Thursday, September 22, 2011


"If you can't find anything funny to write about this guy, you need to seek other employment opportunities."

This is one of those running gags in entertainment, not by the entertainers, but on them: the pretense that President Obama is just impossible to mock, satirize, or find humor about. You can tell how overwhelmingly dumb this is by how every so often someone will trot out a statement or article about how true it is. Take this piece by Politico writer Ben Smith:
Tellingly, as Jodi Kantor pointed out, there isn't even a memorable depiction of Obama on Saturday Night Live. Obama may be harder to parody than his predecessors because there's no easy stereotype for him -- Will Farrell's George W. Bush was a dimwitted, lucky frat boy; Darrell Hammond's Bill Clinton was Bubba, with extra sleaze and charisma; Dana Carvey was the patrician George H.W. Bush, failing to connect.
He goes on to claim that its Obama's hovering above humanity (as a lightbringer, perhaps?) that makes him so hard to satirize:
Obama's persona is always a little bit in on the joke. He comments on which stories make it "above the fold" and on the deeper meanings of cable news. He wrote his own memoir before anybody had ever heard of him, and is himself the country's leading expert on the complicated, delicate politics of race. He projects a kind of self-conscious, sometimes ironic detachment that makes him harder to mock...
Now, anyone with a keen eye will notice that he just wrote that a man who wrote his memoirs before he was 40 and unknown is hard to mock. That's just self-defeating nonsense right there.

The thing is, I can think of 5 easy areas to lampoon the president on off the top of my head:

1 - His continuous need to make speeches
2 - His sad dependence and uncritical reading of a teleprompter
3 - His massive, galactic-sized ego and arrogance
4 - His apparent incompetence and unfamiliarity with the job
5 - His constant golf games and vacations

There are more, of course, such as his wife who is, shall we say, highly opinionated. Just having a black woman in the White House is worth dozens of skits on its own. Hollywood made a score of movies out of the concept of "insert Black Woman into this situation," but can't figure out any skits out of this?

The skits pretty much write themselves. Obama with pictures of himself, giving gifts of his speeches to everyone he meets, even Secret Service. Obama signing autographs on divots on the golf course, reading off the teleprompter to deal with Michelle's complaints (Do I look fat? Obama reads from teleprompter: "no dear, you look great, smile admiringly").

Skits early on about President Obama having to have the whole job explained, even furniture in the office and doors were obvious fodder. Skits about President Obama dealing with foreign leaders with bows to everyone, no matter how lofty (he bowed to a mayor of an American city, for crying out loud). Skits about President Obama making speeches on inappropriate and ludicrous occasions, complete with a teleprompter and podium (with a custom made logo such as "Golfer in Chief" on the front - that falls off - when he reports his golf score ).

No, the real reason these guys lie about their inability to write comedy and satire about the president is twofold.

First, they're afraid to mock a black president. You'll note almost never is a black man mocked by white comedians, anywhere. They avoid it like the plague, terrified of being called racist. If you portray him as being arrogant, someone will cry they are saying he's "uppity." If you portray him as ignorant or hapless, someone will cry they are saying blacks are stupid. Just about anything that could possibly be taken as negative is used as proof of racism by the grievance mongers.

They need to appear better than those who would say such a thing to their friends and coworkers. The color of his skin trumps the content of his character for these oh-so tolerant people.

But second, and more importantly, they're following the same pattern as Congressional Black Caucus leader Emmanuel Cleaver: they don't want to hurt their leftist hero. Sure, the hero part is starting to fade away, but he's still the great left hope, their last bastion against the horror of Republicans in power. Weaken him and they might come back, and that's simply an evil beyond imagining.

Mock the president and they know the power that can have in culture, people will giggle at him and remember the satire. That's why they were so bitter and angry in their attacks on Reagan, Ford, and both Bushes. Clinton they mocked but always with a "yeah but what a great guy to party with" attitude. The Republicans the mocked with real spite, because they knew that would hurt these men in popular culture.

President Obama's fragile, narcissistic, in over his head persona is just too weak to sustain any real mockery. That's why the "celebrity candidate" ad that McCain ran in 2008 was so powerful, and the Obama team had no answer for it. The man is overly ripe for mockery, and ultimately that's why they lay off: he's such a fat target it would only hurt their cause.

1 comment:

vanderleun said...

You could start with, "Take my president. Please." and just roll on from there.