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Whither Satire in the Age of Obama?

by Jake Mohan 


Tags: Politics, media, entertainment, comedy, Election 2008, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, television, satire, Daily Show, Jon Stewart, South Park, New Yorker, Politico, Time Magazine,

jon stewartAfter 9/11 we heard a lot about the death of irony, but after an initial period of mourning, humor prevailed and even thrived in the troubled early aughts.

But with the departure of the president who gave political satire its all-time easiest target, and the arrival of an unflappable and extremely popular president-elect, will practitioners of political satire run out of fodder?

Of course not. The Daily Show’s ascendancy coincided with Bush’s increasingly disastrous presidency, but Jon Stewart & Co. won’t suddenly be irrelevant just because Bush is. “Assuming the Daily Show can only be funny under someone like George W. Bush gives far too much credit to the outgoing President and is obscenely insulting to the writers of the Daily Show,” writes Matt Tobey on Comedy Central’s blog. “As if there wasn't plenty of failed Bush-based humor from shittier sources than the Daily Show.”

Meanwhile, the South Park boys pulled an all-nighter after the election to complete their extremely timely Wednesday broadcast, in which overzealous acolytes of Barack Obama see his victory as license to riot drunkenly in the streets, and Obama’s campaign team shows its true colors as an upscale band of jewel thieves a la Ocean’s Eleven.

These comedy institutions are bellwethers of the general categories into which Obama Humor will fall, at least for now: Poking fun at the extreme fervor of Obama’s supporters, and pointing up the absurd paranoia of Obama’s opposition (much like the New Yorker did all those months ago.)

The reliable Onion covers those satirical bases and more, with headlines like “International Con Man Barack Obama Leaves U.S. With $85 Million In Campaign Fundraising” and “Black Man Given Nation’s Worst Job”.

There’s also the hilarious animated video below, from Get Your War On creator David Rees, making the rounds. (Consider it a sequel to the New Yorker cover.)

And when Obama inevitably falls short of the astronomical expectations set for him, satirists will pounce. The Daily Show’s John Hodgman told Politico, “As much as the show is fake news, its soul is very sincere, borne of a desire that everyone shares, that we don’t want to be lied to. If there is a whiff of insincerity [Obama] will be taken to task.”

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