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Political Laughs? Try Fox | The Nation

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John Nichols

John Nichols

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Political Laughs? Try Fox

Sorry, Jon Stewart, but Sean Hannity is the king of television comedy.

Yes, of course, "The Daily Show" is hilarious.

But the Emmy Award-winning Comedy Central program featuring Stewart's cutting comments on the foibles of campaigners for president and spot-on parodies of network election coverage by his crew of fake news reporters is just too intellectually advanced. If you want to see fall-down funny political humor on cable television, click over to the Fox News Channel and watch Hannity "interview" members of the Republican ticket.

No, Hannity does not fashion himself a comic. He doesn't even know he's funny.

It is that unintended quality that makes Hannity's "interviews" so remarkably ridiculous that it is impossible not to laugh. When the men who run the country come on his show -- as they have been for "energize-the-base" appearances in recent days -- Hannity greets them with a demeanor reminiscent of the "Wayne's World" guys falling to their knees before Alice Cooper and crying, "We are not worthy!"

There will be those who suggest that it is unfair to pick on Hannity because, as a Fox host, he is not supposed to be concerned about his credibility as a television interviewer. But Hannity's "interviews" are not Fox bad, they are William Shatner singing "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" bad.

Hannity's suck-up session with Vice President Dick Cheney last Thursday was so syrupy that it made those Julia Roberts celebrity interviews on "Entertainment Tonight" look like Prime Minister's Question Time in the English House of Commons.

Hannity, the wide-eyed conservative who is paired up with in-his-place "liberal" Alan Colmes on Fox's creepily amusing "Hannity & Colmes" show, did not so much fawn over the vice president as desperately beg the big guy for approval. Hannity wasn't merely tossing softball questions; he was playing up to Cheney like a half-wit intern trying to get on the good side of an annoyed boss.

"Well, here you are in the all-important swing state of Ohio," Hannity began.

"Right," Cheney replied.

"The president yesterday mentioned the shameless scare tactics that are being used by the Democrats and more particularly John Kerry, who is now on the stump regularly saying that there's a big January surprise," Hannity said, referring to talk of privatization of Social Security.

"Right," Cheney replied.

Seated on a hokey set where he was surrounded by bales of hay, the vice president did his best to answer Hannity's questions seriously. But it was simply impossible. As the questions got sillier and sillier, the vice president grumbled out the sort of several-word responses that are usually reserved for the final uncomfortable minutes of sit-down sessions with the editorial board of the Mason City Globe Gazette.

Holding up a booklet, Hannity breathlessly announced, "I brought another prop with me."

"You brought a lot," Cheney observed, with all the enthusiasm of an airline passenger being chatted up by a hyperactive seatmate.

What makes Hannity's performances all the more hilarious is the fact that the Fox host does not appear to have the faintest inkling of how of how much his "interviews" look like a local television station's "remote" broadcast from the grand opening of a new car wash.

When the session was finished, an excited Hannity greeted the Democratic guest on his "fair-and-balanced" program, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. After Hannity referred to what had just finished as "the interview I had with the vice president," Landrieu corrected him. "I wouldn't call what just happened with the vice president an interview. I think it was an infomercial for the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign."

Hannity blew up, screaming, "Senator, senator, I think you're a lousy senator, okay?" Then he whined, "If you don't like it, I don't really care."

But, of course, he did care.

After the Fox host repeatedly interrupted Landrieu, the senator said, "Sean, let me finish please. You did not interrupt the vice president."

"Well, you're not the vice president," Hannity growled, "and I doubt you ever will be."

The man is serious.

That's the genius of his humor.

Other shows hire writers to come up with funny lines. Hannity is funny without even trying.

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John Nichols' book on Cheney, Dick: The Man Who Is President, has just been released by The New Press. Former White House counsel John Dean, the author of Worse Than Watergate, says, "This page-turner closes the case: Cheney is our de facto president." Arianna Huffington, the author of Fanatics and Fools, calls Dick, "The first full portrait of The Most Powerful Number Two in History, a scary and appalling picture. Cheney is revealed as the poster child for crony capitalism (think Halliburton's no bid, cost-plus Iraq contracts) and crony democracy (think Scalia and duck-hunting)."

Dick: The Man Who Is President is available from independent bookstores nationwide and by clicking here.

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