Why there are No Good Obama Jokes

During the 2008 elections, there were serious discussions by very serious TV pundits trying to figure out why Barack Obama wasn’t funny. Not in a stand-up sort of a way, but as a target of ridicule. In-depth analysis of SNL sketches showed different avenues of attacks just weren’t sticking. Because news stations have a lot of time to kill, this went for a while and because news pundits never say anything useful, nothing much came of it. Their best solution was say he was too “new” on the public stage to get a firm grasp of his humorous foibles. As though the public knew John Kerry for ages before he became the face of flip-flopping.

The reason there are no Obama jokes is relatively simple to understand by looking at past presidents. If you wanted to mock George W. Bush, you called him an idiot. If were after Clinton, you called him a slick, superficial womanizer. And for Bush Sr., he was a 90-pound weakling who babbled on about 1,000 points of light. What do these things have in common? These descriptions were also the talking points of their opponents. No Democrat would worry too much about Bush’s stupidity, no Republican miss a chance to sneer at Clinton’s sexual doings. Comedians simply picked up the ball and turned the hate into mockery lemonade.

And what’s the Right’s take on Obama? He’s a Socialist Kenyan. Saturday Night Live can’t say that. It’s incredibly insulting and racist. It paints a picture of black people behaving like salmon, going back to their place of birth (all black people are from Africa, right?) to spawn another generation.  The book on Obama is simply unacceptable for a general audience.

The comedians really missed out. There was a brief window when it appeared Obama was going to be painted as a member of the Chicago political machine. A professional, backroom, Machiavellian politician is almost the basis of political satire. This is something you can write comedy sketches about. But instead the crazy racists won out and the SNL Obama’s best hope is to look incompetent.

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