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Comedy vs. the State

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10/21/2020Dave Smith

Dave Smith is a New York–based stand-up comedian, radio personality, and political commentator. Dave can be seen regularly on The Greg Gutfeld Show and Red Eye on Fox News, as well as Kennedy on Fox Business Network. In 2013 Dave was featured as one of the “New Faces” at the prestigious Just for Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal. He was also a featured performer on the New York Comedy Festival’s “New York’s Funniest” showcase in 2014 and 2015. Dave’s outlet for his social commentary is his podcast, Part of the Problem, which is available on iTunes. His one-hour special Libertas is available online at gasdigitalnetwork.com.

JEFF DEIST: Dave, for starters you share a pedigree with Walter Block and Bernie Sanders. All three of you were born in Brooklyn, New York.

DAVE SMITH: Yes, that’s right. I’m happy to share a pedigree with one of those two people.

JD: Tell us a bit about your childhood. Did you attend public schools?

DS: I went to both public and private school in Brooklyn. I went to PS107 and then to the Berkeley Carroll School for middle school and high school. I remember reading Rothbard, about his experiences going first to public school and then private school. I didn’t like my private school much either, but it was much, much better than the public school. The public school was just a disaster. I still have a vivid memory of my third grade teacher giving the entire class all of the answers for standardized tests, citywide tests at the time. There were abusive teachers. It was really a horrible environment. I learned nothing while I was there. For all of the problems that my private school had, it was not nearly as bad. I feel about private school teachers the way Donald Trump feels about Mexicans coming into our country. Some I’m sure are good people, but they’re not sending their best.

JD: Tell us more about your home environment. Do you have siblings?

DS: I have a brother and a sister, but my brother is much younger. He’s thirteen years younger, from my mother’s second marriage. I grew up with a single mother and my older sister. We were lower middle class, and then moved into middle class. We moved a lot. I lived in probably nine or ten different apartments throughout my life. I was born in 1983 and grew up in what is now old Brooklyn and what I guess is now old America. I feel like I was the last generation where you would go outside unattended and that was just what children did. If someone threatened to beat you up and you told an adult, they would probably tell you to punch him in his nose. It was a different world with no internet and no wokeism, the pre-9/11 America.

JD: Was your mother political?

DS: My mother was a liberal. She was a left liberal, but in the true sense of liberal. None of the woke stuff, but she was a Democrat and pretty much bought the Democratic party line. She’s changed a bit in the last few years, or perhaps she’s stayed the same and the Democrats have changed. But she was interested in politics. My mother and my stepfather would watch Crossfire back with Pat Buchanan and the guy on the left. That was on in the background.

JD: Michael Kinsley. And they were on five nights a week!

DS: Yes, Kinsley. She always read the New York Times. A pretty standard run-of-the-mill liberal Democrat.

JD: I’ve heard you allude to going away for college in a much smaller town. I suspect that was a culture shock for you.

DS: Oh, yeah. I went to Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York. A tiny little town, brutal winters. Winter starts in October and goes until April, and I just did not like it at all. It was boring and I missed the city. That college experience was not for me.

JD: Unlike Brooklyn, the only food you could find late at night was maybe Domino’s pizza.

DS: Yes! I remember Domino’s closed at midnight and if you didn’t catch them before they closed, that was it. There was nothing to eat—my New York City brain could not understand. I remember when I first went up there I thought: Okay, well what else is there? And no, there’s nothing else. And it was actually the first time, at college, I confronted wokeism—what’s now taken over the entire national discourse. It was very left-wing. I had a history professor who said, and this had nothing to do with history, but he insisted there were basically no differences between men and women. We’ve been socialized to believe this. I remember arguing with him. I argued, are you suggesting if women were raised differently they could compete in the NFL with men? And he said yes, very seriously. Yes, if we just raised little girls differently, they could be middle linebackers in the National Football League. And I remember thinking the whole thing was just really stupid. None of it was interesting to me, and I didn’t like living in the small town. I just wanted to get out of there.

JD: At this point, it looked like you were not destined to be a grad school academic type.

