Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

What Satire Is, What Jokes Are

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Barack Obama and a kangaroo pull up to a gas station. The gas station attendant takes one look at the kangaroo and says, “You know, we don’t get many kangaroos here.” Barack Obama replies, “At these prices, I’m not surprised. That’s why we need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”

Andy Borowitz has the list of official, campaign-approved Barack Obama jokes in the wake of the now-infamous New Yorker cover flap, undoubtedly the silliest Outrage! of the election yet. Reasonable people can disagree about the success of the cover as satire—personally I think it works, and I think the ensuing shitstorm is pretty strong evidence of that—but whether it’s a “good” satire or not the meaning is absolutely clear, inoffensive, and pro-Obama: it’s the morons who believe this crap and the media figures who cynically peddle it who are being mocked, not the Obamas.

I’m even not sure who these mythical people are supposed to be who are with it enough to have heard of the New Yorker in the first place yet still clueless enough to take the cover at face value.

However, it must be said that Jon Stewart gets this wrong:

When Mr. Stewart on “The Daily Show” recently tried to joke about Mr. Obama changing his position on campaign financing, for instance, he met with such obvious resistance from the audience, he said, “You know, you’re allowed to laugh at him.” Mr. Stewart said in a telephone interview on Monday, “People have a tendency to react as far as their ideology allows them.”

Comedy Rule #1: Don’t blame the audience when your jokes fall flat; get better jokes. His writers, much more than Colbert’s, have clearly been struggling when it comes to Obama; just about the only successful Obama joke they’ve run is this one: “I wonder when he’ll break our hearts.”

Written by gerrycanavan

July 15, 2008 at 4:25 pm

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