October 8, 2012

The black hole of American comedy (continued)

One of the secrets of Saturday Night Live's long-running success is that its boss Lorne Michael's run-of-the-mill liberalism is offset by SNL's main political writer Jim Downey's Republicanism. Downey has been especially good at making sure loser Republicans like Bob Dole into crotchety minor heroes. 

But, Obama is off limits. Last month, Michaels announced that he hadn't been able to figure out anything funny about Obama yet. But, don't worry, he's still working on it and will probably come up with something in two or three months.

Now, you might think that last week's bomb by Obama in the Presidential debate would offer a comic gold mine. But, you're forgetting the Prime Directive: satire of The One We've Been Waiting For is off-limits.

So, here's a tick-tock of the agonies Downey had to go through to come up with a Presidential debate sketch that (unmentioned premise) wouldn't violate the Prime Directive.

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

"But, Obama is off limits. Last month, Michaels announced that he hadn't been able to figure out anything funny about Obama yet."

More BS cipherism.

'We don't know what is funny about him because he's such a cipher.'

Riiiiight!

Anonymous said...

No hate laughs!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I read that article about Lorne. Talk about dishonest. Obama's narcissism is off limits.

If you recall early in his term, even the syndicated caricaturists were claiming "it's hard to draw a caricature of Obama."

Yeah, right. A visible mole on the left of his nose, ears that stick out when he's viewed from behind, a pencil thin neck and body, clown lines (hey, all of us past a certain age have them), and on and on...but "it's hard."

At least they seem to have discovered the last two years that his features can indeed be exaggerated to great effect.

If Romney wins (it's still a big "if"), entertainers and the media will be one reason--backlash.

TGGP said...

Jim Downey claims to be a registered Democrat who will vote for Obama. Adam McKay presumably referred to him as being right-wing because by the standards of the entertainment industry any moderate liberal is right-wing.

Anonymous said...

It's actually a good reason to hope Romney wins. They're both pushing a similar grab bag of monied interests, but at least the press will try to find Romney's mistakes and embarrassments. Obama's free pass is just strange.

Anonymous said...

Probably every South Park fan who tuned in Wed night was reminded of the episode where Steven Spielberg raped Indiana Jones on the pinball machine.

Anonymous said...

I had the privilege of meeting Jim Downey briefly, several years ago.

I can't say I could tell what his politics are, but I can say with confidence that he's one of the funniest men alive on planet earth.

Beecher Asbury said...

This is off topic, but I just heard a great defense against diversity and multiculturalism from a most unlikely source, Rick Steves, the SWPL travel guy on PBS. In an episode covering Helsinki and Tallinn, he described the presence of ethnic Russians in Estonia and added this commentary:

The Soviets attempted to Russify Estonia by planting or moving people into this country. Because of that, about a quarter of all Tallinners are ethnic Russians. And as is clear at this predominately Russian market, the plantation of people, as it seems is always the case when governments move people for political purposes, leaves a poorer and struggling ethnic minority. And their reluctance to assimilate leaves long term social challenges.

I could not believe this guy said that. If you have seen his show, you will know what I mean. This guy criss crosses Europe and never says anything detrimental about the third worlders.

Of course Steves probably did not think he was doing anything wrong since he was pointing out ethnic Russians as a problem. This is similar to the way people in the UK can criticize immigration by singling out Poles.

But I really think his statement is spot on, and describes what most of us know, and confirms that SWPLs really do know deep down that diversity and the multicult are bunk.

This episode is available at Hulu, and the part I quote starts at the 21 minute and 28 second mark.

DaveinHackensack said...

"at least the press will try to find Romney's mistakes and embarrassments. Obama's free pass is just strange."

Exactomundo. It's especially strange considering that Obama has essentially been W. on steroids:

- Bush invades Afghanistan; Obama triples the number of US troops in that benighted land.

- Obama extended Bush's tax cuts, which the press and pundits attacked as irresponsible, teh awful, etc.

- Bush racked up a ~$500 billion deficit last year, for which he was excoriated by Krugman and others; Obama hasn't posted a deficit lower than $1 trillion and Krugman thinks those deficits aren't big enough.

- Bush waterboarded some suspected terrorists. Obama blows up US citizens suspected of terrorism with hellfire missiles and the press yawns.

And so on.

elvisd said...

"No hate laughs!" LOL. Good one!

socks said...

I don't watch Jon Stewart enough to know if this is standard for him, but, http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-september-25-2012/president-obama-snubs-world-leaders

Chicago said...

The looming prospect of four more years of Obama is an unbearable thought. There's nothing funny whatsoever about that. Maybe that's why it's so hard to laugh when his name comes up.

carol said...

beecher, I am grateful steves does europe, as I have never ever enjoyed seeing the third world dumps that traveloguists feel so compelled to visit.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I read that article about Lorne. Talk about dishonest. Obama's narcissism is off limits. If you recall early in his term, even the syndicated caricaturists were claiming "it's hard to draw a caricature of Obama."

