When Jon Stewart covered the Hillary Clinton e-mail story this week, he played it pretty soft.
The Clinton e-mail story is one a conservative version of "The Daily Show" would have had a field day with. But of course, there's no such thing. Why?
There are conservatives who dabble in political humor, like former "Saturday Night Live" cast member Dennis Miller and Greg Gutfeld, the former host of Fox News' irreverent 3 a.m. "Red Eye." Gutfeld once faked a 16-person panel, a stunt that could also double as commentary on the state of American political punditry, and interviewed the costumed lead singer of the band GWAR. Jesse Watters's segments on "The O'Reilly Factor," where he asks people on the street questions about politics and history, are a Fox News version of Jimmy Kimmel's "Lie Witness News."
But none approach the consistent political satire of Stewart, Stephen Colbert or John Oliver, all of whom conservatives insist are barely concealed liberals. A 2009 Ohio State study found that conservatives were more likely to say Colbert, who acted the part of a staunch conservative on the show, disliked liberalism and "only pretends to be joking and genuinely meant what he said." Liberals were more likely to not take Colbert's political statements seriously.
There are a number of theories for why political satire has such a liberal bent. Oliver Morrison wrote about several for the Atlantic, including that people of different political beliefs appreciate different types of humor. Studies have shown that conservatives prefer stories that have clear-cut endings, while liberals have more tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity, suggesting they enjoy irony more. Other theories include that there are fewer conservative comedians because there are fewer conservative people in the creative arts, according to one study, and that humor is inherently liberal because it aims to "punch up" and take on institutions that conservatives, theoretically, seek to support.
That's not to say a conservative political satire show is out of the question, but it does suggest that such a show might not have as large an audience as "The Daily Show." But in a world where niche programming is all the rage, it seems like a no-brainer for conservatives to develop some version of a satirical news show.