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Deggans on CNN Sunday: Can anyone lampoon Obama?



Saturdaynightlive_barckobamaandhi_3 BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.-- Just returned from a trip to CNN's Los Angeles bureau, where I engaged Reliable Sources host Howard Kurtz in a pre-taped discussion on why comics feel they can't make fun of Barack Obama. More on that here.

In true showbiz fashion, I traveled 3,000 miles to go on a show produced in Washington D.C., facing the camera at 7:30 a.m. Pacific time to declare all this angst about lampooning candidate Obama mostly hogwash. We taped the segment today, but you'll be able to see it at about 10:30 a.m. Sunday on CNN.

Saturday Night Live lampooned Obama's love affair with the press and the possibility he might turn to Hillary Clinton for advice as president months ago. Animation political satirists Jib Jab offered a pretty sharp skewering this week of Obama's tendency to speak in gauzy, hopeful generalities (here's another Jib Jab gem on Obama). And Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock have been cracking jokes about the difficulties a black president would face for years (Rock even made a movie about it, and awful as Head of State was, nobody suggested he crossed some kind of propriety line).

So why exactly can't people find ways to poke fun at a nerdy, slightly effete metrosexual with a funny name? (shout out to Joel Stein, who aptly summed this all up in a cheeky Los Angeles Times column today).Obamanewyorker

There are some challenges. Because all the late night comedy shows are hosted by white guys, it is difficult for them to make fun of Obama's most obvious attribute -- that he's a person of color. Frankly, if more of them had people of color in their casts, or if a network had a show hosted by a person of color, it wouldn't be such an issue for them. This may be another way Obama's candidacy naturally pulls us into a discussion on the advantages of diversity, creating a situation where the advantages of having a range of voices available to comment on issues becomes more obvious.

And you traffic in clumsy humor about Obama at a higher risk. At a time when every little comment can become a huge controversy, both supporters and enemies of Obama will be sensitive to ham-handed efforts to poke at him -- which was the problem with the New Yorker cover, I think.

Anyway, tune into the discussion Sunday and feel free to come back here and offer your own comments. Frankly, I find it surprising that some folks act as if Obama's skill at presenting an image which is tough to lampoon is somehow a criticism of him.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:49pm]


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