Yeah, but does hyper-narcissism really make for good humor?

Frankly, at this point, things are getting so serious that the times just aren't all that funny anymore.

Do the white landowners who were beaten [and their wives raped] and driven off their farms in Rhodesia think that there's anything even remotely humorous about Robert Mugabe?

You know, there's a really interesting white chick over at AoSHQ whose parents were actually MURDERED in Zimbabwe - she's now an orphan - and she hangs out at AoSHQ precisely because of the 2nd Amendment & pro-military stuff.

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"at least the press will try to find Romney's mistakes and embarrassments. Obama's free pass is just strange."

Exactomundo. It's especially strange considering that Obama has essentially been W. on steroids: - Bush invades Afghanistan; Obama triples the number of US troops in that benighted land. - Obama extended Bush's tax cuts, which the press and pundits attacked as irresponsible, teh awful, etc. - Bush racked up a ~$500 billion deficit last year, for which he was excoriated by Krugman and others; Obama hasn't posted a deficit lower than $1 trillion and Krugman thinks those deficits aren't big enough. - Bush waterboarded some suspected terrorists. Obama blows up US citizens suspected of terrorism with hellfire missiles and the press yawns. And so on.


You're making the mistake of assuming that the Frankfurt School actually believes anything that they say.

I.e. you're engaging in reverse (or inverse) projectionism - you're assuming that just because you feel a devotion to the Truth and to intellectual consistency [and coherency] then so too must your opponents.

When, in fact, your opponents - the Frankfurt School - are dedicated to the annihilation of the Truth, and they'll use any rhetorical and propagandistic means necessary [no matter how wildly inconsistent and incoherent] in order to advance their cause and achieve their aims.

Anonymous said...

The fall of wasps.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Webb_(author)

"As of 2006, Webb has been with his long-term partner Eve for more than 40 years. Eve shaves her head and calls herself "Fred" in solidarity with a Californian support group called Fred, for men who have low self-esteem. Fred is an artist and her work includes illustrations for Webb's 2002 novel New Cardiff. The couple have two sons, one of whom is now a performance artist who once cooked and ate a copy of The Graduate with cranberry sauce."

sad

Ed said...

Again, Steve is trying to hard. You would think there was an election coming up. One of Obama's personality traits is that he is very controlled in public, and he has something of a depressive personality, so it means he becomes even less exciting when he lets his guard down.

If SNL had been around during the Coolidge Administration they would have had similar problems. Actually Coolidge liked to play practical jokes on the White House staff but I assume this wasn't known outside of the White House at the time. They probably also would have had problems with Hoover and Eisenhower.

Actually, Presidents with public, identifiable tics that could be used as a basis for caricature seems to have been a product of the mass media age (tabloids-radio-television). It seems to have started with Teddy Roosevelt and run through to Dubya. It almost was as if national politicians were deliberately developing tics and stylistic quirks to make themselves more identifiable to the public. The nineteenth century has tons of colorful personalities -it was a less conformist time in general- but you get runs of nineteenth century presidents that are hard to tell apart.

Maybe Obama should take to wearing a cape in public, to make things easier.

Anonymous said...

Ummm, Steve, you know that in Russian "black hole" means ass hole, don't you.

I think you just committed a little racist faux pas and a pun all in one.

They should use things like that for their Gifted and Talented testing in NYC.

Anonymous said...

Apparently Obama has distain for Romney, at least according to press reports. Which is pretty amusing in an objective view, and a sign that Obama's self-regard is even more towering that I thought.

Romney, whatever his other qualities, is a wildly successful businessman, has done multiple turn-arounds of failing organizations, and kicked Obama's ass in the single debate so far.

Kylie said...

"beecher, I am grateful steves does europe, as I have never ever enjoyed seeing the third world dumps that traveloguists feel so compelled to visit."

"Third world dumps"--pretty good pun irt Liberia.

Anonymous said...

Beecher, iSteve truisms may be repeated in the MSM, as long as the correct people are targetted, but we can wait before the same discovery be replicated in eg this case.

beowulf said...

"Exactomundo. It's especially strange considering that Obama has essentially been W. on steroids"

Yeah, that's the funniest part. Its like Obama (or, more likely, Axelrod)figured out that since everyone across the political spectrum expects the black Democrat to be a super-liberal, there's literally nothing he can't get away with in the areas of splendid little wars, corporate welfare or destruction of civil liberties.
The cognitive dissonance is so great among Democrats and Republicans alike, it just doesn't register. Its like he's invisible.

The only guy who has his number is Ron Paul, who's been calling for an Afghanistan withdrawal for years, has denounced Obama's citizen assassination policy and who's pointed out that Obama isn't a socialist, he's a corporatist (which, of course, the Italians called something).

