Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Comedy Writing and the Obama Picture

As a comedy writer I hesitate to think in grandiose terms about the role we're supposed to play. Oh, it's not humility - it's just that it makes it harder to be funny. But there really was something missing during the writers strike, that I hadn't completely noticed before.

Little lumps of disinformation were being thrown out there by the presidential candidates and they seemed to last longer than they should have because there was no comedians to knock them down. I remember one being the highly-nuanced Huckabee theology degree. We could have worked with that. Heck, I thought the whole "I'm a miracle" thing was comedy gold.

Contrast that with yesterday, the Hillary campaign, and this Obama photograph in traditional Somali wear. Hillary finds it "laughable" to suggest her desperate campaign had anything to do with it, but nobody bought that. So we had an attempt to use the picture to depict Obama as something that he is not. This was where the comedy writers stepped up on national TV last night.

Leno said that the Obama campaign had responded by releasing a picture of Hillary in her traditional garb and then showed a picture of the Wicked Witch of the West. Kimmel said the picture was incomplete and zoomed out to show Barack at a Halloween costume party carrying a Jack-O'-Lantern and surrounded by other people in costume. Conan said that the Obama camp has countered by releasing a picture of Hillary wearing a traditional Somali pantsuit.

I suppose you could call it progress that the day after the Oscars we were talking about what a guy had been wearing 2 years ago, instead of a gown worn by a woman, but still. It was a bad moment in Hillary's campaign and the comedy writers jumped on it.

Now, granted - some of these moves cause a subtle shift in perceptions that can't be erased. That's the whole strategy of lying and then moving on. But the comedy writers really do a service to respond quickly before something can linger and become part of the background noise.

When Hillary's people saw their candidate being depicted as a green-faced witch on a broom, they must have wondered if their Barack costume idea had worked. She probably would have been wiser to release the picture during the writers strike.

(Check out the Saving James update linked towards the top of the column to the right >)


At 9:33 AM, Blogger Pat Malach said...

I've never thought of the late night comedians as playing the role you described, but it makes sense. Thanks for the recap of the jokes on this one..

At 3:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good point. Stewart and Colbert's take was certainly missed during the strike.

Great to have you back (I hope) Bill. Where's Butch!

At 9:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The writer's strike is over, and Bill is back. Life is good again.


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