A recent article from Big Hollywood’s Jeffrey Jena alerted me to an article in the American Prospect where Paul Waldman is recycling the meme that there is nothing funny about the current President. Utter nonsense. Every human is fallible, and from those flaws the funny gushes; flowing like the effluence of a major national disaster, under an incompetent Administration.
To say there’s nothing funny about this President is elevating him to the level of a deity, the way leaders are looked at in some third world totalitarian state. I’m quite certain that North Koreans cannot see anything funny about Kim Jong, Il, although the majority of the world thinks he is as entertaining as a circus midget. Ditto for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Paul Waldman’s piece is just another apology for the inability of the American Humor Industry to construct a proper satire on this President; a topic as ripe for satire as November apples. It’s such a shame, too. Epic ineptitude has been a comedic staple since before the Three Stooges, all the way through to the era of Tim Allen. When Moe Larry and Curly are accidently mistaken for plumbers, you just know there’s going to be a flood.
This is unconscionable. From the days of JFK right up to the Bush Administration, I have enjoyed watching comedians mock the occupant of the White House with wild abandon. Open satire has always been the hallmark of a free society. A president that can’t be mocked is no longer a leader of a free nation
As Jeffrey pointed out, there are a lot of comics who have been fairly adept at coming up with Obama humor; they’re just not breaking into the mainstream. Those of us who enjoy talk radio might not even recognize the hands-off policy that the major comedy outlets have instituted for this fragile presidency; because the satirists of talk radio have been entertaining countless millions with their Obama comedy.
Paul Shanklin, nailed his voice years ago on the Rush Limbaugh Show. In some local radio markets, (like the Chris Baker Show in Houston and the Twin Cities & Jerry Agar in Toronto) comedian Tim Wilkins does phone-ins as the President with an impression so accurate you would think it was real. Since these comics have never been on TV, elitist J-school bloggers probably don’t realize they’re already part of the national zeitgeist.
The obvious reason is that the majority of the talent coordinators for the late night talk shows and the cable networks are liberals. They are simply not going to greenlight a comic who fails to amuse them, and they see nothing funny about the current president. Remember, Fred Armisen was reprimanded with a CNN fact check for attempting what SNL viewers had been enjoying since the Ford era, so others have been lax to repeat his blasphemous act.
In the article, Waldman claims that maybe this president is just too cool. This isn’t the first time the allegation was made, David Letterman used to giggle about how cool the guy was too. (“Man, is he cool!”). Of course, anybody who has seen Obama golf, bowl ,or throw a baseball knows this is just preposterous. He can’t even dance. He is nerdy, and un-athletic with big ears and a girlish walk. Calling him “cool” is as unintentionally racist as the white fraternity notion that all black guys can play basketball
Which is the biggest reason for their scant ability to mock the president, and little tolerance for people who do. There is a residual shame in the white community leftover from the days of Amos and Andy, that has made it extremely difficult for anyone to go after a black president. Modern tradition in comedy holds that White Comics make fun of White People, and Black Comics make fun of White People.
Conservatives are labeled as racist for simply opposing health care, so if the Conservatives find anything funny about the President, you just know it’s going to be dismissed as hate. Meanwhile, shows like Evan Sayet’s Right to Laugh, and my own Stand-Ups for America are capitalizing on the inability of mainstream comedy to touch the President.
Which should stand as a warning to the mainstream comedy industry: If you continue to refrain from supporting the opinions held by over 50% of America, a segment of the population that is growing larger with every recession vacation, you will eventually marginalize yourself out of business.
Just ask the New York Times.