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Tim Young is Transforming Conservative Comedy

Conservatism and comedy don’t usually go together. Tim Young is challenging that notion.

Baltimore’s Tim Young has made a name for himself with his right-leaning take on comedy. He gained considerable notice for his amusing on-the-street interviews during the Women’s March on Washington this January. He has appeared on CNN and Fox News, provided branding consulting to political candidates and, this week, he began a new comedy program on The Daily Caller. Yesterday, he spoke with Merion West to discuss the role of comedy in the conservative movement.

Tim, thank you for being with us. We’ve seen some of your jokes on Twitter recently. Your post about the United Airlines passenger dragging incident said it all: “If the treatment of your passengers evokes imagery from Benghazi, you’re probably doing it wrong.” Getting started, could you talk a little bit about how your comedic approach differs from the more academic approach of Ben Shapiro, who has been enormously successful in exposing countless young people to conservative ideas? 

Ben Shapiro is very academic and intelligent. Nobody would argue that. It’s a completely different delivery system from the one I have. Rather than explain it at the complex level many of these ideas are at, I can break it down with a couple of jokes. I think people are more likely not only listen, but actually to remember it.

The Left seemingly has a monopoly on comedy. Comedian-turned-politician Al Franken comes to mind. Although Gary Johnson was a Libertarian and not a Republican, the late-night comedians had a field day with Johnson’s so-called “Aleppo Moment.” Jimmy Kimmel even did a parody of “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?” with “Are You Smarter than Gary Johnson?” Why do you think the Left has been so dominant in the comedy space?

It has a lot to do with the demeanor of both sides. It’s easier to make fun of the stodgier side. Number one, the left starts with all of the entertainers. They have all the entertainers on their bench, but when you take a look at it, the right is a bit like your grandparents. The Left is able to take a joke; it depends on the situation though of course. But overall, the left is more able to take a joke.

Those on the right aren’t familiar with the comedy line of communication because they can’t laugh at themselves. They can’t make fun of others. Thus they are less likely to get into comedy, whereas the Left is more chill about things. So they come off as much more personal because they are, so there’s just a difference in presentation.

Let’s put it this way. In the 2012 election, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan beat the drum of: these are the numbers that are tanking our country—let me show you actual facts and figures. Meanwhile Obama stuck to “Hope and Change.” This shifted entirely this time around in 2016 when Donald Trump went with “Make America Great Again” and Hillary Clinton was trying to push hard policy.

So it’s really just the perceptions and the branding. Traditionally Republicans are just stodgier and not as open to fun things.

And do you think this shift in approach might be useful in making headway for your side in the so-called “culture war”?

I sure hope so. For the most part it’s a strange place to be. There are certain Republican Congressmen and Senators, though I won’t name them, who would jump on board right away with the more fun approach. They love it because they get it, but there are so many politicians and candidates who don’t understand it. They don’t want to do something different, and they don’t want to try something fun. I don’t know what kind of campaign consultants they’re using. They need to look at what’s happening and see that it works so well for the Left.

It’s nice to be lighthearted once in a while.

Yeah. I don’t understand what the fear is of going for the more fun side. People love that. America doesn’t want someone who is completely stodgy and boring and by-the-book. They want something different. They want to see personality.

Of course, this was one of the big critiques of Hillary Clinton. She seemed so rehearsed. For example, she would go to a rally and say her favorite music was whatever happened to be in the Billboard top 100 that week. To many, it seemed inauthentic.

Tim: The absolute most inauthentic moment, well one of many, was when she went on that hip-hop morning show and said she had hot sauce in her purse. As if she’s ever carried a purse. She doesn’t carry anything.

So maybe you could talk a little bit about when you got into conservatism ideologically yourself. Was this something you were raised with or was this something you encountered later in life? 

It was early on. I grew up in Southwest Baltimore. My dad was a union guy, and my mom was a teaching assistant so, by all intents and purposes, I should be a liberal, a very liberal Democrat. What I learned from them though, and what I learned from life was that you must have personal responsibility in order to improve your life. We grew up in a very poor lower-middle class household, and that’s been part of who I am.  When I really knew I leaned right was when I pulled myself up by my own bootstraps instead of relying on anyone else. People on the Left are always preaching that whatever is going on is someone else’s fault.

Would you say you are satisfied thus far with President Trump and the Republican Congress? 

He’s doing the best that he can with the obstructionism even though we have the Senate, the House, and the Presidency. He’s the most entertaining president we’ve ever had. He really enjoys messing with people. People are scared to death of him. He’s intelligent and actively enjoys trolling people. I honestly think that we elected a comedian.

He literally says things just to tick people off. Take this new story about how gets of two scoops of ice cream, while everyone else only gets one. He’s smart and is giving the media a dumb story to spend their time running with. He’s not an impetuous child at all. He’s really intelligent in how he decides to mess with people.

He does exactly what I would do if I were President. And he realized how easily the media gets rattled, and he plays with them.

Do you think the conservative message is resonating with young people more in the United States these days? Looking to Europe, many of the movements on the right and, even the far right, are being brought to the forefront by young people. Conventional wisdom, at least in the United State, is that young people are generally more liberal. 

Well I think the libertarian message resonates a lot with young people. They don’t really care about social issues and who marries whom. Honestly, we’re not doing well enough yet economically to worry about some of these social concerns. First, we have to get food on the table. So I think young people going forward will not be too concerned about things like same-sex marriage, but they will be economically conservative. The future is economic.

Tim, thank you so much for joining us. And best of luck to you in beginning your new program at The Daily Caller this evening.

I appreciate it. Thank you for having me.

Follow Tim Young @timrunshismouth

Erich J. Prince is the editor-in-chief at Merion West. With a background in journalism and media criticism, he has contributed to newspapers such as The Philadelphia Inquirer and The News & Observer, as well as online outlets including Quillette and The Hill. Erich has also spoken at conferences and events on issues related to gangs, crime, and policing. He studied political science at Yale University.

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