Take My President, Please

Many an ecstatic soul will be celebrating -- and justifiably so -- the coming inauguration of our next president, the first African-American to hold the office. Others will find a greater cause for rejoicing in the departure of our much maligned previous one.

For the latter, this fateful event will be perpetually enshrined as the defining moment in their lives in which a hideous and confounding bitterness, lodged deep within, was finally laid to rest; the hour when a primordial hatred, to which they became the willing slaves for 8 consecutive years, was thoroughly exorcised; a cleansing moment, so to speak.

This same latent hostility against George W. Bush is also what fuels the acerbic demeanor from many of today's comedians. Regrettably, in their failure to find a harmonious balance between their primary calling as entertainers and their fierce allegiances to the far left, much of their satire habitually transcended the limits of what is generally considered to be in good taste.

Regrettably, because that which is reasonably tolerated as edgy and daring by most sensible people, tends to be perceived by many acutely unbalanced individuals in their audience as fact; and so many pernicious smears and vicious lies persist, absent any efforts at accountability on the part of those from whom they have spawned, thanks to their careless and juvenile attempts at humor.

To his credit, the president has steadfastly displayed a spirit of good sportsmanship and graciously endured, but mostly ignored, this thinly veiled animosity from many in the entertainment industry.   
But a day of reckoning is afoot. And it is this most unlikely group of people which will not be celebrating - at least not with the zeal of a typical Obama idolater -- the arrival of our new president; precisely because they have so benefited from an administration that has admittedly served as a veritable treasure's trove of material for anything ranging from relatively benign to down right obscene forms of satire. For them, the days of flagrantly irresponsible - as well as the more cautious and ultimately harmless forms of comedic entertainment - will most likely come to a screeching halt, dawning the age of Obama.

Perhaps this is why, in the final days of the Bush administration, Late Night comedians seem to be cramming as many boorish presidential jokes as possible into their shticks, recognizing that this revelry will soon begin to look worn, dated, and in some cases even run the risk of being labeled a hate crime. One can already see the signs of this future trend.

For instance, join me for a stroll down memory lane, and ruminate upon comedian Sandra Bernhard's crass homily of Sarah Palin being gang raped by a group of black men in Manhattan; or consider the legion simian similes of George W. Bush still making the rounds on the web; momentarily allow your sensitivities to bathe in the less acclaimed skit by Saturday Night Live's best and brightest talents, featuring allegations of incest in the Palin household. Now, in your most sublime and resilient frame of liberality ask yourself: would the same brand of lowbred irreverence fare as well if the object of ridicule were any member of the Obama family?

Conversely, make note of Late Night comedian Conan O'Brian's most recent vignette, in which he quipped that Barack Obama's daughters' new teachers had commented that "both girls (were) already reading well above President Bush level."

The disparaging dig at President Bush, delivered vicariously through a complementary and sanitized reference to Obama's offspring, betrayed a similar fear on the part of the quip's writer, that the coming change at the helm could herald an obligatory tenor for comedians to tread softly when venturing any attempt at satire involving the first African American president.

Media icons, live audience entertainers, and comedians of all stripes will do well to remember that any humorous references to president Obama's character, religion, competence, family, gender, and even eating habits, will be painstakingly screened for even the remotest, objectionable nuance to race, lest they risk overstepping the new, strategically instituted canon of civility from the administration that plans to make due on its promise of "change". But this should come as no surprise, for when it comes to his public image, our future president has always seemed more determined to showcase what he naively perceives to be the proper veneer of gravitas.

I am not suggesting that the vulgarity and animus which set the standard for jest against our current president be grandfathered into the routines of new promising talent in the Obama regime. I would also not subscribe to the contented hypocrisy of liberals who refuse to engage in such defamatory forms of satire only when the potential object of amusement is one of their own. I merely wish to say that I understand the apprehension of those entrusted in our society with the task of merrymaking, in anticipation of the highly expansive speech controls that are likely to become the rule, rather than the exception, in very short order.

Yet in a way, it is actually rather funny, that under the auspices of what promises to be the most liberal administration in history, liberal comedians will have to exercise their gifts within far more prohibitive and strictly defined parameters, in order to put out a fraction of what they were able to get away with when a conservative president was in charge. But perhaps funny is not the right word; for a lot of them certainly won't be laughing.