Mike Lester notes media's expert use of a microscope
I must have spoken too soon when I remarked that if, as almost every comedian interviewed during the Bush administration (most recently “The Late Late Show’s” Craig Ferguson) has said, comedy is about knocking down the guy on top, the guy in power, then let’s see how closely they stick to that – and stick it to the president – if that president becomes Barack Obama.
Not 48 hours later, the New York Times informed us that late-night comedians and their fleets of writers were having trouble writing Obama jokes. On a Washington Post blog, Howard Kurtz wondered if Obama is simply “too perfect,” writing that “Barack Obama has committed the unpardonable sin of not giving us anything to laugh at.”
There must be two Barack Obamas. Mine lies a lot and thinks there are 57 states – which there are … in the Organization of the Islamic Conference. But instead of jokes to this effect, we get excuses from the creative people: “There is no comedic ‘take’ on him, nothing easy to turn to for an easy laugh. … ‘The thing is, he’s not buffoonish in any way,’ said [Johnny Carson and David Letterman writer] Mike Barry. … ‘He’s not a comical figure.’ … [Jimmy Kimmel] said of Obama, ‘I think it’s more a problem because he’s so polished, he doesn’t seem to have any flaws. … His ears should be the focus of the jokes.'”
So, not only are the comedians openly admitting that they look for the shallow in forming a joke, honing in on the least incisive point and thereby ceding their role as society’s sages, but they are becoming part of the joke itself – the joke that Obama is “too perfect.”
A man who is being compared to the Messiah himself – and isn’t doing much to deflect that comparison while reviving fainting women at rallies with bottled water – isn’t a comical figure? (Thankfully, a year-and-a-half into the Obama campaign, we finally get this satirical treatment of that subject from a non-American source, the London Times.)
But really. No flaws? A former Muslim with a socialist/communist worldview who gravitated toward a racist, anti-Semitic, anti-American church that reveres Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan – and who proves his Manchurian creds every time he’s shocked to learn of something that his pastor said right in front of him? Mmm, nothing there, coming up empty on that one. That’s without even getting into his Marxist-terrorist friends. But even in mid-jihad with all of its unwitting facilitators on the left (and moderate right), it’s still only OK to make fun of Republicans. As for a man who on principle won’t wear an American flag pin or put his hand over his heart during the Pledge? Off limits.
And make no mistake: Obama is on top. Let’s not overlook that the first presidential nomination of a black man happened before the first presidential nomination of a woman. Or at least a semi-black man before a semi-woman.
Apparently, the modern purpose of political comedy is political correctness – that is, nothing to make audiences shift uncomfortably in their seats, which comedians generally proclaim as their duty. Some of those interviewed for the Times article admit to catering to the public’s sensibilities rather than challenging them.
The next excuse from the late-night comedy crowd is that they can’t make fun of Obama because of the potential to be perceived as racist. That shoots down the naïve but widely held hope that electing a black president will “get us past the old conversations about race.” Especially given that you couldn’t even go after “first black president” Bill Clinton substantively without Toni Morrison calling you a racist.
Meanwhile, the Times article pointed out that black comedians aren’t having any trouble joking about Obama. Indeed, if the networks are so worried about being perceived as racist, they should try hiring a black late-night host, of whom there are still zero in 2008.
Highlighting the Leftist Writer’s Block phenomenon is the recent New Yorker cover controversy, in which the magazine took heat for its portrayal of the Obamas as anti-American Muslims and Marxist rebels. Editor David Remnick had to explain the joke, which he did to the Huffington Post: “What I think it does is hold up a mirror to the prejudice and dark imaginings about Barack Obama’s – both Obamas’ – past and their politics. The fact is, it’s not a satire about Obama. It’s a satire about the distortions and misconceptions and prejudices about Obama.”
Reacting to Remnick’s explanation, MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell said, “So the only question there is whether it is too sophisticated to actually be perceived the way it is intended.” Her guest on the program, Washington Post editorial writer Jonathan Capehart, wondered whether anyone outside the “very learned, learned people” of Manhattan would get the joke.
Ah. So it’s still we ourselves – and Middle America – that the country is supposed to be laughing at. The persistent butts of high-minded humor such as the New Yorker fancies itself to deliver are the same, ubiquitously ridiculed-by-pop-culture folks. Perhaps someone should inform the New Yorker that it’s not the 1960s anymore. Though I was under the impression that intelligence includes the ability to adapt to one’s changing environment.
The reason the public didn’t go along with Remnick’s directive on how to interpret the cover is that they were wondering where the joke was – given that this “satire” wasn’t as far removed from reality as Obama supporters would like to believe. But apparently, those who make some obvious, and confirmed, connections are the ones who are supposed to feel parodied and shamed. We’re supposed to laugh at ourselves for getting what the New Yorker crowd and the Andrea Mitchells are too PC to get.
The New Yorker accidentally underscored some troubling truths about Barack Obama and the stage of Stockholm Syndrome the Western world has fallen under starting shortly after 9/11, which, in addition to the slavish reverence for Islam, has Americans very possibly choosing a man with a Muslim background and an Arabic name (both “Barack” and “Hussein” are) for their first new president after 9/11. And that’s why the Obama campaign and supporters were so upset. Indeed, liberals are most constructive when they try to build jokes on top of their own blind spots and missed connections, thereby accidentally making reality-based points.
In one attempt to justify the deficit of Obama jokes, Letterman executive producer Rob Burnett said, “We can’t manufacture a perception. If the perception isn’t true, no one will laugh at it.”
What Burnett is saying is that they can’t make fun of Obama as a moron if people don’t see him as a moron. That is, in the elitist’s limited coastal worldview and urban associations, there is only one perception of Obama: not a moron.
From the 10,000 people who Obama said died in a Kansas tornado (he was off by 9,988), to crediting the 1965 civil rights march in Selma, Ala., with his birth in 1961, to his seeming dazed and confused every time someone points out his connections to racists, Hamas supporters and Marxist terrorists, to his disavowing this and disavowing that after the fact, there’s already plenty of Obamedy to harvest.
The survival of the free-falling Free World notwithstanding, I relish the prospect of an Obama presidency. He’d be an apt leader for the Freefall World and all the dark comedy that brings with it (no racist pun intended!). Perhaps only when this country hits rock bottom, or as I call it, Barack Bottom, will we release ourselves from our PC prison and the Stockholm Syndrome it brings. We could end up salvaging more than just great material. Indeed, great material is what’s supposed to help salvage us.