It’s now been three weeks since my last update. In that time, we’ve learned the President cannot speak without a teleprompter and doesn’t even understand what he’s reading. He also did the diplomatic version of picking up a gift card on the way to the birthday party; and made a miraculous promise worthy of King Canute, when he vowed to stop the Business Cycle. And we saw the Secretary of State hand the red button over to the Russians (without so much as a Clinton Library contribution), proving that eight years as a First Lady is not adequate preparation for duties required of the job. Then last Thursday, Obama did his own joke on a talk show and was accused of a meltdown three days later on “60 Minutes.”
Is the honeymoon over? Have we perhaps entered into the phase of His Administration where the satirists feel comfortable enough to resume the grand tradition of mocking the President? Indications seem positive. Pajamas Media pointed out that John Stewart actually ripped the President fairly good over his Iraq policy (and made me wonder why Code Pink has vanished from the scene). David Letterman actually delivered a good Obama line on March 4, but then followed it up with a series of Dick Cheney jokes (shot in the face, waterboard, pacemaker…) and a Rush Limbaugh pain killer joke. (full monologue here.) Strangely, he repeated two of the jokes the following night ( Bernie Madoff saved money at Geico , and the octo-dad should get out).
On Monday March 23, I did a review of the Late Nights to see how much things have changed, and whether anyone wanted to take a stab at Obama’s “Bowling in the Special Olympics” joke. I reviewed Jimmy Fallon, David Letterman, Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel, and Craig Ferguson, (Mercifully, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert both had the night off, so I didn’t have to watch either.)
The Octo-mom is still a big topic for humor (Kimmel, Letterman, Leno) as are the AIG bonuses (Leno Letterman, Fallon, Ferguson). Both Jimmy Fallon and Jay thought that the 114 year old man arrested for marijuana was a good topic, and not surprisingly, both Letterman and Ferguson talked about Letterman’s recent wedding.
Fallon and Ferguson were mostly apolitical, Fallon told eight jokes, only one vaguely political, about Michelle Obama growing a vegetable garden: “You KNOW the economy is bad, when the Obamas are planting vegetables.”
Craig Ferguson’s only political joke (besides a mock interview with a Governor Schwarzenegger impersonator) was about the President’s appearance on Leno: “I’m bitter ’cause he did Jay. What the hell was wrong with you? You seemed so smart!” (I’m fairly certain, he was referring to the Special Olympics remark there.)
Nobody else mentioned that remark. Even Jay Leno completely ignored that he had created a controversy. He mentioned the “60 Minutes” interview, but with a lame joke about how every time Obama mentioned the Great Depression, the CBS correspondents would break into a grandfatherly lecture about how you kids don’t know the Depression: “I’ll tell you what it was like during the Depression… we ate sandwiches made of DIRT!” Jay’s only acknowledgements about the Presidential interview was, “The Stock market is up 500 points. I guess Obama listened to the economic advice I gave him. Got a call from Joe Biden. He asked me ‘What’s it like to talk to the President?'”
Jay did do a couple of rather funny lines about AIG: “..the bonuses were actually $218 million, they misplaced $53 million. Senator Chris Dodd said, ‘That wasn’t a campaign contribution?’…Congress is now investigating special treatment. Senator ‘Dodge’ (that’s what we’re calling him now) got from Countrywide Mortgage. He didn’t know he was getting special treatment. Gee, how would the Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee KNOW what the lending rate would be?”
Marginally funny, but I give Jay’s writers a lot of credit for starting to pay attention to some of the things the Right has been railing against for months. Leno also hit the funniest Obama joke of the night with: “He filled out his NCAA bracket, got 14 out of 16 right. That’s better than his cabinet appointments!”
He then followed it up with a bit called “What’s George Bush Doing Right Now” and ran a video clip of a George Bush impersonator, having a plastic light-saber fight with a Dick Cheney impersonator in a Darth Vader cape. Cheney grabs his chest and falls over, Bush looks both ways then high-tails it out of there.
Jimmy Kimmel opened with four mindless jokes about contestants on different reality TV shows, then came down fairly hard on the President. (The LAST President, of course). He claimed that George Bush would now be giving speeches for 150 thousand dollars each, “A lot of money for a guy that can’t speak… well it’s actually 125 thousand, and 25 thousand if you want to throw shoes.” He then introduced a video gag where the president was now part of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, as “George the President Guy.” He showed clips of the President’s misstatements in between clips of Ron White and Jeff Foxworthy, and a wildly laughing audience (Coming to a Red State near you!)
Letterman mentioned Obama’s appearance on “60 Minutes.” He apologized profusely for His Presidency, since the stresses of the office were beyond the ability of any human to bear (“I wouldn’t give His troubles to a monkey on a rock!”) He showed a clip from the “60 Minutes” interview, with a balloon animal hat superimposed over Obama’s head to make it look like he was going crazy.
He startled me for a second, when he mentioned the teleprompter: “Critics are now criticizing his use of a TELEPROMPTER [mouths a silent WOW!] Okay, maybe he should think about stepping down!”
He introduced a new video bit called “Teleprompter vs. No Teleprompter.” First he showed a clip of the President eloquently reading a speech from the teleprompter. For contrast he showed a clip of a helpless stuttering President, clearly at a loss for words. President BUSH, that is. I was incredulous. There is no reason to mine the past administration for comedy, since that hole has been stripped dry for quite some time. Especially with such a plentiful reserve in the current administration. In five seconds, I can find at least three videos of the new President stuttering off teleprompter miserably.
Perhaps their connections to CBS news could have found the missing tape of Him thanking Himself for inviting all the wonderful people to the St. Patrick’s event, or even a clip of his Special Olympics joke. But no, the writers over at Letterman, decided the funniest contrast, would be to resurrect their old “Great Moments in Presidential Speeches” shtick. It is my opinion, at that exact moment David Letterman officially became a hack. (Perhaps HE should think about stepping down.) Or he could slide into retirement gracefully. We could find a theatre in Branson Missouri, where he could toss out gags alongside other comics who have also found it difficult to update their acts.
Acts like George Wallace. In his embarrassing set on the Craig Ferguson show, he raved about the historic change that America saw on January 20th, then led the audience in a chorus of “Na -Na Na-Na, Hey-Hey, Goodbye” in honor of the departing President Bush (This wasn’t a rerun by the way; I do know that Ferguson does tape the comedian spots well in advance of their actual airing, but by all indications, this show was taped yesterday afternoon.) After that, Wallace launched into several George Bush jokes that were already quite old when Bob Hope was telling them about Gerald Ford: “George Bush got this country so screwed up, people sneaking INTO Mexico. … (They’re paying him) 7 million dollars to write a book. Largest amount of money ever paid for a pop-up book. … All you white people, y’all were laughing at Aretha Franklin’s hat. Never been to MY church, have you?”
Wow. For all the criticism that Jay Leno gets for pandering to the lowest common denominator, it is amazing that only Jay is keeping his monologues relatively current.
And for the second time since I’ve started these reviews, the award of the week goes to Jay.