DS: No, I hated school. I was a very poor student throughout. Teachers always thought of me as that kid who wasted potential because I was bright but just didn’t care about schoolwork. I always did the bare minimum to pass. My big concern was not getting kicked off the basketball team, and I think you had to have a C average to play. I always managed to just get by, but I didn’t care about school, it didn’t interest me. I also didn’t like the whole system. When I went to Berkeley Carroll it was this wannabe elitist Park Slope private school, and I hated the whole culture. I had a few teachers I liked very much, but for the most part they were fake. It was probably a 90 percent white school at the time if I had to guess. But when you’d come in the entrance, there were pictures of the few black students so they could brag about their diversity. I immediately saw right through it.

JD: As an aside, though, I bet your old-school liberal mom really cared about you going to a decent school.

DS: Yes. She did. She very much did. My mother was the daughter of a Holocaust survivor and this had a big, big impact on her. She always identified with the downtrodden or whatever group she thought was oppressed. But she also had normal cultural values and thought things like families were very good.

JD: You began your career in New York City, which is the epicenter of comedy clubs. You’ve lived in Manhattan a long time, after Brooklyn. But with all the craziness of 2020, you’ve considered leaving. Isn’t that awfully tough for someone who is both culturally and professionally a longtime New Yorker?

DS: Yes, it’s very tough for me. I’m truly heartbroken over what’s happened to New York City. To me, it’s nothing short of a tragedy. I think New York City is an amazing city. I know a lot of libertarians and small government types think of it as this hellhole, but I love the people and I love the culture. I love the museums and the restaurants and the theater and everything. I think it’s a great place. But I have a two-year-old daughter and I don’t want to raise her around heroin addicts. For her I need a nice house with a nice backyard in a good neighborhood. So I’m fond of a lot of aspects of New York City, but it’s time for me to get out.

JD: You describe your younger self as having standard boilerplate left-wing perspectives. Like all good Brooklynites, you disliked George W. Bush, who was president when you became politically aware in the 2000s. Maybe you disliked him for the wrong reasons, I don’t know.

DS: No, actually I disliked George W. Bush for the right reasons! I was a standard left-leaning guy. I didn’t know much about politics, but obviously we should tax rich people and give the money to not-so-rich people. Who wouldn’t want to do that? We should have a higher minimum wage—don’t you care about poor people? I wasn’t really thinking these things through, and coming to what seemed obvious left-liberal perspectives. But George W. Bush was a different story. I was eighteen on 9/11, and it had a big effect on me. I stood on Flatbush Avenue and watched people covered in debris who had walked over the Brooklyn Bridge because the subways were shut down. And I thought, oh man, maybe they’re going to bring back the draft! Maybe we’re going to be in crazy wars. Bush came to New York City a week later and said his famous line: “I hear you, Washington hears you, and soon enough the people who knocked down this tower are going to hear from you.” I was all in. I didn’t know anything about the history of US conflicts in the Middle East, but I thought, These bastards picked on the wrong enemy and they’re going to pay for this. But as the years went on I saw George W. Bush really didn’t care about who had attacked us on 9/11. He was using it as his excuse to invade Iraq and shred the Bill of Rights. When he finally said that he really didn’t care about getting Osama bin Laden—a few years later some reporter asked him about it, and he said, “I don’t really think about it that much”—I was furious. I was furious about that. He came to us in our moment of panic and lied to us. I could see through Dick Cheney and Bush. Being a left liberal it was easy to see through them, but I hated the Patriot Act; I hated the war in Iraq; I hated everything about those guys. I thought George W. Bush was unimpressive, kind of dumb, this elitist child who was gifted a silver spoon and handed the White House. I hated everything about him. In this sense my opinions haven’t changed. I was right about all of that.

JD: I like your natural reflexive inclination to care about your city on 9/11, to have a sense of home. You were angry when it was attacked.

DS: Yes.

JD: Libertarians are really shortsighted about this.

