Reading over Joel Stein’s description of several crappy ways to make fun of Obama, it’s startling to read that the media isn’t trying to find ways to make funny things funny, but ways to even find actual funny things.
One of the things we discussed in the panel yesterday is that humor is humor because it points at the truth and reveals it – if the same people who notice when Obama switches from orange Listerine to green can’t find something obviously true and mockably funny about the man, then perhaps that is not the funny they’re looking for.
“That’s not the funny I’m looking for? Yes, yes, continue on.”
The reason that this column is so telling is because what’s actually funny about this election is the precise thing Stein is doing: floundering around in the big pool of Obama’s charismatic Negrosity trying to figure out how to get out and dry off before they start pissing in it. Democratic candidates become mockable when they become othered, turned into something strange and alien and worthy of derision, which then becomes conventional wisdom and a shorthand for everything wrong with them. What Obama did was have the audacity to come in as a preexisting other – a black man – that throws off this creation process. You can’t “other” him without taking who he is into account, and given the rather uninspiring ability of our media overlords to figure out new and exciting ways of thinking about things, it’ll be about Halloween before someone gets the bright idea of picking up an issue of Essence and figuring out how to address people who aren’t white male monied Protestants with a penchant for a belief in a social contract that doesn’t result in us eating each other in a Netflix-sponsored battle ring. Rather than do what normal people looking for comedy do – stop trying to make the presentation on diode manufacturing into a Bill Hicks routine and start finding funny targets for humor – it’ll be the job of the media over the next few months to explore this truly necessary question: why can’t we make fun of the respectable black dude with a serious personality and the good ideas? The better question is: why is this your job? Why do you keep trying? Some things are funny, like “Dick in a Box” the first time you saw it. Some things aren’t funny, like the guy wearing “Dick in a Box” costume last Halloween. The sooner this is realized, the better.
Oh, if only there were models for comedians making fun of specific black figures to learn from, if a celebrities such as Wesley Snipes* and Pacman Jones offered low-hanging fruit to practice Negro mockery on. Alas, we shall soldier on in this pitiable fog, never knowing what it would be like to see a black person who did something ridiculous mocked in a public and hilarious fashion.
*If you make fun of Money Train, you’re fucking banned. Permanently.