‘The New Norm Show’ and Why Anti-Woke Comedy Isn’t Funny

Imagine if an endless stream of cringeworthy Boomer Facebook memes were to congeal into an anti-woke Family Guy-style sitcom. You’d get something like The New Norm Show, which is billed as the “first animated sit-com on X,” formerly known as Twitter.   

The pilot, released Tuesday, was met with widespread ridicule from all sides, but the harshest criticism seemed to come from those one could hardly classify as “woke.”  

“Even the woke-est, lamest offerings of Obama’s Netflix, Disney, etc. are infinitely better than this,” wrote Compact magazine founder and editor Sohrab Ahmari. “This is so f***ing awful that I’m convinced Adam Carolla commissioned it to make his own anti-woke cartoon look good,” tweeted Ben Sixsmith, the online editor for The Critic. Logan Hall, a digital strategist for The Blaze, said it was “somehow even worse” than the “cringiest, most unwatchable, nauseating trash ever created” by the left for television.  

The debacle highlighted the limitations of explicitly political artistic endeavors and the right’s bad habit of conceptually caging itself in a reactive framework—of chiefly defining itself in relation to that which it opposes at any given moment.  

The jokes on The New Norm Show are clumsy and forced. It is as though the writers are running through a checklist, derived from memes featuring humanoid Minions or a mustachioed Sam Elliott dispensing pithy cowboy comebacks. The first gag involves the main character, an anti-woke boomer named Norm, grabbing a beer and recoiling in horror that the can is designed to resemble the pride flag.  

“What’s that?!” Norm exclaims. He holds out the can out for his woke daughter to see as she sits on the couch beside him, pecking away at her phone.  

“Progress,” she says, disinterested. “It’s the new norm.”  

“I’m the old Norm,” he shoots back. “I want normal beer.”   

Norm wears an ankle monitor. We learn that he is on house arrest for yelling at a school board meeting about the “brainwashing” of his daughter. Norm has been assigned a live-in government monitor named Chaz, who is nonbinary and sports a pink mohawk atop an N95 mask. A surveillance drone in Norm’s living room squawks whenever he says anything mildly politically incorrect, which Norm invariably does as he runs through a series of gags that, again, seemed tailor-made for a particular Republican demographic.   

As Norm becomes exasperated, his friend Charlie, a black man and his boss, arrives. Charlie notices Chaz and complains to Norm, “I come here to get away from woke.”   

The two sit on the couch and watch football as Charlie, remote control in hand, impotently complains to Norm that his son wants to transition.  

“Transitioning to what?” asks Norm.   

“Hopefully not a Jets fan,” says Charlie.   

Cue laugh track.  

The pilot ends shortly after that, with a guest appearance by a cartoon Elon Musk at the end as a country-inspired theme song plays: “Thank God for Elon Musk and his shitpost memes / X is the home for free speech.” The cartoon version of Musk is just as awkward as the flesh-and-blood one.  

Some of this material could be funny, but it is presented in such an forced and awkward way that it seems more like a parody of conservatives and the right than it does of liberals and the left. Every joke is an attempt to turn old memes or Fox News headlines into a joke. However, as Sixsmith wrote to me in an exchange about the show, this formula only works when it’s comedy that is “incidentally political rather than politics aspiring to be comedic.”   

More important, and as I previously hinted, this sad attempt at humor also showcases the right’s penchant for thinking mostly in terms of reaction. Norm is under house arrest for being politically incorrect in public, implying that the left has already achieved total cultural victory. Norm is alienated from his daughter at the outset, meaning he has failed as a father. Even Charlie seems resigned to the fact that his son wants to “cut off his junk.” The show takes as a given that America has completely transformed into a queer techno-dystopia in which the aging holdouts console themselves with beer and football. It’s nightmarish, but not in the way the creators of the show had intended.  

The New Norm Show was slammed for the same reason NBC’s medical drama New Amsterdam was mocked when it recently aired an episode in which a patient developed a tumor from “internalized racism.” There’s nothing subversive or witty going on; it’s just hammering you on the nose with ham-fisted politics, accomplishing little more than tickling an already beaten-down audience of the converted.   

There is an appetite for content that is anti-woke or at least not woke (the term itself is awful and overused), but this is not it.

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