Political Late Night Winners and Losers

It had been about three weeks since my last Late Night review, so I thought the time was right. Wednesday Night, May 20, 2009, I reviewed: David Letterman, Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel, Craig Ferguson, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Jimmy Fallon. I also took a look at the “Real Time with Bill Maher” from Friday May 19, and The season finale of Saturday Night Live.

Since my last review, we saw: A stand up comedy routine that was apparently gleaned from the mistaken assumption, that jokes about President Bush were standard Correspondent’s Dinner protocol. President Obama also announced his plan to save the auto companies by forcing them to raise their prices thirteen-hundred dollars (proving He has less business sense than the cartoon Wal-Mart slasher). He appeared on stage with a handful of people beholden to bailout money in a photo-op that looked very much like a hostage situation. Photographed on stage with Governors’ Granholm and Schwarzenegger, you had to guess which leader actually had a US birth certificate. He also broke his promises to end military tribunals, release the interrogation photos and suspend don’t ask don’t tell. He proved that He had as much problem speaking “Mexican,” as he has with “Austrian,” and promised to drastically slash the overdrawn budget by a whopping 1/2 of 1 %.

(BTW: Blogger Jim Blazik has been compiling a list of Presidential gaffes since He took office, and you can really get a sense of how much the Late Night Comedians are ignoring just by the amount of time this page takes to load.)

Something strange happened this week. Neither Letterman nor Ferguson made any reference to anything really political. Ferguson did a couple fluff jokes about making Presidential candidates sing rather than debate and that Larry Craig never hit on him. He also intimated that the show was filmed a week ago, to air last night, so perhaps Worldwide Pants gives everyone the week before Memorial Day off and neither host wanted to do any material, that might date the show. Strangely, Kimmel avoided political material as well. Jimmy Fallon did only one mildly political line about Obama and Cheney giving competing political speeches: “It’s kind of like American Idol, except one of them got voted off months ago.”

There seems to be some sense throughout the talk shows that hosts are perceived as partisan hacks. Not only did many of the shows avoid political topics, Bill Maher had TWO Republicans on a panel for the first time in my memory (Amy Holmes and Richard Brookhiser). The audience seemed quite off balance, since two well-spoken conservatives are awfully hard to shout down. Left-wing weekly writer Dan Savage was able to get a few clap lines in by calling Bush and Cheney war criminals from time to time, but it almost seemed forced and pathetic.

There were two twofers Wednesday night: Stephen Colbert, was a guest on Letterman and Bill Maher was on Leno. Colbert avoided any political jokes on Letterman filling his time with lighthearted chat about an upcoming USO tour and growing up the youngest of 11 children.

The other two-fer was Jay Leno (whose reign in the Tonight Show chair is rapidly coming to a close – Last Show, May 29th) who hosted Bill Maher. Bill seemed perplexed. He implied that his audience on HBO is a monster he can no longer control: “Every week I get booed. I get booed by my own audience, constantly. Because, you know, I don’t know if they really follow politics that closely. What they know is Obama good, Bush bad…Obama is not some infallible Chocolate Jesus. That’s Kanye West you’re thinking of.” (He also referred to the President as The Chocolate Jesus on his Friday show, a reference that I would like to see a Republican attempt to get away with).

The Most Interesting Interview of the evening was on David Letterman. GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, came on the air to rebut some of the false accusations made about GM three weeks ago when Tesla inventor Elon Musk was on the show. Lutz stated that despite contrary opinion, GM’s electric car program was suspended because it was a technological and financial failure. He also said that GMs problems have nothing to do with their inability to make economical cars because:

“The way you create shareholder value is to produce vehicles that people want; and at two bucks a gallon, you couldn’t give small cars away in the United States; and this fiction… where the American public wanted small highly fuel efficient vehicles, that happened for four months during 2008 when gas was over four dollars a gallon… this idea of the government mandating strict fuel economy standards, at the same time that we have the world’s cheapest gasoline is like combating national obesity by forcing clothing manufacturers to make only small sizes.”

Jon Stewart handily took the Lamest Attempt at an Obama Joke with the only other real Obama line of this review, claiming that Obama is the only President that can turn a speech about fuel economy into the Gettysburg Address: “Mileage? Save it for when the Chinese invade!”

“Saturday Night Live” wrapped up their season Saturday by bringing in some of the more popular cast members from the days when it was funny. Will Ferrell and Darrell Hammond reprised their Bush and Cheney shtick, taking this week’s Oldest Presidential Joke Award.

Amy Poehler dropped by to do another “Weekend Update” with Seth Meyers,and reprised their “Oh Really” segment. What sparked their outrage last Saturday? The fact that Arizona State University refused to give His Presidency an honorary degree because they feel he hasn’t achieved enough.

Writers looking Over Shoulders Award went to Both SNL and Bill Maher for highlighting this presidential snub, both complaining that ASU is one of the biggest party schools in America (Maher: “This is the school strippers are referring to when they claim they are working their way through college.” ). Both shows laughed off the claim that he hasn’t achieved enough by pointing out that Obama is the first black president.

Wow, that’s an achievement? Being president certainly is, since only 43 Americans have ever held the title, but being black is simply an accident of birth not an achievement. Unless of course, you are the administrator of an affirmative action program.

The only other mention SNL made of Obama the entire night was during the “Jeopardy” sketch (which was actually quite funny) One of the categories was “Current Black Presidents.” (That was the entire joke, the category was never even selected).

Most Overused Person as a Punchline was a tie between Nancy Pelosi (Collbert, Maher Leno) and Michael Vick, who found his way into 3 different talk shows. Leno said he has to stay 100 yards away from Snoop Dog; Fallon claimed that he hated jail, being locked in a cage where everyone is fighting; Letterman said while he’s under house arrest, he’s going to have to STAY…STAY.

Carrie Prejean gets an honorable mention as she was used for a punchline several times on Bill Maher’s show alone. (She’s becoming Maher’s new Bush.) She was also brought up on SNL: “Who would have thought Donald Trump would side with a hot lady who likes to take her top off?”

The Angriest White Man Award goes to Bill Maher for the second week in a row for a couple of mean ignorant lines. In his New Rules segment: “Joe the Plumber and Carrie Prejean must have a one night stand in order to produce the ultimate Right Wing icon, a born-again, anti-gay, war-mongering blue-collar beauty queen. Oh, they’ve already got one? (picture of Sarah Palin).” He also called Miss Prejean “retarded” (and suggested that she might be Sarah Palin’s daughter because of that.) He also called President Bush retarded on Jay Leno, and was bleeped out.

The Grand Prize goes to Jay Leno, who started off his set by hitting three lines clear out of the park: “‘I watched the season finale of “24” with Nancy Pelosi. You know? She couldn’t remember the first 23 hours …didn’t remember any of the torture …NONE of it! — Hey, President Obama has found a way to quickly close Guantanamo Bay. He’s going to turn it into a Pontiac dealership. — Oh, and a Vice President Joe Biden is on a trip to Bosnia, Serbia, and Kosovo. The White House is calling it ‘Operation Keep Biden Away From the Microphone.’ I think he goes to Antarctica next.”

What a strange day it is when Jay Leno is most political comic on Late Night.


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