Kyle Smith of the New York Post wrote a great column a few years back explaining why and how comedians were refusing to mock President Obama, despite a long history of presidents being the butt of jokes. Here’s the relevant quote from the great Jim Downey of Saturday Night Live:
We learn this from Jim Downey, the longtime “Saturday Night Live” specialist in political japery. “If I had to describe Obama as a comedy project, I would say, ‘Degree of difficulty, 10 point 10,’” the writer says in the expanded new edition of the “SNL” oral history book, “Live from New York.”
“It’s like being a rock climber looking up at a thousand-foot-high face of solid obsidian, polished and oiled,” Downey says. “There’s not a single thing to grab onto — certainly not a flaw or hook that you can caricature. [Al] Gore had these ‘handles,’ so did Bush, and Sarah Palin, and even Hillary had them. But with Obama, it was the phenomenon — less about him and more about the effect he had on other people and the way he changed their behavior. So that’s the way I wrote him.”
It’s all somewhat unfortunate because Downey truly was the great political writer on SNL. He was intimately involved as a head writer in the mid-1980s and as Norm MacDonald’s tag-team partner on Weekend Update. You also might recognize him as a service representative at First Citywide Change Bank. Dennis Miller reportedly has called him the second-most important person in SNL’s history, behind only Lorne Michaels.
How in the world could Downey not find anything mockable about Obama?
However, with the end of Obama’s eight years and a new commander-in-chief around the corner, comedians can get back to the age-old practice of mocking those in power, right?
Well, buried inside an AP story about how late-night comedians are targeting Republicans with their humor (go figure!) is a quote about how these joke writers might handle the next president (emphasis mine):
While Trump is clearly “the gift that keeps on giving” for comedians and Bernie Sanders opens himself up to material, Loftus said Hillary Clinton is kind of a dull subject for jokes. Meanwhile, Noah found the Republican primary contenders, particularly Ted Cruz and Chris Christie, a font of material.
Got that? Hillary Clinton is a “dull subject for jokes”! Private servers, deleted emails, a passion for power, putting up with Bill’s womanizing, $250,000 per paid speech, nearly losing to a self-avowed socialist, frequent lies, her awkward laugh, her terrible speech delivery, wiping her server “with a cloth,” her decades in politics…none of these things is interesting for comedy writers, apparently!
It’s going to be another long 4-to-8 years, I’m afraid, for so many reasons.