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Friday, October 26, 2012

Remember When They Said It Would Be Impossible To Make Fun Of Obama?

Over the last year or so, I seemed to remember that there was a time, near the beginning of Obama's term as president, when people were saying that there was something about Obama that was going to make it difficult for comedians to make fun of him.

I finally decided to do a check if I was recalling correctly, and for the most part it seems I was.

It's not as if no one believed it was possible to find things about Obama to make fun of, but there was a general consensus that might be more difficult.

Some of the reasons given for the difficulty:
  • The danger of being accused of racism
  • Obama's popularity
  • The feeling that Obama was offering something new and should be given a chance

But by the same token, there were those who also thought that Obama was just impervious to being a target of sarcasm or ridicule.

Here are a handful of excerpts from articles that claimed -- both before and after the 2008 election -- that it was difficult to make fun of Obama...

  • Want Obama in a Punch Line? First, Find a Joke
    Bill Carter
    July 15, 2008
    But there has been little humor about Mr. Obama: about his age, his speaking ability, his intelligence, his family, his physique. And within a late-night landscape dominated by white hosts, white writers, and overwhelmingly white audiences, there has been almost none about his race.

    ...But so far, no true punch lines have landed.

    Why? The reason cited by most of those involved in the shows is that a fundamental factor is so far missing in Mr. Obama: There is no comedic “take” on him, nothing easy to turn to for an easy laugh, like allegations of Bill Clinton’s womanizing, or President Bush’s goofy bumbling or Al Gore’s robotic persona.

    “The thing is, he’s not buffoonish in any way,” said Mike Barry, who started writing political jokes for Johnny Carson’s monologues in the waning days of the Johnson administration and has lambasted every presidential candidate since, most recently for Mr. Letterman. “He’s not a comical figure,” Mr. Barry said.

    ...Jimmy Kimmel, the host of the ABC late-night talk show “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” said of Mr. Obama, “There’s a weird reverse racism going on. You can’t joke about him because he’s half-white. It’s silly. I think it’s more a problem because he’s so polished, he doesn’t seem to have any flaws.

    ...Mr. Sweeney (Conan) said, “We’re hoping he picks an idiot as vice president.” [Note: One month later, Obama Chooses Biden as Running Mate DA]

  • Can ‘The Daily Show’ Survive the Barack Obama Presidency?
    Dan Kois
    Vulture
    11/6/08
    It's no secret that plenty of satirical outlets — Saturday Night Live, the Onion, late-night talk shows — have had trouble finding good Obama jokes.

    ..."I get worried that all of us who wanted Obama will take themselves too seriously," he said, noting that there was still humor to be had in the Obama crazies who will "sit on the couch" and expect the impossible from their hero: "Hey, Obama, where's my jet pack?"

  • Can We Laugh? Yes, We Can
    Dave Itzkoff
    New York Times
    November 7, 2008

    J. R. Havlan, Writer, ‘The Daily Show With Jon Stewart’
    Q. Have comedy writers figured out a way to make fun of Barack Obama yet?

    A. Well, his name is Barack Obama. It’s kind of inherently comical. We can work around a personality, but we don’t really know so much yet what his quirks are going to be. He’s good at speaking, so he’s less likely to say something stupid. But he’ll have plenty of people around him to take care of that. I mean, it’s going to be a Democratic administration with a Democratically controlled Congress. If anything, we might have to start doing two shows a day.

  • Yo Bama!
    Aaron Proctor
    Philadelphia Metblogs
    December 1st, 2008

    Mala Wright:
    “Obama is well liked by everyone it seems and I do think a lot of people would be offended by jokes about him. I think it all boils down to how you use him in your joke. It was so easy to make jokes about W…but with Obama it is like he stands for change and he is an inspiration to everyone regardless of color. I don’t know if it will get easier over time.

  • Surviving the Obama Comedy Crisis: A Report From the Front Lines
    Daniel Kurtzman
    About.com: Political Humor
    January 2009
    But when Barack Obama takes the oath of office on Tuesday, the era of easy presidential punch lines may be coming to a close. As it has been widely noted in humor circles, Obama remains a tough target.

  • Breaking Obama news: Selection of First Dog is imminent
    By Jimmy Orr
    Christian Science Monitor
    January 11, 2009
    Late night comics have agonized over the prospects of an Obama presidency. It's not that they don't like him, it's just they think he's kind of bland. He's hard to lampoon.
As you may have noticed, things have changed.

The first to have really focused on the fact that it was not hard at all to spot Obama's gaffes, and to put those gaffes on a par with Bush, was Ed Morrissey at HotAir.com who started a special feature in March 2009, Announcing the Obamateurism of the Day feature!:
Since Slate seems to have conceded the field and decided to remain locked in the past, I’ll fill the gap here at Hot Air. As often as we have material, I’ll post an Obamateurism of the Day right here at Hot Air. If you see a foul-up by Barack Obama, e-mail it to me at obamaisms@edmorrissey.com with the quote and the link to the Obamaism. I have the separate account ready now, and I’ll post the funniest and most embarrassing rhetorical stumbles by The One over the next four years. Unlike Jacob Weisberg, though, I’ll give it up once Obama leaves office.
Yes, it's true: over time, Obama became human.
The pundits noticed.
The comedians noticed.
And the man (and woman) on the street noticed as well.

True, there are staunch fans of Obama who may never notice just how human Obama really is.
Maybe that's the reason Obama picked Biden to be his vice president.
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