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