Mmm-hmmm! Air America Radio, liberals’ pallid, unfunny response to the domination of the airwaves by conservative talk-faves such as Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly, is already a mega-flop, with only a half-dozen stations so far signed up (you can’t even get it in my market, the nation’s capital). Turns out, moreover, that even liberals find Air America, the brainchild of comedians/Bush-bashers Al Franken, Jeanne Garofalo, and others, a mighty snooze. 

On Sunday, David Shaw, the Los Angeles Times’s media critic and self-confessed liberal, weighed in with his account of the 17 hours he’d spent listening to Air America two days before Easter–and he wasn’t impressed. (Thank you, libertarian Catholic blogger Kathy Shaidle, for spotting this.) Comparing Air America’s crude invective with the polished polemic of, say, Rush Limbaugh, Shaw writes:

“Oh sure, the new network’s assorted hosts, guests and callers did engage in a bit of obligatory name-calling. Henry Kissinger was ‘a war criminal.’ [Condoleezza] Rice was ‘reptilian,’ ‘a liar’ and ‘a perjurer.’ President Bush was ‘an idiot,’ ‘a liar,’ a ‘lazy sack of c–p,’ ‘a fake Christian,’ ‘a murdering scumbag’ and ‘ amid a discussion of Janet Jackson and the Super Bowl ‘ ‘the biggest boob of all.’

“But Limbaugh does his name-calling so creatively and hilariously that it usually winds up being entertaining. As repellent as I find his politics, Limbaugh is an entertainer as well as a polemicist, and after liberal talk-show experiments with such policy wonks as former Govs. Jerry Brown of California and Mario Cuomo of New York all failed, the folks behind Air America promised that they’d learned their lesson. They too would find ideologues who are funny….

“I laugh easily, and I didn’t get a single laugh from Franken…or from any of the other Air America hosts I listened to….

“In fact, I think what ultimately annoyed ‘ and disappointed me ‘ the most about Air America was all the false, aren’t-we-funny, aren’t-we-smart laughter that virtually all the hosts gave each other. Four of Air America’s six weekday programs have co-hosts ‘ and two have three co-hosts apiece, liberal collectives that stand in stark contrast to the individual, every-man-for-himself approach of the conservatives. Maybe that’s one reason they don’t work as well as, say, Limbaugh’s solo effort.

“It shouldn’t take a village to raise a radio program.”

And today, writing for the Indianapolis Star, DePauw University communications professor Jeffrey McCall reaches similar conclusions:

“The major problem is that this broadcast initiative was driven from the outset by political anger and not by good media sense. A number of programming barriers stood in the way, but none of that seemed to matter as the liberal radio strategists forged ahead, apparently ignoring the current radio landscape and the habits of the listeners they seek.

“Most radio markets will support only one talk format station. Even the largest markets can support only two or three. The bad news for Air America is that these stations are already filled, and profitably, with conservative-style talk. Rush Limbaugh is on about 600 stations. Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly are on 400 each. Michael Savage is on 350.

“Then there are Snow, Boortz, Ingraham, etc., each with triple-digit numbers. And most of these stations have their own local talkers to round out the day….

“Unlike many right-leaning listeners, liberals will be difficult to maintain on one talk network. A standard Hannity listener can sit still for hours while Sean discusses defense, pro-life issues, guns and free-market economics. The liberal listeners, to their general credit, will not be herded so easily. Consider the labor union construction worker in St. Louis who leans and votes left based on labor and trade issues. Will he stay tuned to a [Jeanne] Garofalo once the topic turns to abortion rights or gun control? Not likely.”

And I thought liberals were supposed to be the smart people