Even with the gaffes offered by the comedy entitlement that is Joe Biden, late night hosts are having a difficult time tapping into the wealth.
The Vice Presidency has always been a topic ripe for humor. Since political satire is rooted in reminding leaders of their mortality, the very existence of the office of the Vice President is a living satirical statement. The HBO show “Veep” gets a lot of comedic mileage from the humor inherently built into the office. Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays a Vice President hired as a campaign tactic, and the show details her character’s ongoing struggle to make herself relevant.
So when an Amtrak wreck like Biden starts lobbing softballs to the comedy writers of America, as he did so generously this week, you more than expect them to capitalize on it.
Unfortunately the late night shows are still hesitant to go after the Obama administration. Over the past two nights only two jokes were made at the President’s expense. Credit David Letterman for this unremarkable one on “The Late Show”:
The only other Obama joke was from Jimmy Fallon wondering why there was a need for the organization “DJs for Obama”:
“Yeah, ’cause when voters are trying to decide their position on fiscal budget, health care, war in Afghanistan, their first thought is, ‘What does DJ Pauly D think? What does — Somebody get me Skrillex on the line.'”
On Wednesday and Thursday Nights, the four major shows not on Summer hiatus (“The Late Show,” “The Tonight Show,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon”) all hit Biden’s gaffes, although they went pretty easy on him as a whole. In fact, they were more ruthless with vice presidential candidates than the actual vice president. They even pulled a few Sarah Palin digs out of the hack box.
“This week Sen. John McCain said it would be wise for President Obama to drop Joe Biden from the ticket. Wait, John McCain’s giving advice about picking a running mate? That’s like Donald Trump giving advice about choosing a barber.”
It’s quite interesting that after spending four years claiming there was nothing funny about “no drama” Obama, that he was really kind of boring; they are now finding jokes in the nomination of the allegedly dull Paul Ryan.
Letterman used Ryan’s nomination to the GOP ticket as an excuse to recycle a two month old story about Mitt Romney’s garage being outfitted with a lift:
“Republicans like Paul Ryan because he’s a fiscal Conservative, and that’s a perfect balance for a guy that has an elevator for his Cadillacs”
There was also this juvenile Ryan graphic offered up on Letterman as the punchline for a tedious video segment:
Romney also raised some hackles when he suggested that funding for PBS should be cut, and both late night Jimmys – Kimmel and Fallon – hit the Democrat-approved talking point that Republicans want to do away with “Sesame Street.” There was even a possible case of a writer faxing jokes to both shows, since both Jimmys mentioned that Oscar the Grouch is already living in a Garbage can.
Probably the best Biden line to come out this week came from Fallon:
“The White House just revealed that it brews its own beer, and President Obama drinks it when he goes out campaigning. And even more of it when Joe Biden goes out campaigning.”
The most interesting Biden reference came on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” When the host repeated Biden’s remark about the chains, the audience audibly gasped at the insensitivity. Kimmel responded to the unexpected gasp by saying by saying, “that happened.” It was obvious that few in the audience even realized Biden had actually said it.
Other than Jay Leno claiming Biden’s new slogan being “Chains you can believe in” there was no mention of it on “The Tonight Show.”
The week’s lineup reaffirmed my longstanding suspicion that the lack of comedic coverage of this administration over the past four years is partly based on the lack of negative media coverage. It’s hard to get an audience to laugh at jokes about Fast and Furious, or MF Global, when nobody knows what your talking about.
Kimmel pointed this out in another joke:
“More people (on Facebook) are talking about Joe Biden than Mitt Romney. Has anyone even seen Joe Biden in the past two years? For all I know, he was lost in a boating accident in 09.”
This indicates that the social media networks are covering the Biden gaffes much more thoroughly than the traditional media. And Kimmel not realizing that Joe Biden is a story, indicates his writers rely more on the traditional outlets than new media. It also explains why conservative humor is more prevalent on the Internet than on the networks.
Ironically, in this election cycle, it’s the old-fogy Republicans who are wired.