Even though I think he's wrong on economics (I'm a Keynesian and he ain't), I voted for Paul in the primaries because he was the only candidate who came out against the government committing Obamacide against US citizens.

Anonymous said...

TGGP:"Jim Downey claims to be a registered Democrat who will vote for Obama. Adam McKay presumably referred to him as being right-wing because by the standards of the entertainment industry any moderate liberal is right-wing."

Well, yeah. People in the entertainment industry have their politics graded on a curve:

Far left: moderate

Moderate liberal: Right winger

Moderate conservative: Right wing extremist

Syon

Anonymous said...

African-American hole.

Baloo said...

Me, I specialize in hate laughs. I found it fairly easy to be funny about the debate, or at least its aftermath, but I owe Steve inspiration for this, as I do for lots of other ideas.
"Atlantea the Beautiful."

Jayson said...

While I get Steve's point, and I think it's a fair one, my question would be whether he found SNL's portrayal of George W. Bush as a brain-dead hick appropriate or funny. The point is, is this a longing for legitimate satire, or just a kind of mean-spirited desire to see every president equally savaged and slandered?

Personally I find these extremist caricatures to be quite cruel and unfair, so I'm not too bothered that Obama is getting off lightly, even if for all the wrong reasons.

Jokah Macpherson said...

I don't know about this writer's politics, but the Bob Dole on The Real World series from the '96 election was hilarious. Even better than the knock-off Dave Chappelle did years later with the generic WASPy guy.

DCThrowback said...

@Jayson

Will Farrell was criticized for making W too likeable.

"AVC: Dana Carvey was famous for having a chummy relationship with George Bush Sr. I'm betting that wasn't the case with George Bush Jr. Have you gotten a sense of how he felt about your impression?

WF: I hadn't heard, but I was glad I didn't hear. You know, there was that stuff written about how the staff loved "strategerie," and how he called them "strategerie meetings." I had a couple of opportunities to go and meet him, and I declined, partly out of comedic purposes, because when I was on the show [Saturday Night Live] at the time, it didn't make sense to really meet the people that you play, for fear of them influencing you. And then the other side of it is, from a political standpoint, I don't want to meet that guy."

And serious h/t to @SOBL1 for this link to one of the best SNL skits ever, which uses satire and public perception and totally flips it on its head. I give you President Reagan, Mastermind.

Anonymous said...

What's really funny is conservatives cannot come up with a comedy show of their own and must rely on libs to make fun of libs.

Anonymous said...

Lorne Michaels in plain English.

"I support Obama, and if I made fun of him and he lost the election, all my lib friends will hate me and won't invite me to cocktail parties."

Anonymous said...

Even if one were to argue Obama himself is funny-material, the cult around him certainly is. Nobel Prize for nothing, people fainting around him, the Jewish hype machine, Michelle Obama's the trash lady.

Anonymous said...

The whole thing is just silly. The Onion has been pretty consistently funny about Obama. They've made teleprompter jokes, manic-depression jokes, and did a very good riff about him having a sullen 19 year old son at the convention.

Auntie Analogue said...

SNL is, and has always been, sophomoric.

Nevertheless, to the journalistic powers of the self-vaunted super-harpies of Media-Pravda, Obama is kryptonite, while Republicans are earth's single yellow sun.

Just finished watching tonight's "The Choice" episode of PBS's 'Frontline,' which proved to be a two-hour-long commercial for Obama. Never even mentioned Obama's twenty year membership in the black separatist church of his "spiritual advisor" Jeremiah Wright, and never mentioned Bill Ayers or Frank "porno" Marshall, but made plenty of insinuations about Mitt's drive to success coming from - yet more subtly laid insinuations - of the creepiness of his Mormon faith. No wonder Mitt wants to end federal funding of PBS!

Anonymous said...

"What's really funny is conservatives cannot come up with a comedy show of their own and must rely on libs to make fun of libs. "

I think Adam Carolla's podcast/standup and Dennis Miller, standup/radio show do a fine job.

Anonymous said...

The Onion had the definitive Obama joke very early on: "BLACK MAN ASKS COUNTRY FOR CHANGE".

Matthew said...

Perhaps after Obama loses the election the comedians can make fun of how they couldn't make fun of him. I expect to see more jokes about him after November 6.

DPG said...

Obama: "I'm proud to announce that, as of last month, there is a new four-year low in my golf handicap. On top of that, we've reached a four-year high in my bowling score."

Of course, no one would get that joke because Obama's obsession with being good at games doesn't get covered. Indeed, Michael Lewis never seemed to ask the question, "Why Obama, a bench player on his high school basketball team, trying to play in a pickup game against former college players in their 20s and 30s?"

Does anyone remember all the complaints about how many rounds of golf W played? Or how many trips he took to Crawford?

DPG said...

"What's really funny is conservatives cannot come up with a comedy show of their own and must rely on libs to make fun of libs. "

South Park has been one of the funniest shows on TV for twenty years, and it makes fun of liberals regularly.