DS: Yeah, I completely agree. It’s been infuriating to me over the last few months. So many libertarians are dug into their preconceived biases. The cops are the bad guys, and the state is the bad guy, so they blindly support any group upset with the state. How could any normal person see mobs destroying cities and not think this is horrible? And for all the same reasons we hate the state? You know, the lack of respect for private property or civilization or basic human decency. For all of the same reasons you hate the state, you should hate these mobs every bit as much.

JD: In your twenties you were influenced by the 2008 Ron Paul presidential campaign. Talk us through that. What was your first moment when you felt your worldview changing?

DS: It was so random. I happened to be at my mother’s house and we were watching the Republican debate, in late 2007. This happened to be the famous Ron Paul–Rudy Giuliani exchange. I already was strongly antiwar, and I thought Iraq was the biggest issue of that election. That’s what I cared about. I assumed, well, George W. Bush is leaving and obviously we need to get a Democrat in there. If you don’t know anything about politics or history, it was easy to think Democrats were the antiwar party, even though most of them in Congress voted to invade Iraq. But they were positioning themselves as the anti-Bush, antiwar party, so I wanted to see one of them win.

And then I saw this exchange with a Congressman I had never heard of named Ron Paul—and he made the antiwar case better than any Democrat I had ever heard! You could tell, there was something real…Ron Paul’s authentic beliefs just pierced through the screen. You knew this guy really believed what he was saying. And I watched him mop the floor with Rudy Giuliani, and there was something about him. I know a lot of people were influenced by this moment,
and I just really responded to his courage. People almost forget how the crowd was with Giuliani. Ron Paul had no support in that crowd and he didn’t care, it meant nothing to him. Ron Paul was going to tell the truth, and if you want to boo him out of the arena, that’s fine. And I immediately thought, Who the hell is that guy? How have I never heard of him? I started googling Ron Paul to read more about him, and then I watched every single Republican debate after that because I wanted to see what else this guy said. It was a really interesting dynamic, those debates in 2007 and 2008. It was a bunch of boring shills and Ron Paul on stage. The lineup was boring guy, boring guy, boring guy, really interesting guy. He started talking about free market economics and I thought it sounded kind of crazy, but he was so good on the war question I thought, Okay, let me at least look into this. Let’s see why he’s wrong. And as I got deeper, I was converted.

JD: Are there any particular books or articles you remember from that period?

DS: Well, I read Dr. Paul’s book The Revolution, but that might have been several months later. Through Google and YouTube I listened to Ron Paul’s speeches, and then I found Peter Schiff and Tom Woods. I started reading their articles, and then the economy crashed. These guys had been talking about it. Tom Woods kept talking about Murray Rothbard and the Mises Institute, and so I read Anatomy of the State and “War, Peace, and the State”—those two Rothbard pieces. And it was off to the races from there. I almost never looked back. I had to consume everything Murray Rothbard wrote. I was on mises.org every single day, reading tons of stuff. It really spoke to me.

JD: Rothbard’s work tends to punch you in the face.

DS: Yes. Maybe it’s my personality type, but that’s what I responded to. I loved being challenged. I remember reading Rothbard and sometimes I put the book down in front of me to look around for a moment and say “wow.” That’s what I liked to read, stuff that really slams you. Rothbard makes this unbelievably compelling case, and I spent so much time reading him and stuff from the Mises Institute in general. I started reading Lew Rockwell. It was life changing.

JD: Maybe it’s a Brooklyn thing, you seem to share Rothbard’s intransigence when it comes to moderation or compromise.

DS: I’m sure there’s something about my personality that makes me respond to that type of thing. But also when it comes to the subject matter Rothbard was dealing with, it’s the appropriate attitude to have. If we’re talking about a mass murder campaign in Iraq, why would we approach it with anything less than that energy?

JD: How do you describe yourself to someone who asks about your politics?

DS: I pretty much agree with Rothbard on everything. I don’t know if it really makes sense to call yourself a Rothbardian or a Keynesian or whatever. But if I was going to be associated with any one thinker, I’m quite comfortable with it being Murray Rothbard.

JD: Recently you did a show about so-called 90s Rothbard, which always makes me laugh. Some people claim he deviated rather than evolved in his principles. You defend his more polemical and populist work, like the articles in the Rothbard-Rockwell Report.

