Comedian Dana Carvey understands why comedians initially tread carefully when joking about President Barack Obama, the nation’s first black Commander in Chief. What the former Saturday Night Live standout can’t fathom is why fellow comic Dennis Miller got taken to the pop culture woodshed for embracing conservatism.
The pair addressed the current state of political comedy, with Carvey sharing how he views his role as a stand-up and social commentator. In short, it’s all about the person in power at the moment. When it came to President Obama, that process hit a snag initially.
“It took a while to find a way to satirize our president,” Carvey told Kozlowski. That doesn’t mean comedians should stay away from Obama jokes. It’s certainly not his method.
“I always grew up with ‘question authority,'” he says, adding that approach applies to any president regardless of race, creed or color.
“I’m from the old school–you go where the power is and you try to make fun of it,” he says. “When it becomes off limits to say or do certain things without being brutalized or censored or whatever, it’s unfortunate.”
That, to Carvey’s estimation, is what happened to fellow SNL alum Miller for approaching political humor from the right.
“If you live in New York or L.A. and you’re liberal and you’re playing to a liberal crowd it’s almost like a rally … it’s not edgy,” he says. “The true edge is what Dennis Miller did, and he’s been brutalized for it.”
Carvey said that now people are “afraid to make fun” of the president in the major comedy hubs of NYC and Los Angeles because they’ll be “labeled.”
Carvey, whose masterful impression of President George H.W. Bush made even the elder Bush a fan, says he proudly embraces a bipartisan approach to humor.
“I take pride in having liberals and conservatives in the crowd,” he says.