For these Republicans, comedy is serious business

There were some laughs, but most of the 35 or so people who shuffled into the Laugh Factory in Times Square seemed to have come out of spite.

Not spite for the comedians, a touring act of self-styled radical right-wingers who've billed themselves "The Right Stuff," but spite for those noxious nabobs in the media - smug smart alecks like Bill Maher and Jon Stewart who make fun of George W.

At first, Jere Brill, a silver-haired Upper East Side Manhattanite, didn't even think this crew of conservative comics had the chops to make her chuckle. She heard about the show while listening to one of the performers on a right-wing radio show.

"To tell you the truth, I didn't think he was too funny on the radio, but I wanted to support them, because I think it's important to support the Republican point of view," she explained. "It's something I'm very passionate about, my president and my country, so that's why we came."

Not the reason most make their way to a comedy club, to be sure.

Alicia Cuellar, a delegate from Texas, never really watches comics, either. But she and her husband, Lauro, wanted to show their solidarity, too.

"It's always so negative about George Bush, so it's good to see the other side," she said. "See, sometimes on TV it's offensive to us. They ridicule what we believe and our values, and I don't think that's funny."

But we're going to be funny, gosh darnit! Bill Maher and Jon Stewart won't be the only ones cracking wise about politics.

There were the requisite jokes skewering the French. After complaining about France's history of disagreements with American foreign policy, "Big Daddy" Jeff Wayne suggested we bomb Paris, too.

"My brother gets upset," he said. "See, he likes to say, 'But the French gave us the Statue of Liberty.' Yeah, and we threw it right into the water!" (A smatter of laughs.) "I want to take the plaque off, 'Give me your tired and poor.' I'm tired of that plaque. We've got enough tired and poor people in the United States. That's right. I want a plaque that says, 'Give me your rich and happy people.' "

In a flourish of wit, the comedy troupe sells John Kerry "flip-flops," plastic sandals with a detailing of the Democratic candidate's ballyhooed policy ambivalence.

"Actually, I thought they were a little bit soft on Kerry," said Chris Slattery, a director of an abstinence-only, antiabortion crisis pregnancy center in Yonkers.

"But I thought it was a refreshing change from the typical left-wing comedy that's in the clubs here in the city," he added. "I do go to some comedy shows, but it's hard to take. I thought the comics here were absolutely funny."

But can they make it on the comedy circuit?

"Well, I don't know how well they'd do here in the city without the convention," he said as he paid the bill for his two-drink minimum and headed for the door.

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