DS: I think his most controversial articles, at least among left libertarians, propose right-wing populism or “paleolibertarian” strategy. I’ve probably read “Right-Wing Populism” a dozen times, and I think at first I was like, This could be a problem, maybe he shouldn’t have written this. And then every time I read it, I’m a little bit more sympathetic to it. Most recently I read it and thought he’s just completely right. The guy is a prophet, I mean he’s right about everything. And of course a lot of people who criticize the article really misrepresent it or give it the least charitable reading. If you read the article with an open mind, you’ll realize that he’s not straying from Rothbardian principles at all. He’s analyzing the political moment, that moment being 1991 or ’92, and making some very good points. Much of it proved to be absolutely correct. You can disagree, but thinking the country was ripe for right-wing populism, thinking libertarians’ best bet was populism—how can you argue with that in hindsight?

You have the [Charles] Koch and [Ed] Crane types, who have been trying to get into corridors of power and influence the government for decades. There’s been zero success from that. You have the Hayekian model of trying to influence the influencers, win the intellectuals over. There’s been zero success in that. Libertarian philosophy is more toxic in a university than critical race theory! Far more toxic. So, there’s been zero success in any of those efforts. The only success libertarians really have is the Ron Paul movement. It was a populist movement that got people up out of their seats and convinced them this whole system was screwing them over. If you’re being honest, admit Rothbard was really onto something.

JD: I’ve heard you mention in particular The Ethics of Liberty to listeners. That’s really the quintessential normative Rothbard.

DS: If I’m recommending Rothbard to people, I usually start with Anatomy of the State and “War, Peace, and the State,” like I mentioned earlier. Maybe that’s because I read them first and project my own sensibilities onto others. But The Ethics of Liberty gives you the most compelling argument. And to me, it also speaks to my role in this whole movement. I knew we had all of these really brilliant academic types, but I felt I could speak to regular people. I don’t think libertarianism should exclusively be for academics. I really think of us as abolitionists, essentially. We want to abolish slavery and we believe people should be free. We want to abolish slavery to the state rather than traditional chattel slavery. There might be some brilliant economists in 1845 who could explain why slavery is actually not as efficient of an economic system as free men voluntarily interacting with each other, but any normal person could just be an abolitionist. You don’t have to be an intellectual to understand this is wrong and should be abolished. I feel the same way about libertarianism today. And so I like books that can just speak to regular people where they are.

JD: Talk about Hans-Hermann Hoppe. He still draws a lot of ire, but in many ways he continued where Rothbard left off. What is Hoppe’s influence on you?

DS: Hoppe had a tremendous influence on me. I mean, I think that Hoppe is brilliant. He does draw a lot of criticism, although it’s almost never actually based in any of his work or anything he’s said. There are a lot of provocative memes on the internet with Hoppe and people are outraged about those, but I think his work has been enormously valuable. He explains the true implications of a private society, and has the best, most useful thought experiments about different cultural issues. Things like immigration, covenant societies, time preference. With any interesting or controversial thinker, you can always find things they’ve said throughout their career which are not supposed to be said. But if you look at the body of Hoppe’s work, I think his contributions to libertarianism are, with the exceptions of maybe Mises and Rothbard, almost unrivaled.

JD: How much Mises have you read? Do you feel like you have a respectable grounding in economics?

DS: For the people you hang out with, Jeff, probably not so much, but for normal people, yes, I’m doing very good! I’ve read Human Action and I’ve read Socialism and I’ve read plenty of articles on mises.org. I’ve read a lot more  Rothbard than I have Mises, probably a lot more Hoppe than I have Mises also. I’ve also read Bob Murphy’s Choice, so I’ve absorbed a lot of Mises through other people too. Let’s say for a comedian I’m very sound on economics.

JD: Talk about your career. To an outsider, comedy seems like a brutal business. Has it taught you to be entrepreneurial, to control your own content, to have multiple income streams? Twenty or thirty years ago you simply would have a manager or an agent, but now, not so simple.

