’s ok for us to laugh at things, but it seems as though, in this country, it’s now not ok to laugh at pretty much anything anymore. Comedy really died during the Obama administration, when all of our comedic leaders decided they were actually politicians and Barack Obama was actually a celebrity.
The complete merger of celebrity and politics that occurred when Obama became president was a total comedy because comedians decided they were going to effectively become spokespeople for Obama’s administration.
Chris Rock suggested that Obama was like his father, that he was like a father figure to all of us. Comedians suggested that it was impossible to make fun of Obama because there was nothing funny about the man — which, of course, is in and of itself pretty funny.
Barack Obama was a highly marketable character. He thought he was a transformative figure when in fact he was just a corrupt Chicago politician with delusions of grandeur.
But because comedy decided it could not stay separate from politics, one of the common spaces we had as a society was undermined — when comedy was once a space we shared as a society.
No matter where you stood politically, funny was just funny. That was the basic idea for decades in American life. It didn’t matter where you were on the political spectrum. Richard Pryor was funny. George Carlin was funny. Johnny Carson was funny. Jay Leno was funny.
But as the social fabric breaks down, it is very difficult to laugh. Laughter becomes incredibly difficult because if you believe the person who’s making the joke is laughing at you, you are no longer laughing along. And if you believe the person who is making the joke is actually not joking, that underneath that joke is failure and rage and wrath, that’s not funny either.
Sadness, depression, anger. These are not emotions that can coexist with laughter.
As a society, we’re having a kind of mental breakdown. That’s what’s happening because we should all be able to laugh at the Elmo gambit. This is part of what I found hilarious about the rap song that Tom McDonald and I released, which hit number one on the charts. The number one song.
That’s hilarious. It’s the best cultural troll of all time. I don’t need to explain the joke, but look at me: I am not a rapper. I have no ambitions to be a rapper. In fact, if two weeks ago you had polled people who knew my name and asked, “What is the thing Ben Shapiro is least likely to do,” their answers would probably have been that song.
That’s why it’s funny. And yet, people are already starting to get angry at the song, people who can’t laugh at the very idea.
It’s a joke. It’s funny. I’m going to attribute their anger to the fact the social fabric is breaking down and that’s having some really deleterious effects on all sides of the political aisle.
A prime example: the weird cultural breakdown we are now having over Taylor Swift.
The idea that Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce’s romance is a plant by the NFL or her stage managers or whomever is a funny idea. It’s funny. It’s a joke.
We can all laugh at that because Swift has spent her entire life in music writing and singing songs about her horrible history with men and breakups with very famous people.
If she really is in a sincere romance at this point, we all wish the best for her. If Swift actually does marry Kelce and they end up having babies, there will be a Swift baby boom because that’s how stupid our culture is. People take pop culture too seriously.
I’ve been making jokes about it since the NFL started showing her in the skybox as she acted like, “Oh, I love football now.”
It’s just so ridiculous. It’s super silly, but the joke can never just stay the joke because people hate each other too much. So you can’t even joke about Swift.
Members of the Trump campaign are reportedly angry about Swift. They’re suggesting Swift is a plant, as if 20 years ago the CIA figured, “We’re going to make Taylor Swift a star. You know what else we’re going to do? We’re going to craft an entire football league and then breed an incredibly talented tight end. And then we are going to fix up these two in perfect alignment just in time to reelect a doddering old man.”
Let’s just laugh.
Politics and life in general are tragicomedy. Politics is hysterically funny when viewed from one lens and then deeply tragic when viewed from another — because politics can have such an impact on all of our lives.
But if you lose the comedy, you are not losing it because all this isn’t funny. You’re losing the comedy because you don’t like the people who are around you. You don’t like the country you’re in; you don’t like the people who are existing.
This may be the funniest time in the history of American politics.
We have Donald Trump, a real estate magnate who was president of the United States once and is acting like a stand-up insult comic running against a vegetable.
And in the middle of this, we have projected it all onto a football star dating a pop star in the middle of the NFL playoffs while pretending this has world-shaking historical importance, which it does not.
Perhaps the predicate for us rebuilding a social fabric in this country is to be able to laugh at funny things.
But nobody’s laughing.
Biden doing the “trust me” routine when it comes to politics no longer helps.
Comedy requires trust, and so does political success.