Fewer jokes in Obama White House? Comedians wonder

Mon Nov 10, 2008 6:01pm EST
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By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. President-elect Barack Obama's historic victory does not bode well for comedians who have thrived on jokes about President George W. Bush, experts say.

Obama, who was backed by many Hollywood figures, will be inaugurated on January 20 as the United States' first black president against a backdrop of a global financial crisis and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Whether because he was the favorite of left-leaning comics, the historic nature of his election or that so far he has made few gaffes, comedians are finding little to joke about so far.

"Obama's election is great for our country but bad for comedy," said Michael Musto, a columnist for New York City's Village Voice. "He is an earnest, intelligent person trying to rescue a country in crisis and that's not all that hilarious."

"Comedy thrives when there are buffoonish targets," he said. "Traditionally shows like 'Saturday Night Live' have done best when dealing with people like President (Gerald) Ford, who couldn't stand upright all the time, or (Bush) who couldn't say nuclear, or Sarah Palin who didn't know Africa's a continent."

Ratings for NBC's long-running comedy TV show "Saturday Night Live" soared during the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, fueled by actress Tina Fey's impersonation of Republican vice presidential nominee Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

And satirical news shows such as Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and "The Colbert Report" and late-night talk show hosts David Letterman and Jay Leno have had regular comedy ammunition during Bush's eight years in office.

"Barack Obama so far has been a comedian's nightmare," said Robert Thompson, a professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University.   Continued...

<p>President-elect Barack Obama (L) answers a question as Vice President-elect Joseph Biden (2nd L) and Chief-of-Staff Rahm Emanuel look on during his first news conference following his election victory in Chicago, November 7, 2008. REUTERS/John Gress</p>