Why is Jon Stewart the only late night TV comic who jokes mostly about Obama?
When my pal and colleague Bill Carter wrote a compelling piece for the New York Times featuring late night comedy writers complaining about how they couldn't write jokes about Barack Obama, I went on CNN to air a few complaints myself.
Mostly, I thought it was nonsense; clumsy excuses from comedy writers because the most obvious joke -- hey, a black guy is running for president! -- was made unavailable to them (partly because their own writing and performing staffs are so lacking in diversity). it sounded way too much like that typical "everything's so P.C. we can't have fun anymore" grousing that falls heavily on the ears of people weary of dealing with the media's unconscious prejudices.
Now, along comes a study by the Center for Media and Public Affairs which sorta proves my point -- showing that the funniest and arguably most left-leaning comedy show on late night TV also made fun of Obama the most.
Analyzing jokes told on on shows hosted by Jay Leno, David Letterman, Conan O'Brien, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert from January to July this year, the Center for Media and Public Affairs found John McCain tallied more jokes than Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama -- except on Stewart's Daily Show, where Obama got the most jokes.
It seems that Stewart's show focused on Obama for 122 jokes, compared to 100 for Clinton and 98 for McCain. Colbert flipped that script, targeting McCain for 129 jokes, Obama for 91 gags and Clinton in 79. (McCain is also a longtime friend of Stewart's, so that may also be a factor).
Here's a sample of jokes provided by the CMPA:
McCain was asked how he’s going to conserve energy. He said by taking three naps a day. – Leno
The big story is Obama’s world tour. Today he made history by being the first man to travel around the world in a plane propelled by the media’s flash photography. – Colbert
Brett Favre says he has reconsidered his decision to retire and he wants to get back in the game. Today Hillary Clinton said, “You can do that?” – Letterman
The tour may strike some as presumptuous. In fact I joked that Obama would be stopping in Bethlehem to visit the manger where he was born. - Stewart
Hmm -- perhaps the simpler explanation is that Obama jokes just aren't funny.