In troubled times, the value of a laugh appreciates. Humour is worth more, because humour has the power to briefly distract us from unpleasant realities such as the distressing loss of a job and the even more distressing fact that Paula Abdul still has one.
George W. Bush has given the American people more unintentional comedy than any U.S. president since… well, since the one before him. Thanks to the selfless, innate hilarity of W. and Bill Clinton, the people of the world have enjoyed a spectacular 16-year run of character flaws, blatant lies and absurd spin – an unprecedented era of comedy prosperity.
But with Barack Obama’s inauguration, America stands poised to enter its first humour recession in more than a generation.
This isn’t about professional comedians, late-night talk show hosts and the like. They’ll find the funny as Obama makes mistakes.
This is about the rest of us.
Clinton and Bush democratized political comedy. They were humour populists. Everyone could make fun of them.
Clinton gave us the gift of fat jokes and horndog jokes – two of the easiest and most enjoyable genres in the humour pantheon. Generous to a fault, he also gave us a wooden vice-president, a scheming wife and the Lincoln Bedroom as Holiday Inn Express.
Truly, this was a time of plenty.
Clinton wasn’t perfect. He wasn’t an idiot – which made George W. Bush his ideal successor. Bush was every bit as generous a political target as Clinton but (and this is crucial) in a completely different way. He gave us braindead jokes, clueless patsy jokes, English-as-a-third-language jokes and a vice-president who actually shot an actual guy in the actual face.
Compared to these two giants of outrageousness, Obama is a potential-comedy pipsqueak. He has ears that lend themselves to easy caricature, but not behavourial traits. He is not lusty. He is not oblivious. He is not plump, not lazy, not dismissive, not old. His vice-president does not appear to be the walking undead. His wife seems nice.
In short, this is a disaster.
Do us a favour, George. Drop us a line from time to time. Maybe write a book defending your legacy. It will provide for us an oasis of laughter in a desert of silence.