Tears of a Clown

Ann Coulter claims she “killed.” Others say she “bombed.” What’s the truth?

Ann Coulter upstaged Rob Lowe at his own roast, without even trying. But is there something more substantive to learn amidst all the folderol surrounding the Roast of Coulter with Lowe?

tears-of-a-clown

Roasts depend upon humor and, in this case, the jokes targeting Coulter and those given by Coulter conceal and reveal Coulter’s heart.

Prior to the roast, Coulter told Extra: “I’ve never seen a roast but I hear it gets kind of mean.” She placed special emphasis on that last word, suggesting it was something to relish. Coulter then joked, “ My whole life is an Ann Coulter roast.”

Moreover, Coulter arrogantly entered a forum foreign to her, believing that she would inevitably prevail. She was clearly unprepared for what she was about to experience.

Jokes about Coulter

The opening to the roast introduced “The way less intelligent Ann Coulter.” (Coulter disagrees.)

The Coulter with Lowe Roast was an equal opportunity roasting, with everyone getting singed, but Coulter was uniquely burned.

These raunchy roasts generally employ good-natured ribbing. At this roast, Coulter was abjectly hated and, thus, became the recipient of a disproportionate number of “jokes” and vulgar venom. Many of the jokes were spiteful, not jocular. Some weren’t jokes at all but merely expressions of enmity. (This video contains every Coulter insult.)

The very best jokes contain at least a kernel of truth. Many of the jokes were actually accurate, on target. Coulter is known to be an offensive person because she purposely provokes offense.

Irrationally, Coulter seems surprised that deliberately offending people invites retaliation. (Live by the F.U., cry by the F.U.) This is particularly striking given her instructions in her 2004 bestseller, How to Talk to a Liberal (if you must). In it, she offers 10 rules for conservatives. Number three: “you must outrage the enemy.” She also advises, “Nothing too extreme can be said about liberals, because it’s all true.”

According to the Atlantic:

“Coulter, after all, has arguably based her entire profession on trolling TV viewers and political commentators with intentionally shocking, awful statements. To enumerate them all would be impossible – she’s less a pundit and more a vessel for free-associative hate speech … Her newsmaking brand isn’t dissimilar from the approach to writing a roast-appropriate joke: Craft an insult that’s as vicious as possible but still ends on a laugh line, a wink to the audience that suggests the whole thing is all in good fun. Coulter, however, mostly lacks that final element – her defenders might claim that she’s just trying to push buttons, but her arena isn’t the world of stand-up.”

Coulter’s Response

Ann Coulter was shocked to be targeted with such vitriol. (Her supporters claim she was “ambushed,” a conspiracy theory to Coulter’s liking.)

Coulter even contends that Comedy Central carefully edited the program to excise laughter at her jokes. She said, “I don’t know how they edited it but I know I got laughs when I was there.” She added, “It’s very easy to cut jokes, or laughs, out. You can make anybody look like they’re playing to a dead audience.”

One website took screengrabs of Coulter following various “jokes” and concluded that she handled it with grace. The Atlantic offered a different, more accurate, take: “Coulter, instead, responded to the lines with a sort of frozen, tortured grin, rendering the whole thing deeply uncomfortable.”

Coulter was clearly distressed and, in the beginning, visibly enraged. Toward the latter half of the show she was able to smile – a plastic, frozen smile to hide the incensed inferno within.

She never laughed at herself. Comedian Jeff Ross said, “She hated every second of it. She wouldn’t laugh.” Coulter doesn’t know how to laugh at herself. (Perhaps she should pretend her mirror is a camera.)

Coulter told Sam Roberts: “Ned [Rice] came running up to me at the first break … and [Ned] said, ‘You have to laugh; you have to laugh’ and I said, ‘I can’t, I can’t act. I’m sorry. It’s not that it’s about me. A lot of it wasn’t funny.’”

Claiming to have been “bored” by the whole roast, Coulter asserts, “I don’t notice ‘mean,’ but I do notice ‘jokes’ and I didn’t hear many of those – until I took the mic!” Boastful bravado masks her sorrow.

Coulter hides her rage by laughing about the low caliber of the “jokes” made at her expense, claiming, “I don’t care – I am just telling you what happened – it was a bore until I spoke and I was fantastic.

But Coulter does care. Ann hates criticism more than most people and she recoils against ridicule (though she is quite quick to dispense it). Coulter is a shameless person who hates to be shamed. The smallest criticism generates internal angst.

Coulter’s rage was obvious in her own description of the event: “Hunt, hunt, hunt, Hitler, KKK, hunt, hussy, hussy, Hitler, KKK, burning crosses, hunt, she hates Muslims, hunt, hunt, hussy, hussy, hussy – now I have summarized the entire two hours I had to listen to.” She made similar characterizations on other programs.

Jokes by Coulter

In our examination of this controversy (one which Coulter has, once again, ably exploited), a crucial element in this saga must be cleared up. The consensus on the Internet and social media is that Coulter bombed. This is nonsense. The audience disliked Coulter’s politics (and tasteful) humor.

Coulter was poised and sharp, though she stumbled over a few words. Some of her jokes were quite good and well presented. Others were not. Their fatal flaw: they were inappropriate to the venue. Moreover, they were often far too political and self-serving. But then, Ann is a very political and self-serving person. (See “Annotated transcript of Coulter’s set at the Roast of Rob Lowe.”)

Coulter told TMZ, “I wrote [my jokes, with] a few friends.” She explained, “I did not take the roasters’ jokes – they were too blue and too mean.” (Coulter reported rejected a series of jokes proffered by Comedy Central, only one of which could be regarded as incongruently apropos: “I have to say, Rob, it’s nice to finally not be the most hated person in the room.”)

As for Coulter’s actual shtick, it would have served her well to revise her prepared remarks after experiencing what a roast is really like. Instead, politics suffused her routine. One-liners are standard fare for a Coulter speech, but this wasn’t supposed to be a speech – it was a roast.

That reminded of an MRC Dishonors Awards ceremony where Coulter had been slated to introduce Rush Limbaugh, who abruptly canceled his appearance. Rather than introduce the actual speaker, Coulter introduced him as if he were Limbaugh so that her prepared material would not go to waste.

On Sam Roberts’ Show, Coulter boasted of her roast segment: “I killed.” She added, “All I had was jokes, I didn’t go blue and I wasn’t mean, and they laughed and I got to really promote my book.”

You can judge for yourself. (See “Annotated transcript of Coulter’s set at the Roast of Rob Lowe.”)

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