You know, some of us are really serious about the future of our country and we think our political leadership is going to have the biggest role in whether things continue to deteriorate or they will begin to get better. We've felt this way for a long time. And we actually get mad when the candidates for the presidency are reduced to caricatures and punch lines. Dukakis in a tank? Dan Quayle can't spell 'potato', Al Gore invented the internet, John Kerry windsurfing? These are not disqualifying events. Fodder for comedians? Sure. Funny is funny. But it's not funny if it distorts the electorate's decision about who should be president. Bill Carter has an article in the New York Times about how hard it is for comics to make jokes about Barack Obama:
"The thing is, he’s not buffoonish in any way," said Mike Barry, who started writing political jokes for Johnny Carson’s monologues in the waning days of the Johnson administration and has lambasted every presidential candidate since, most recently for Mr. Letterman. "He’s not a comical figure," Mr. Barry said.
And we don't live in comical times. John McCain is not a comical figure, either...unless you consider him comically wrong or comically out of touch. We're actually fortunate that Barack Obama is hard to pidgin-hole. The right-wing wants to tell us that he's the most liberal politician in the Senate, but it's hard when the whole left-wing of the Democratic Party is screaming at him for his sins of 'centrism'. They want to turn him into the 'black candidate' but he was raised by a white mother and white grandparents. And black jokes are no longer well tolerated:
Of course, the question of race is also mentioned as one reason Mr. Obama has proved to be so elusive a target for satire.
"Anything that has even a whiff of being racist, no one is going to laugh," said Rob Burnett, an executive producer for Mr. Letterman. "The audience is not going to allow anyone to do that."
And, even Jesse Jackson says Obama is not black enough. Top that!
The New Yorker's cover cartoon fell flat because it wasn't funny. It was bad satire. It offended people without making them laugh. No one is laughing at Obama because he is a serious politician talking serious issues in serious times. Maybe Obama's ears are a little funny, but that's it.
Bill Maher, who is host of a politically oriented late-night show on HBO, said, "If you can’t do irony on the cover of The New Yorker, where can you do it?"
Maher is bitching about nothing. You obviously can do irony on the cover of The New Yorker. They just did. And we have a right to complain about the stunning lack of quality to that lame attempt at satire. Nazis have the right to get a permit and march down Main Street. We have the right to expose their identities and call their employers to complain that they are hiring Nazis. Nazis aren't funny. Even Mel Brooks can't make them funny. You can put a Hitler-mustache on McCain and print it on the cover of Mad magazine and it isn't going to be funny. It isn't going to defuse any misconceptions about McCain, either.
Watch Jimmy Kimmel realize that he's an asshole in mid-thought:
Jimmy Kimmel, the host of the ABC late-night talk show "Jimmy Kimmel Live," said of Mr. Obama, "There’s a weird reverse racism going on. You can’t joke about him because he’s half-white. It’s silly. I think it’s more a problem because he’s so polished, he doesn’t seem to have any flaws."
My heart bleeds for these guys. Obama has flaws like any other person. But the only jokes people seem to be able to come up with have to do with perpetuating dangerous myths that he's a Muslim, or he's un-American, or he's a black-first politician. It's nothing but a repetition of insidious lies. You want a good black joke? He's a good black joke:
Mr. Maher said that being sensitive to Mr. Obama was in no way interfering with his commentary, though on HBO he has more freedom about content than other comedians. "There’s been this question about whether he’s black enough," Mr. Maher said. "I have this joke: What does he have to do? Dunk? He bowled a 37 — to me, that’s black enough."
He probably can't ski or wind-surf, either. You want to know hard out there it is for a Network-pimp?
Mr. Kimmel said, "His ears should be the focus of the jokes."
Mr. Sweeney said, "We’re hoping he picks an idiot as vice president."
I remember in 2000 that Don Imus specifically endorsed George W. Bush over Al Gore because he wanted better material for his show. Well, Don Imus is the joke now. We need to be able to spoof our leaders. But we also need to be able tell the difference between a punch-line and a candidate. Is it funny that a lot of people believe the right-wing fabrications about Barack Obama? No? Then that should tell you everything you need to know about why no one laughed at The New Yorker's cover.
Covers and Beholders [Jonah Goldberg]
What I find interesting about the New Yorker cover is that it's almost exactly the sort of cover you could expect to find on the front of National Review. Roman Genn could do wonders with that concept. Of course, if we ran the exact same art, the consensus from the liberal establishment could be summarized in words like "Swiftboating!" and, duh, "racist." It's a trite point, but nonetheless true that who says something often matters more than what is said — and, obviously, that satire is in the eye of the beholder.
The fact that people like Jonah Goldberg support the literal interpretation of The New Yorker cover explains perfectly why it failed as satire.