I remember, during the 2000 election recounts, a comic on a talk show basically saying “If George W. Bush wins, the country is in trouble, but comedians will eat like kings.” And, it’s true. People like Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart owe their mortgages to the insane George W. Bush Administration these past eight years. And, looking at the astounding rebound of Saturday Night Live during this astounding road to Election 2008, one has to wonder what will become of SNL‘s audience after the polls close on Tuesday.
For Salon, Thomas Schaller asks the question: is this “the end of the satirical industrial complex?” Obama has been a pretty rare target, so what happens when he’s President? Does the saving of our country mean a crippling blow to our jesters? From Schaller’s article:
Bush’s rise to power this decade contributed significantly, if not primarily, to the emergence of what Stewart has called the “satirical industrial complex.” The complex’s roster includes Stewart and his late-night Comedy Central cohort Stephen Colbert; the “Saturday Night Live” troupe, which has experienced its own surge during the 2008 presidential race; and sundry other parodists and comedic agitators ranging from low-key Tom Tomorrow cartoonist Dan Perkins to Chris Rock, who recently quipped that President Bush has “fucked everything up so much, he’s even made it hard for a white man to become president.”
Unlike comedians from bygone eras, today’s legion of lampooners faces fewer constraints in either the appropriate cultural standards or the mediums available for their use. Will Ferrell doesn’t need to wait for his next movie to come out to make an impact; he can launch any number of humor attacks on his Web site, Funny or Die. YouTube, the DVR, e-mail and text messaging magnify and accelerate the viral influence of comedic content. The greatest testament to the reach of Fey’s Palin impersonations may be the complaint Barack Obama voiced to Washington television reporter Derek McGinty: “I’ve got to say, compared to Tina Fey, and what she’s doing with Governor Palin, my imitator” — “SNL’s” Fred Armisen, who is white and does Obama in blackface — “isn’t doing as great a job.”
Isn’t half the reason you tune into The Daily Show or SNL these days, to see how they skewer the current political climate?
Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.