Can Conservatives Do Comedy?

In 2009, Rush Limbaugh is the country's president and Ann Coulter is his vice president. The two right-wing pundits sit around the Oval Office, smoking cigars and making fun of Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton.

If that scenario sounds like a dream come true for conservatives and a nightmare for liberals, that's the point.

It's the opening skit in the series premiere of "The Half-Hour News Hour," the conservative version of Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show." The show is set to debut on Fox News this Sunday at 10 p.m.

The half-hour, fake news show features "anchors" -- played by actors Kurt Long and Jennifer Robertson -- who introduce skits. The show is the brainchild of "24" creator Joel Surnow and producer Manny Coto.

A year-and-a-half ago, the two self-professed conservatives -- both men have contributed to the campaigns of conservative U.S. senators, and Coto is active in the anti-Castro Cuban community -- were fantasizing about starting a conservative TV network. Out of that, the two developed "The Half-Hour News Hour," with the support of Fox News chairman Roger Ailes.

"Finally, there's a show for the rest of us," intones the announcer at the end of a promotional spot.

The show is the conservative answer to what Surnow and Coto say is the liberal domination of the political TV comedy landscape. Along with Stewart, who nightly skewers the Bush administration on his Comedy Central show, there is Stephen Colbert, who does a parodic imitation of Fox News' Bill O'Reilly on "The Colbert Report," and Bill Maher, who often roasts conservatives on HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher."

"The fact that there's no conservative dog in that hunt is a shame," said conservative columnist Doug Giles, whose recent column, "It's Time for Conservatives to Take Comedy Seriously," excoriated right-wing thinkers for not competing with liberals in the comedic arts.

"Look, as far as comedy goes, Mr. and Mrs. Conservative, you must bow and kiss the Left's ring. They slay us," wrote Giles on Townhall.com. "Why can't conservatives get their comedic act together? The liberals, on a 24/7 basis, are tossing us soft balls that we should be driving out of the park in a humorous, prime-time way."

So, are conservatives capable of comedy? The "Half-Hour News Hour" intends to answer that question. There are several conservative-minded comedians, from Dennis Miller and Larry Miller (no relation) to satirist P.J. O'Rourke, but they tend to be few and far between.

"Of course conservatives can be funny," said Paul Lewis, a professor of English at Boston College and the author of "Cracking Up: American Humor in a Time of Conflict." "Limbaugh is a pretty funny guy if you're not so progressive that you can't stomach it. Conservatives are funny to other conservatives."

After working the stand-up circuit for over 15 years and making the usual jokes about relationships and society, Brad Stine decided to come out as a conservative comic. "I was on stage with a lot of these guys for years but I was raised with a different value system, that Hollywood and New York don't grasp other than as a caricature," said Stine. "It was partly in protest at the idea that you can't be cool and cutting edge and be conservative." Stine, who's been profiled numerous times in magazines, claims that he's lost gigs and TV opportunities due to his conservative-themed act.

But is "Half-Hour News Hour" funny?

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