DS: That really changed just in the time since I started in 2003. Older, more established guys explained how you need to get into all of the clubs, then you need to get a manager or an agent, and then you can get on television. That was the system and there was no way around it. But right around that time, social media started happening. There were a few comedians on MySpace who started building up big followings. Little by little, it all changed and became a completely different world. Now you can put out your own content, directly to your fans. You don’t have to rely on gatekeepers. It’s a challenging business, but you’re trying to tell jokes for a living—so why should it be given to you easily? I came around at the perfect time in many ways. I feel very lucky. I got into comedy before wokeism overtook everything, so I was already a little bit established. Somebody like me is never going to get a network TV deal today, but who cares? Who cares about that? I can build up my own audience and do what I want to do. I literally get to do stand-up comedy, tell jokes, rant about libertarianism, talk to the people I admire, the most interesting thinkers of our time. I get to do all of this and make a really good living and support my family. This is everything I want to do. I don’t really want to be on Saturday Night Live. I’m very fortunate to work in a time when all of this is viable.

JD: I read a quote from you saying the Left has waged a full-scale war on comedy. If there’s any line of work that ought to be spared from cancel culture, surely it’s stand-up comedy.

DS: You would think so. That certainly was true when I first started stand-up comedy. Wokeism has been creeping into different parts of society for a while now, but it was not a factor in stand-up comedy. No one cared if a joke was offensive. If you could write an offensive joke and still made the crowd laugh, everybody respected that. That’s the hardest thing to do—to say something that would normally turn people off but it’s still really funny. In the last five years or so things really changed. There’s a huge push in the corporate comedy world, Comedy Central, Netflix, all of these different companies, to push diversity for the sake of diversity. But only left-wing perspectives. And wokeism does not lead to funny. It never does. If you look around the broader world of comedy, not just stand-up comedy, but watch an episode of The Office—you could never put this on television anymore. This is only from seven to eight years ago. You could never put something like that on television anymore. The left woke types have set up parameters that all of the greatest comedians could not work within. George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, any of these guys would have to be canceled. And in fact, Dave Chappelle draws heat like he hasn’t kept up with the times. But really he’s still just funny and they have a problem with that. There’s also this counterculture, which I guess I’m a part of now, where people just want funny comedians. A lot of people just want comedians to make them laugh, and are very ripe for antiwoke comedy.

JD: We tell most celebrities or athletes to shut up and sing or shut up and dribble the ball. But we want comedians to get political, it’s funny. Look at Lenny Bruce.

DS: Absolutely. A comedian is a different thing, but it’s not even about shut up and dribble. It’s not that we don’t want a great basketball player to say anything. What we hate is when they repeat the same basic and boring approved opinions. I thought it was really interesting when Dennis Rodman talked about North Korea. I thought it was really interesting when Kanye West talked to Trump about criminal justice reform. People get sick of people in Hollywood or the NBA or NFL saying the same predictable things. That’s what turns people off. But to your point, comedians’ whole job is to give you their point of view. Obviously with the goal of being funny, but comedians can’t shut up and do comedy. They have to talk in order to do comedy. So, it’s particularly absurd to expect comedians to keep quiet about politics.

JD: You’ve always been un-PC in your approach and you haven’t been afraid to combine politics with your act or your podcast. Your comedy special Libertas has plenty of expressly political material. Does that come naturally to you or is it a conscious choice?

DS: In terms of stand-up, it really wasn’t a conscious choice. It just started happening. I started comedy before I was a libertarian and so I had a whole act which had nothing to do with politics, but I became obsessed with libertarianism. All I wanted to do was read more and more about free markets and the history of the liberty movement and politics in general. So it just crept into my act, little by little. It’s what I was thinking about all the time, so I’d end up writing jokes about it. Weirdly, in the last five years or so, almost every comedian became political—but they all had the most boring superficial takes…not all of them, but the majority. It got to a point when I put out Libertas, well I have this whole hour of the jokes I’ve been making about the state of America and the 2016 presidential race. It just made sense to put that out as a show.

