In today’s Telegraph (London), Tim Shipman reports from Washington about the sea change of coverage involving Senator Obama. In the wake of his perhaps-a-shade-too-triumphal world tour, reporters have become more skeptical and comedians have become more enabled.
Last month, after an Obama joke was met with silence, Daily Show host Jon Stewart assured his audience that it was OK to laugh at the Democratic nominee.
On the Late Show last week, David Letterman enumerated the Top Ten Signs Barack Obama Is Overconfident. And as Dave goes so goes the nation. Dan Schnur, the newly-appointed director of USC’s Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics (and John McCain’s communications director in 2000) says that, “When Letterman is doing ‘Top Ten’ lists about something, it has officially entered the public consciousness. And it usually stays there for a long, long time.”
So a trend can be discerned, although it’s still too early to celebrate the restoration of free speech:
A writer with one of the leading comedy shows in the US, who preferred not to be named because of continuing sensitivities about how far comedians should go from some network executives, said: “We had a hard time convincing people that Obama is funny for a long time. Our audiences seemed unsure whether to laugh at him. The first black president is not a gag. But that’s changing because he’s doing more stuff that’s easy to mock and people are more familiar with him.”
Mr. Shipman (who seems partial to the Tonight Show) lists some of the “Best Obama Jokes”. Among them:
Craig Ferguson: “Barack Obama was in Germany” today, and “he did this speech and 100,000 people showed up. There were so many Germans shouting and screaming that France…surrendered just in case.”
Jimmy Kimmel: “They really love Barack Obama in Germany. He’s like a rock star over there. Impressive until you realize that David Hasselhoff is also like a rock star over there.”
Jay Leno: “Of course, Obama’s supporters got him his usual birthday gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”
Jay Leno: “Obama’s people are trying to portray McCain as cranky, and McCain is trying to portray Obama as arrogant, you see. And when Obama was asked what he thought about being called arrogant, well, he said he was ‘above having to answer that question.'”
Jay Leno: “See Barack Obama on the news? He’s becoming a workout fanatic. He’s at the gym, like, twice a day, sometimes three times a day at the gym, yeah, according to his staff. Well, he has to stay in shape to do those flip-flops.”
Jay Leno: “Barack Obama back from his big European tour. Did you see him in Europe? People were cheering him, holding up signs, blowing him kisses. And that was just the American media covering the story.”