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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 11/12/2008

The Riff: Obama Satire...Too Soon?

By Michael Cavna

It finally happened. Six days after the election, Comic Riffs encountered our first official Obama Joke.

Now, by "official" Obama Joke, let us be clear: We mean a professional humorist who makes a joke ABOUT President-elect Obama, in the wake of his landmark ascension. Cartoonists and comics -- many of whom served up a fair number of Obama gags during the long campaign -- have largely stepped back in recent days, deferring to History and The Moment.

In time, though, as jubilation gradually cedes ground to The Job At Hand, cartoonists will sharpen their dip pens and develop comic "takes" on the president-elect. For the relevant good of political cartooning, though -- in a field that seems to lose staff newspaper posts by the week -- we hope the shift is not slow in coming.
Not that their job will be easy.

In August, Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist Mike Luckovich of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, expressed concern, telling Comic Riffs: "If Obama wins, he's going to be difficult. Maybe he'll have an idiot vice president."

And Pulitzer-winning Steve Breen of the San Diego Union-Tribune told 'Riffs during the campaign: "It's also either funny or sad that I'm getting complaints on my Obama caricatures. One [reader] said I'm racist because my Obama looked like a sock puppet."

So it was a good sign that satirists can never sit still for long when, on Monday night, comic/actor Richard Belzer took the Kennedy Center stage at the Mark Twain Prize (this year awarded posthumously to George Carlin). "Belz" told the audience he had a sneak-peek copy of Obama's inauguration speech.

After much crinkling of paper and pregnant-pausing, Belzer looked straight-ahead...and began shouting the speech rapidly in mock Arabic. (Getting some of the biggest guffaws of the night, we should note.)

It was fearful Obama critics, of course -- those who gave the election's "secret Muslim" snipes a half-second of thought -- who were being satirized.

Still, it was a genuine Obama Joke. Soon, cartoonists should take the cue.


Starring in a new bio-comic. (Bluewater Productions)Enlarge Comic

Bluewater Productions announced yesterday that Michelle Obama will be the new subject in its ongoing bio-comic series, titled "Female Force."

"In creating an image of our new first lady, Michelle Obama, it was my goal to represent her class, beauty and intelligence," artist Vinnie Tartamella said in the news release. "I hope I reflected these qualities and characteristics in this historical piece."

The book will be released in April.

By Michael Cavna  | November 12, 2008; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  The Riffs  
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There's no "too soon". He's president, not dead. The only thing holding off satire is, he has to do something to satirise. So far, all we have to satirise is what his critics claim he is. (Hence the New Yorker cover.)

He needs to do something like nominate an idiot for VP, or trip on the steps of Air Force One, or get attacked by a killer rabbit while in a rowboat, or claim he inspired the book "Love Story", or say trees pollute more than cars, or ....

His time will come. I have hopes for Obama, but I have faith that human nature will come through. In the meantime, where's the cartoon about how Obama, clearly thinking this is Heinz country, said he visited all 57 states?

Posted by: f-squared | November 12, 2008 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Well maybe the problem in satirizing Obama is in nearly 2 yrs of campaign all ya got is 57 states?
You betcha!
Economy is fundamentally sound.
Nation of Whiners.
150k wardrobe.
I can see Putin's head from my kitchen window
I could go on, but why?

Posted by: jimbo1949 | November 12, 2008 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Surely the adolescent hero worship of the most fanatical Obamabots ("He's too perfect to satirize!") ought to be fertile ground for humor.

Posted by: tomtildrum | November 13, 2008 11:12 AM | Report abuse

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