Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Paul Ryan: Good for GOP, bad for comedy

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
updated 2:10 PM EDT, Sun August 19, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dean Obeidallah: There's a severe downturn in the world of political comedy
  • Obeidallah: Paul Ryan, a middle-aged white guy from the Midwest, is "boring"
  • He says the golden years of political comedy were during the Clinton and Bush eras
  • Obeidallah: Comedians can only dream about a ticket like: Sarah Palin and Anthony Weiner

Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the editor of the politics blog "The Dean's Report" and co-director of the upcoming documentary, "The Muslims Are Coming!" Follow him on Twitter: @deanofcomedy

(CNN) -- When will this recession end? I'm not talking about the economic challenges facing our nation. I'm talking about the severe downturn in the world of political comedy.

By picking Paul Ryan as his running mate, Mitt Romney may have energized the Republican Party. But is Ryan all that exciting? He's a middle-aged, conservative white guy from the Midwest. As NBC's Jimmy Fallon aptly joked earlier this week on his late night show: "Mitt Romney is hoping to energize conservatives with his choice of Paul Ryan as running mate. That's like trying to spice up a bowl of oatmeal with more oatmeal."

Don't get me wrong -- compared with Romney, Paul Ryan is Ashton Kutcher on crack. But even Rush Limbaugh labeled Ryan as "the last Boy Scout." Translation: Reliable but boring.

The guy who makes politicians funny

Let me give you a little background about the plight of political comedy. When the nation found itself in an economic recession as President Barack Obama was taking office, comedians headed into a comedic depression. George W. Bush was comedy gold for eight years. If we knew how little material Obama would be providing us, comedians would have joined forces to repeal the 22nd Amendment to enable Bush to be president for a third term. (I know that would've been bad for the country, but we, comedians, are a particularly selfish breed -- after all, we won't even share the stage with other performers.)

Dean Obeidallah
Dean Obeidallah

Sure, there have been glimmers of a comedic recovery over the last few years. We perked up when Sarah Palin explored the possibility of running for president. Her candidacy would have been the equivalent of a comedic stimulus package.

Who can forget Rep. Anthony Weiner, who famously posted photos of himself in his underwear on Twitter? This controversy harkened back to the comedy boom bestowed upon us by Bill Clinton's sex scandal.

And recently, the Republican presidential debates offered some good stuff. Most notably, Rick Perry forgetting the name of the third government agency that he wanted to eliminate.

To his credit, Obama has supplied some material, like when he said, "The Middle East is obviously an issue that has plagued the region for centuries." Or when Obama claimed he had traveled across the nation visiting our "57 States."

I know many on the right see Obama as providing much more comedic material than comedians do. They often send me "jokes" about Obama on issues like Obamacare or the "Fast and Furious" program.

While I appreciate the sentiment, here's the cold, hard truth: Conservatives are not funny. I'm being brutally objective here. There are some funny conservative comedians and pundits, but how many can you name? I have my theories why conservatives struggle so horribly when trying to be funny, but I'll keep them to myself because I'm not a mental health professional.

In the midst of this comedy recession where we have witnessed a severe contraction in our GDL -- gross domestic laughter -- there is one potential goldmine that could use a bit more exploration. I'm speaking of vice president Joe Biden.

Just search on Google the words "Biden" and "gaffes" and watch your computer's screen fill up with page after page of "Bidenisms." A few months ago, while referring to Teddy Roosevelt's famous comment to walk softly and a carry a big stick, Biden said: "I promise you, the president has a big stick. I promise you." And now, we have another "Biden moment" when he proclaimed that Romney's policies on regulating Wall Street would put, "y' all back in chains."

Oddly enough, Biden's blunders have not defined him as a comedic figure. At least when compared to say, former Vice President Dan Quayle, who entertained us with gaffe after gaffe, from famously misspelling the word "potato" in front of a class of young students (he added an "e" at the end) to saying things like, "It's wonderful to be here in the great state of Chicago."

There are upcoming events that offer some hope that we will emerge from the comedy doldrums. Donald Trump will be attending the Republican National Convention scheduled later this month and has promised a "big surprise." Perhaps he will pay homage to Romney at the convention by tipping his hair to him.

From Adams to Obama: 10 funny political lines

And we comedians can all dream that at the upcoming Democratic National Convention, Joe Biden will throw away his script and just ad lib his speech. (I would predict that the Secret Service has standing orders to tackle Biden if he tries that.)

Even if these events could provide temporary relief, it's unlikely that we will ever return to the political comedy golden years of Clinton and W. Bush. Like many Americans, we'll simply have to learn to make do with less.

However, I have an idea that is motivated solely in helping the country and not my career. It may end the toxic political climate that is plaguing us. What about a bipartisan presidential ticket in 2016: "Sarah Palin and Anthony Weiner"? Think of the possibilities!

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 3:41 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Stuart Gitlow says pot is addictive and those who smoke it can experience long-term psychiatric disease.
updated 12:45 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Gabby Giffords and Katie Ray-Jones say "Between 2001 and 2012, more women were shot to death by an intimate partner in our country than the total number of American troops killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined."
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Tue July 29, 2014
Alan Elsner says Secretary Kerry's early cease-fire draft was leaked and presented as a final document, which served the interests of hard-liners on both sides who don't want the Gaza war to stop.
updated 7:58 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Vijay Das says Medicare is a success story that could provide health care for everybody, not just seniors
updated 2:18 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Rick Francona says Israel seems determined to render Hamas militarily ineffective.
updated 1:43 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
S.E. Cupp says the entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner thinks for himself and refuses to be confined to an ideological box.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
A Christian group's anger over the trailer for "Black Jesus," an upcoming TV show, seems out of place, Jay Parini says
updated 4:28 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
updated 3:39 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Carol Dweck and Rachel Simmons: Girls tend to have a "fixed mindset" but they should have a "growth mindset."
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
A crisis like the Gaza conflict or the surge of immigrants can be an opportunity for a lame duck president, writes Julian Zelizer
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Carol Costello says the league's light punishment sent the message that it didn't consider domestic violence a serious offense
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Danny Cevallos says saggy pants aren't the kind of fashion statement protected by the First Amendment.
updated 2:52 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Margaret Hoover says some GOP legislators support a state's right to allow same-sex marriage and the right of churches, synagogues and mosques not to perform the sacrament
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Priya Satia says today's drones for bombardment and surveillance have their roots in the deadly history of Western aerial control of the Middle East that began in World War One
updated 12:35 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
updated 11:33 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
updated 8:45 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 8:09 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT