Political Commentator Michael Knowles Speaks on the “Humorless Left”
On Monday, March 26, conservative political commentator Michael Knowles spoke to around 90 Yeshiva University students on “Why the Right is Funnier than the Left These Days.”
The event, which was organized by the YU chapter of the Young America’s Foundation (YAF) and the YU College Republicans, is the third event at Yeshiva University that YAF has sponsored, following lectures from conservative talk show hosts and political commentators Ben Shapiro and Dennis Prager last year and last semester, respectively. Student reactions to the Knowles event were as varied as the reactions to those previous YAF events. While some found his rhetoric divisive, many students appreciated the unique perspective Knowles provided.
Knowles commented about the event, “It was such a pleasure, and the YU students were at such a higher caliber than students at so many other universities.” He added, “It was a sophisticated audience, who asked serious questions on the left and the right—really a pleasure to come.”
The event began with a short introduction from Yeshiva College Junior and founding chairman of YU’s YAF chapter Elliot Fuchs, who thanked the event sponsors, the YU College Republicans, and members of YAF, before introducing Michael Knowles.
Knowles’s speech itself was largely a comedic and politically charged discussion of the “humorless Left,” and why the “Right” is so much more funny. He opened by joking, “I want to make fun of some Democrats, and get out of here,” and proceeded to discuss his time as President of the Yale College Republicans, when “most of what we did was provoke the Lefties.”
He then outlined the two main topics that he would discuss in his lecture: “Why the Right is so much funnier than the Left right now, and also why the Left is humorless—why they don’t have a sense of humor.” He defended his thesis with examples of “Lefties” he considered unfunny, like Jimmy Kimmel, and those on the Right who he did find funny, most notably President Trump.
Throughout the lecture, Knowles attributed various traits to the Left that he believed account for its lack of humor. “Why is the Left these days frowning, and yelling, and shrieking, and crying?” he asked. He explained that “comedy is aggressive; snowflakes are too fragile these days to handle it. Comedy violates the sacred, and the Left doesn’t have any sacred.” He added that “the Lefties today deny objective truth…they believe in the primacy of subjective experience.”
The lecture was followed by a question and answer session in which Knowles responded to students who asked him about the president’s use of Twitter, the alt right, and his position on gun legislation, among other things.
Fuchs considered the event a success. “I thought Knowles picked an interesting and unique topic and I think he did it well, and I think the students appreciated it,” he said.
This sentiment was shared by Stern College Junior and president of the YU College Republicans Alyssa Wruble, who added, “The room was full, which is always a sign that students at YU are interested in thinking, learning, and debating political issues.”
To Fuchs, Knowles’s perspective was distinctive compared to Shapiro and Prager. “We had Shapiro, who is obviously at the top of the world right now in terms of conservative political commentary; we had Prager, who is almost like a hall-of-famer,” Fuchs said. “I think Knowles is distinct from the two of them because he is an up-and-comer, something we haven’t seen yet—what the future looks like.”
Wruble agreed. “I think Michael, as a young up-and-coming political commentator, really showcased his unique perspective on the intersection of culture and politics with his signature mix of intellect and humor,” she said. “It was a nice break from the tension that usually surrounds political discussion and debate these days.”
Some students who attended the event, like YC Junior and executive board member of the YU College Republicans Nolan Edmonson, appreciated Knowles’s comedic tone. Edmonson noted the “positive student turnout” and stressed the comic nature of the topic. “I think the students received Michael’s message very well,” he said. According to Edmonson, Knowles wanted to “start a lighthearted dialogue among the people in attendance about what issues divide conservatives and liberals. For an evening that was devoted to a comical topic, I thought Michael made some serious and thoughtful points.”
Others, like Stern College Senior and board member of the YU College Democrats Rachel Lelonek, were not so enthusiastic. Lelonek pointed to the time Knowles spent “bashing ‘the left’ and their inability to take the humor of ‘the right.’” She continued, “I feel like events like this only foster animosity and bad feelings on campus. Liberals, the uncommon minority on Yeshiva University's undergraduate campuses, are the punching bags of these events, which might intimidate some of them to come to the events or even participate.”
Wruble disagreed, saying, “Bringing in different speakers with different opinions and perspectives is always helpful for encouraging dialogue regardless of whether the student agrees with the speaker, maybe even more helpful when they disagree.”
Added Fuchs, “Conversation is what we hope to provoke, a battle of ideas is what we hope to provoke, all in the better interest of our campus.”
Michael Knowles is a 28-year-old actor and the managing editor of the conservative website the Daily Wire, where he hosts the podcast The Michael Knowles Show. He trained in acting at the Stella Adler Studio, and graduated from Yale University in 2012 with a B.A. in History.
Knowles is perhaps best known for writing the blank book Reasons to Vote for Democrats: A Comprehensive Guide, which became a #1 bestselling book on Amazon.com and was termed “a great book for your reading enjoyment” by President Donald Trump in a tweet. Shapiro has similarly praised the book, calling it “thorough.”