"... which makes for better, more ironic and layered jokes."
From an article about how an Obama presidency will change comedy, that's a quote from a famous American comedian. Try to guess which one before you look. I guarantee you'll be wrong.
So, anyway, there's the issue whether it will be too hard to joke about Obama. There are really 2 problems:
1. He so wonderful and well-liked -- at least by the usual comedians! -- that there's no basis for edginess, anger, and sarcasm. We're not going to laugh at jokes about how there's nothing to joke about. So what can be funny?
2. He's black, and white comedians feel they can't go all-out exploiting that characteristic for jokes. If McCain wins, comedians can make jokes about his age and his rage, the way they mocked Bush's speech and stupidity and Clinton's gluttony and lechery. But wait, I had 2 conventional characteristics for the others, so comedians could get past Obama's race and pick... something funny. Not that he's so articulate. Maybe that he's pretentiously professorial and consequently boring.
From the article:
"Comedians haven't been hitting Obama that hard because he hasn't made a lot of missteps - yet," says [Carol Kolb, head writer of the Onion News Network]. "If he actually becomes President, there's no way he will please everyone. The left-leaning comedians are supporting him in opposition to John McCain, but they're probably not going to agree with all of his policies. He'll be working in government and dealing with bureaucracy and pleasing voters, so he'll start making mistakes.Blah! I despise all the comic writers who have held their fire because they so want Obama to win. Comedy first, you traitors to your craft. And, by the way, Onion News Network is unwatchably dull. The Onion has been fun to read for years, but the translation to video sucks, perhaps because the writers have been so keen on helping a politician win. (But it's not just that.)
"I have no fear that there will be something to make fun of. It may take awhile for that to emerge, but when it does, the humor will be more nuanced and informed. We will pounce when the time is right. Now we're just biding our time."
"No particular aspect of Obama's life will be off limits for us," says the Onion's Kolb. "That's just not how we do things at the Onion. I'm sure there's some joke to be made about race. Just give us time."Something tells me Kolb will never be funny... about anything.
African-American comics, though, may not have to wait. From Chris Rock to D. L. Hughley to "30 Rock" star Tracy Morgan, this may be a watershed moment for comedy as in politics.
"Here's the thing," says Larry Wilmore, the "Senior Black Correspondent" on "The Daily Show."
"If you're in power, you become The Man. If Barack Obama becomes The Man, you've got to make fun of The Man. Those are the rules.Here's Carlos Mencia:
"But you know, McCain may win. And then you have to work on an 'angry Obama' impression. That might be much more fun than his being President, really."
"If Obama becomes the first black President ... to make fun of his blackness is going to be great. Like, he's not black enough, or maybe he's too black. If we find Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan and he drops a bomb in Pakistan, that's thug, man. You're going to be like, 'I didn't realize he was that black! I thought he was just Huxtable black!'"Obama has not won yet, so what these folks are saying is still what they say before he's elected. Mencia reflects the current situation, in which non-white comedians get to make jokes the white comedians avoid. Will that change? Or will the shows rely on the use of black comedians to tell racial jokes?
I think the best solution is to observe Obama closely and find specific things about him instead of giving yourself permission to fall back on racial stereotypes for humor. (I know, I'm being transracial, which is still in the pre-Obama admininstration mode, and is also not at all edgy or funny.)