It’s been obvious ever since Barack Obama appeared on the political scene that comedians rarely go beyond lame jokes about him. As far back as 2009, the Los Angeles Times noted that “TV’s leading political humorists have largely backed away from their ritual comic hazing of the president.”
During last year’s presidential election, a study from George Mason University’s Center for Media and Public Affairs reported that comics made more than twice as many jokes about GOP candidate Mitt Romney than they did about Obama. From late August of 2012 until early October, network late-night comics Jimmy Fallon, Jay Leno, David Letterman, and Craig Ferguson dumped on Obama only 62 times compared to 148 times for Romney.
Now that a trifecta of juicy scandals has arrived on Obama’s White House doorstep, the jibes are becoming a bit more pointed. But David Letterman of CBS is still shying away from Obama material. Last night, he even addressed the issue:
People always say this to me, they say, “Hey, Letterman,” they say. “Why don’t you make jokes about Obama?” And I say, “All right, I’ll tell you why. Good question. Oh, you want to know why? Okay. I don’t make jokes about him because I don’t want the FBI tapping my phone, my phone. That’s why.”
Now that explanation is a real joke, but it’s really at our expense — just a clever excuse for why he is remaining derelict in his duty to poke fun at power.