Since Barack Obama is coming to town tomorrow and screwing up everyone’s morning commute…. (Well, I guess Sarah Palin is gonna be there too….maybe she’ll make me some moose chili?) I’ll share this chestnut with you all:
I saw a story the other day on Channel 10 or Channel 6 or some other news program that isn’t anchored by Hot Dawn. The story was about how much of a “hard time” comedians are having making jokes about President-Elect Obama.
I’ve watched late night television a lot less since the election because it’s a little irritating that it’s been pretty much a month since the election and there are still jokes being made about Sarah Palin and how old McCain is. I think it was Fox News who said the ratio was 7:1, Republican to Democrat, when it came to jokes on late night shows and SNL. I know about sore losers…but it seems like there’s a lot of sore winners out there, too.
Anyhow, the way this “news” story made it seem (and the way late night TV makes it seem, at least, to me) – political comedians and late night hosts are going to be “out of jobs” because Obama is just so popular and likeable (yes, the 59,417,826 – including myself – who didn’t vote for the guy just don’t seem to count!). “We’re so lucky there’s Joe Biden!” snarked Jay Leno in one of his monologues. There will be absolutely no way to make fun of the guy, right?
Are comedians completely out of material? Maybe they’re being cautious? After all – a lot of people have been in some deep water for criticizing Obama – like a radio show almost getting shut down. It’s also so hard to make fun of the guy because it’s easy to be mistaken as a racist by the spastic pointy-finger of the Left.
I decided it was time for some half-assed investigative journalism. I put out an ad for local comedians to reply to and chime in with their thoughts. I received some excellent responses that I’d like to share with all of you.
Tony DiGerolamo – Blue Anchor, New Jersey native and writer for Comedy Central’s Indecision `08 blog (as well as superfrat.com) – doesn’t think comedians are at their wit’s end. “I think they’re waiting for a good moment to pounce. Plus it’s hard to let go of George Bush. Just so much material there.”
But isn’t it gonna be pretty damn hard to make fun of a guy who has enamored so many people? I mean, we all know that everyone who voted for Obama is super intelligent and well-informed, right?
“Obama will be even easier”, continues DiGerolamo. “Bush was lame when he was elected, so he didn’t have far to fall. Obama, on the other hand, is already disappointing thousands of people and he’s not even in office yet! Plus he brought the Clintons back. Call backs in comedy are even funnier than the original joke.”
You don’t tug on Obama’s cape….
Mala Wright, a sketch comedienne from Trenton, New Jersey, offers a different perspective. “I do think it would be harder for anyone to make a joke about him without sounding racist. I actually worked on a comedy sitcom pilot (called “Sistergirl”) over the winter with an all African American cast and we did a sketch about Obama if and when he becomes president. But, it was kinda hard to do it… So, I do think it would be harder to find material about him. I do think that some African American comics would be able to get away with it to a certain extent. It all depends on how you do it. I still think people – no matter who they are – may be offended either way.”
So is it just race preventing more jokes in the mainstream about Obama? “I think it is harder to make jokes about someone popular”, Wright continues. “Obama is well liked by everyone it seems and I do think a lot of people would be offended by jokes about him. I think it all boils down to how you use him in your joke. It was so easy to make jokes about W…but with Obama it is like he stands for change and he is an inspiration to everyone regardless of color. I don’t know if it will get easier over time.”
Aaron David Ward, who is from New York but plies his trade often in the Illadel, sends the response I seek into even another tangent. “”The notion professional stand up comedians will avoid making jokes about President Barack Obama out of fear of being labeled “racist” is based on the faulty premise that his race has something to do with
finding him or his proposed policies funny.” (AP note: And I think a LOT of people need to understand that!)
We all tend to like comedians who say more of the things that we’re looking to hear. That’s why there are people who love Eddie Izzard and who love Larry The Cable Guy and who don’t really cross paths. However, isn’t it the job (or more sensible in terms of business and advertising revenue?) of someone on a national platform – that is getting viewers from Columns A, B, and J – to be a fairer with their punchlines?
Ward gives his own personal comedic mantra. “As a stand up comedian, speaking truth to power is my primary goal regardless of whether those who represent power are black, white, or any other color. In a country founded on the principle of individual liberty, I’m amazed so many people have elected a president who wants to ‘spread the wealth
around’. I’m equally amazed by how many people put their faith in government instead of themselves. The only leader people really need resides in their own hearts, minds, and souls or so someone told me.”
So I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. I’m hoping to die laughing at jokes about Barack just as much as I did at jokes about Dubya, Clinton, Bush I, and Reagan. As of right now, late night talk shows aren’t a part of my TV watching schedule. And if comedians don’t want to stop the egregious amount of sucking up to the guy – they’re going to lose more viewers very quickly.
Be seeing you,
Tony DiGerolamo writes for Comedy Central’s Indecision `08 blog and can be found on the web here.
Aaron David Ward is automatically awesome because his first name is Aaron. Check out his website here.