Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau predicts Obama brings 'the tail end of a golden age of satire'
All the newspapers that accepted Trudeau's cartoons for this week depicting Barack Obama winning the presidency -- delivered a week before the election results would actually be known -- get to look like visionaries for publishing an artist ahead of the curve.
But as Trudeau reflects on the significance of an Obama administration, his conclusion is that the job of contemporary humorists is probably going to get tougher.
"I think most of us who work for laughs feel as if we're at the tail end of a golden age of satire," he wrote in an e-mail exclusively to the St. Petersburg Times. "Bush was, to put it mildly, very good for business. But the human comedy tends to refresh itself. The new team will eventually stumble, and I can assure you we'll be there to record every moment."
Here's the rest of his e-mail, starting with the difficulty comics are going to have joking about Obama.
"I think there will be a fairly long grace period. This election has unleashed a tsunami of hope, and a precondition for cynicism is an absence of hope. Even skepticism, my specialty, will not be welcome at the party.
The last time I can recall such an inopportune climate for satire was right after Reagan's re-election. There was plenty to comment on, of course, but there was also such a deep reservoir of good will for that sunny man that even the mildest criticism was seen as mean-spirited. It takes some skill to navigate against the flow of public sentiment, and I wasn't always successful at it.
Fortunately, political commentary is only a small part of what I do. Mostly I tell stories. I have over thirty characters, most of whom live at a remove from politics. I won't be closing up shop in January.
And what about all those comics who said they felt as if they couldn't make fun of Obama? Think that will last long?
I can't speak for the comics, but I assume their restraint was grounded in a fear of appearing racist. That will ease. One of the many good things about the Obama ascendancy, built as it was on personal merit and not grievance, is that it will help dissipate political correctness.
At his insistence, the man will be judged on his performance, and as with any president, there are certain to be plenty of low points. I'm sure the impressionists and caricaturists wish that Obama had more idiosyncratic facial features and speaking mannerisms, but they'll make do. I also expect there will be a lot of halos and Mr. Perfect references in the beginning. It won't last.
But in the meantime, it's a great day, isn't it?