JD: You’ve also done a lot of cable news. You’ve appeared on Fox and CNN, which no doubt increases your visibility. Are you ever struck by how basic and superficial those shows really are?

DS: I’ve gotten used to it at this point, but I sure was at first. I think it’s something about Pareto distribution, but the truth is most people are unimpressive. This is true in stand-up comedy, most comedians are unimpressive. It’s true in academia. Cable news and journalism in general are no exception. A very small percentage of people are actually impressive. Cable hosts can do the job, they’re essentially literate in their job. They can read the teleprompter, they can host a show, they can graduate college. But in terms of being an impressive thinker, there are very, very few.

It feels weird, and still does, to be the most interesting person on a panel. It’s easy. Just have something interesting to say—for God’s sake, they’re only giving you a minute or thirty seconds to talk, so whittle it down to the most interesting thing you have to say! It amazes me. I’ll be on one of these panels and you’re maybe going to get three questions. Someone will get a question and just waste the time saying nothing, just filler words and basic nonsense with no real point! Why do you even want to do this? It’s shocking how many people that describes in the cable news world. Both hosts and guests. Cable news is dominated by mediocre thinkers.

JD: As you put it, they all sound like a Bank of America ad.

DS: Yes.

JD: You describe how your industry has changed, it’s not about clubs or getting on Johnny Carson anymore. You’re trying to make a living as a comedian, but you also are a podcaster, you also go on cable news shows. You also do other people’s podcasts, you do live streaming specials. You engage heavily with fans and critics on social media. You have all these different ways of getting your content out there. This sounds like a very entrepreneurial venture, a one man band.

DS: Exactly. Getting on Carson was the big thing for stand-up comedians back in the day. If you got on Carson and he liked you, you could make it as a successful stand-up comedian. After Carson retired you had to get on Leno or Letterman, maybe Conan O’Brien. Then Leno retired and there’s Fallon and these other guys. It reached a point where if you get on Conan, you get to go do seven minutes of stand-up comedy and a few hundred thousand people will see you. And that’s nice, but the years go on and on and every week Conan’s got three or four comedians on his show. Appearing on his show doesn’t really separate you from the pack, even with the three hundred thousand people who saw you for seven minutes. Even if they liked you, they probably forgot about who you were. By the next month, they had seen seven more stand-up comedians and it didn’t move the needle at all.

Suddenly you could get on Joe Rogan’s podcast where 8 million people see you. They’re not seeing you for seven minutes telling some jokes, they’re seeing you for three hours. You go in-depth on everything about you as a person and your beliefs. If you gain a fan from that, it’s a whole different type of fan. That fan is invested in you now. So appearing on a big podcast is better for your career than going on one of these late night shows. Little by little that became true for having a Comedy Central special or an HBO special. They don’t matter as much anymore. What matters is having a relationship with your fan base. Lucky for me, I was able to get on Rogan and the shows that matter.

JD: Rogan, for example, reaches a huge pop audience—but a reasonably cerebral and thoughtful pop audience. I interviewed Professor Paul Cantor, who loves South Park like you. He laments the complete takeover of pop culture by the Left. There is an opportunity for people like you to engage the broader public and make them think a little bit.

DS: Absolutely. Rogan’s audience is more thoughtful and more interesting than your average television viewer, for sure. Something happened to the Left. If you go back to the 1960s, they were at least the fun ones. They really were. They made funny comedy and funny movies. Even conservatives would have to admit the left-wingers are probably more fun at parties. But something changed, and the Left embraced woke scolds and gave up fun. They’ve ceded the ground of fun, and not just in some degenerate sense. Now it’s the woke scolds who are uptight. It’s an interesting dynamic where the roles have been reversed.

JD: The other day I saw where Johnny Rotten, Johnny Lydon of the Sex Pistols, wore a red MAGA T-shirt. This was purely performance art, but the Left couldn’t help pouncing. They don’t like him because a few years back he committed the sin of supporting Brexit. So a MAGA shirt is the new punk rock.

