Political satire, when gaffes gives us laughs: 2011's funny side of serious and 2012's promised punchlines
They say laughter is the best medicine and I tend to agree. Comedians have helped us through many a rough patch, pouring humor over raw wounds like a soothing salve, dulling the edges of national pain like no other medium can. September 11th 2001 was a vivid example of when satire, political or otherwise, bridged a gap of pain that at the time looked impossible to mend.
When New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and a group of First Responders showed up to give Saturday Night Live the ‘go ahead’ to resume the show after the City’s devastating terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, everyone breathed a collective sigh--a sigh to release pent-up pain, frustration, anger and show strength, perseverance. That night was memorable for it symbolized the resilient spirit of the American people-- who showed that by laughing again, we were rising above the atrocity, standing triumphantly tall.
Satire has always been a part of the fabric of this nation, woven in as a buffer to all the tragedy and strife. Some comics have stood out above the pack, carved a nice niche for themselves in the political landscape. In 2011, Jon Stewart has taken the lead but fellow funnymen Steven Colbert and Bill Maher are not far behind.
Others like Saturday Night Live, Jimmy Fallon, Jay Leno, David Letterman, Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Kimmel all hold their own and have shown staying power. Stewart and Colbert’s back to back 30 minutes nightly show on Comedy Central have become a sort of ‘place to go to get the read deal’ on breaking news and have accumulated quite a cult-like following of fans, moi included! Their October 30, 2010 rally to ‘Regain Sanity’ held on the Washington Mall catapulted them to bigger celebrity status. Stewart was even named Men’s Magazine most fascinating Man of the Year, beating out President Obama in 2010.
Many who tune in to get a belly-full of laughs credit Stewart’s thedailyshow’s fake news program as the place to get more accurate, hard-hitting news than the main-stream media, making this deep irony priceless. Colbert’s acerbic, sharp satire even goes places that Stewart wouldn’t dare venture. Bill Maher is the father of controversy with his brand of humor, pushing the envelope further than most. He’s on HBO, so in fairness, that does give him an advantage. Clean is not a requirement over there--uncensored more the rule of the day.
2011 was not a bonanza like the previous years when George W Bush was the gift that kept on giving. Comedians everywhere took ‘potshots’ at ‘GW,’ and SNL had their own resident ‘real imposter’ in Will Ferrell. In 2009, Ferrell took the role all the way to Broadway in his one man show: Will Ferrell: You're Welcome, America: A Final Night With George W. Bush.
Either Barack Obama proved a more difficult subject to poke fun at or as some critics have accused--the ‘Liberal media went soft on him.’ I have a feeling the truth lies somewhere in the middle but SNL did manage to give us plenty on the 44th resident of the White House. Congress’s partisan bickering and sometimes downright full fledged rumbling 'battle royale' ended up on the lips of all the nightly comics.
The GOP’s presidential line-up has brought back some of the Bush era comedic bonanza--what with Rick Perry’s continuous gaffes, amnesia during debates, controversial television ads and bizarre speech performances, the satire euphoria has hit the stratosphere-- and that is only one candidate. Throw in the recently exited Herman Cain with his 9-9-9 Plan, his Libyan/foreign policy ignorance and bevy of women claiming sexual harassment and one affair, he was the gift that kept on giving “Georgie Bush-style.”
Letterman’s Top Ten List on his nightly The Late Show with David Letterman on CBS was brutal with his satirical sword, slicing and dicing the candidates on a regular basis. From Bill Maher to Jay Leno, stabs at Gingrich keep coming. Here is a small sample:
"Newt Gingrich says he wants to get rid of Social Security. Who is more qualified to give this country financial advice than a guy who ran up a half-million dollar bill at Tiffany?" – David Letterman
"Herman Cain is ahead with 27%, as opposed to Newt Gingrich, who is 27% head.-"Stephen Colbert
"Newt Gingrich is so pro-marriage, he can't stop doing it. He is so morally upright, that he's only had sex after he was married. Just not always to the woman he was married to." —Stephen Colbert
"It has gotten so bad in the party that Newt Gingrich is now starting to surge, which is never good news for Mrs. Gingrich." –Bill Maher.
With quotes like those on the Republican presidential frontrunner, one can’t help but respect the art form and how these comics make it look effortless--when a tremendous amount of work goes into it.
HBO's Bill Maher's New Rules segment on 'Real Time With Bill Maher' is so popular that he has written a book The New New Rules, now featured on the NY Times bestseller's list.
No one is spared and not much is off limits. Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorium, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Herman Cain all feel the wrath of late night comics, though some provide more fodder than others. SNL does a delightful job with the GOP debates and Bachmann, Perry and Newt’s characters never disappoint in hilarity.
Bachmann’s response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address in 2011 was captured brilliantly by one of SNL’s talented Cast member,Kristen Wiig, whose off-kilter performance left us in stitches! Kenan Thompson parodied Cain’s folksy oneliners to perfection and Seth Meyers' Weekend Update segment is always a riot of laughs.
Sarah Palin is keeping a low profile and though Tina Fey’s parody of the former VP candidate was unrivaled in its brilliance, the race to pick President Obama’s opponent is heating up and 2012 is looking like an even bigger year of laughs than 2011. I'm sure Stewart's resident 'correspondents' like Jason Jones, who is king of the risque and his equally risque wife, Samantha Bee; the ever funny "Muslim" Correspondent" Aasif Mandvi; the cool Wyatt Cenac; the hilarious 'British/American,' John Oliver and the "Senior Black Corrrespondent," the seriously funny, Larry Wilmore, along with Colbert's one man show--are collectively sharpening their scythes, bench pressing their punch lines, polishing their prose and I imagine the battle will be intense. Whoever the nominee ends up to be, the fodder promises to be deep and wide! Prepare to have your funny side tickled as the comic geniuses do what they do best--take a slice of the serious, turn it into the 'funnies' and entertain us royally.
Written by Veronica Roberts 12.12.11