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What's So Funny About Obama? Not Much

By Jim Meyers   |  

Late-night television hosts have had no trouble joking about Hillary Clinton or John McCain during the election campaign, but Barack Obama has for the most part escaped their jibes.

The reason cited by most of those connected to the shows is that there is no comedic “take” on Obama, nothing offering an easy laugh, “like allegations of Bill Clinton’s womanizing, or President Bush’s goofy bumbling, or Al Gore’s robotic persona,” The New York Times observes.

Mike Barry, who has been writing political jokes since the Johnson administration and currently works for David Letterman‘s show, told The Times: “The thing is, he’s not buffoonish in any way. He’s not a comical figure.”

Almost anything approaching a joke about Obama has fallen flat, according to The Times. When Jon Stewart quipped on “The Daily Show” recently about Obama’s flip-flopping on campaign financing, the audience reaction was so unenthusiastic that he said: “You know, you’re allowed to laugh at him.”

Another reason for the hands-off-Obama approach could be that “a lot of people are excited about his candidacy,” said Mike Sweeney, head writer for Conan O’Brien on “Late Night.”

“It’s almost like: ‘Hey, don’t go after this guy. He’s a fresh face. Cut him some slack.’”

The race question has also made it more difficult for comics to lampoon Obama. “I think white audiences get a little self-conscious if race comes up,” said Sweeney.

The late-night comics haven’t completely abandoned Obama, however. Jay Leno quipped: "Well, the Democrats are now preparing for their convention in Denver, and they have hired the first ever director of greening. They say that this year that everything about their convention will be green, including nominating a candidate who's only been a senator for a couple of years."

Still, Sweeney said: “We’re hoping he picks an idiot as vice president.”

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Late-night television hosts have had no trouble joking about Hillary Clinton or John McCain during the election campaign, but Barack Obama has for the most part escaped their jibes.The reason cited by most of those connected to the shows is that there is no comedic “take”...
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