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Barack’s Funny, After All

All those worries about the death of comedy were premature. From tax troubles to big ears to press and curls, the Obama administration is full of laughs.


Does anyone remember the moaning and gnashing of teeth when Barack Obama was elected president? Not from defeated Republicans but from professional comedians, saddened when George W. Bush—and the comedic gold mine that was his presidency—took that last helicopter ride out of D.C.

They worried that it would be difficult to make fun of the smart, self-aware new guy in office who also happened to be black. To confirm that this was a serious and concerning question, the New York Times weighed in: “What’s funny, and what’s fair game, about a President Barack Obama? Is it too soon to start ridiculing his achievement? Can blacks make fun of him? Can whites?”

That worry, it seems, was in vain. Just as journalists anxious to prove their bona fides shortened the presidential honeymoon with tough questions for Obama and his press secretary, comedians—who traffic in irreverence—want audiences to know they are equal-opportunity offenders. 

After a series of tax-challenged cabinet picks, J. Anthony Brown, a regular on the “Tom Joyner Morning show,” let loose on Obama at a recent show in Dallas. Nobody was more surprised about our new black president than the man himself, Brown told a laughing audience. “He really doesn’t know what he’s doing. He never thought he would win.”

When Obama was announcing his cabinet, said Brown of the B-balling president, “it sounded like he was doing the starting five for the Chicago Bulls.”

Comedians, black and white, have gone after Obama’s ears, his treasury secretary, Michelle’s hair and, from the vacation beach shots, Obama’s presidential buffness.

Comedian Kym Whitley says that she now has an opening line for any cute white guy she wants to approach.

“You want to make a Barack baby?”

Still, both comics and crowds are feeling their way through the laugh lines. Kim Coles just cannot bring herself to make jokes about Barack. “I don’t find him funny,” she said. The country “needs him to do his thing. I don’t need to laugh at him right now. I’d rather be laughing about how we made a comeback … about everybody’s bank account being so full it’s busting.” 

She thinks it’s “cute,” not funny, the way Obama pauses when answering questions. “He’s just thinking before he talks.” And it’s good for black women to see him with the first lady, she said. “He looks at her as if she’s um-um yummy.”