DS: Pat Buchanan said conservatives won the Cold War and lost the culture war. And there’s no question about either of those things. The United States of America outlasted the Soviet Union and that’s a pretty wonderful thing, but the counterculture has taken over the country. It is now counterculture to be a Christian who wants to have a family and live by traditional values. That is the most counterculture thing you could do at this point. Not having a tattoo is more of a statement than having a sleeve of tattoos on your arm. It’s strange because it just doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel right for either side. It’s very different from most times in human history. But if you were to walk down the streets of New York City with a T-shirt that said “kill cops” that would not be provocative at all—not nearly on the level that wearing a MAGA hat would be.

JD: Let’s wrap up with two slightly personal questions. First, you have always led with your antiwar position. You’ve always made it a hallmark of your public persona. For your generation, US wars in the Middle East seem like part of the permanent landscape. So, how did war become such a motivating issue for you?

DS: It all goes back to 9/11 and the response. There’s my family history. My grandfather was a refugee from Germany, a Jew who was basically born in the worst place at the wrong time. He enlisted in the US Army and fought in World War II. My stepfather fought in Vietnam. So I have some veterans in my family who know about the evils of war, but to me it’s the worst thing in the world, the worst thing anyone could possibly do. And yet somehow it’s completely accepted by the Democrats and Republicans who are doing it. It drives me crazy. You hear about what’s happened to the people of Iraq, the people of Afghanistan and Yemen and Syria and Libya. It’s a huge tragedy, a biblical level of evil. It is accepted and it drives me crazy. Most people in this country don’t want these wars anymore and yet they persist because really evil interests make money off killing children. Even with all the crazy stuff going on in America, there’s nothing more important than ending this.

JD: That dovetails with my final question about fatherhood. You haven’t shied away from discussing the impact of having a little girl. You haven’t shied away from the question of abortion. You haven’t shied away from talking about why families matter and why we shouldn’t view political liberty as atomized individualism. This probably does you no favors in comedy circles. Have you always had this perspective?

DS: I certainly haven’t always had this perspective. It’s something that grew. I really changed when I met my wife, I changed when we got married, and I really changed when she got pregnant and had our daughter. My heroes were guys like Murray Rothbard and Ron Paul who would always tell the truth, even when it was not going to do them any favors. Rothbard was connected to powerful people like the Koch brothers. He could have compromised a little bit and had a much cushier life than he had, but he chose not to because he wanted to tell the truth.

Ron Paul was friendly with Reagan and a lot of powerful people. He easily could have been a star in the Republican Party. If Ron Paul just toned down the antiwar stuff, he could have been a made guy in that world, but he refused to because he wanted to tell the truth.

Those are the guys I really admire. I was somebody who lived a very degenerate lifestyle for a long time. I was a comedian on the road, a single guy. I did that for a while. Then I met a really great woman and settled down and got married and had a kid. And I realized life is so much better. Who would I be if I didn’t share that with my audience, particularly the younger men who listen to me who are a large part of my audience? How could I not tell them about these traditional institutions like marriage and family which can be really wonderful?

Young men are really disparaged in our culture today and I don’t think that’s good. I don’t think that’s helpful. I don’t think it’s helpful to have a huge percentage of children raised in single parent households, and it certainly won’t create a culture that supports liberty. Little by little I came to all of these conclusions.

I’m going to say it, whether it’s about family or God or being pro-life. I have a family, this is how my thinking evolved and changed. I’d always rather be the person who tells the truth, and let the controversy come, that’s fine with me. Now I have a daughter, and I’d like to be a role model for her. What type of role model would I be if I avoided controversial issues because I was afraid of being called a mean name?

We think of people as being courageous, but historically speaking there’s not much courage involved. What’s going to happen? Someone on Twitter will call you a mean name? I get my YouTube channel banned? I’m not worried about being shot in the public square. If other people could speak up when they faced real dangers, I should have enough courage to tell the truth.

JD: Very well said, Dave.

Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.
Author:

Dave Smith

Dave Smith is a stand-up comedian, and host of Part Of The Problem. His website is ComicDaveSmith.com.

Cite This Article

Smith, Dave, "Comedy vs. the State," The Austrian 6, no. 5 (Sept./Oct. 2020): 4–12.

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