Who says comedy can’t drive the news? This has been a banner week for political comedy, with comics driving three of the major news stories of the cycle. Today, Stephen Colbert is testifying before Congress on immigration. This news baffled almost everyone who heard it, and appears to have particularly upset Fox News commentators, but as Colbert pointed out last night, he joins a distinguished line of Congressional testifiers that includes figures such as Christie Brinkley and Elmo.
Meanwhile Jon Stewart has continued his promotional juggernaut in support of both his rally and his book. The meaning of his rally (is he serious? why isn’t he serious?) was discussed in newspapers and throughout the Internet, and his appearances on Oprah and O’Reilly kept that coverage heavy throughout the week.
But the big comedy news story of the week was witchcraft. Witchcraft! And we have Bill Maher to thank for it. Over the weekend Maher dug up the clip of Christine O’Donnell admitting on his show that she had dabbled in witchcraft back in the nineties. (An historical aside: the nineties happened to be a decade when—until they had Muslims to kick around—insane Christian conservatives of O’Donnell’s ilk considered witches and Satanists very much to be one of the main threats to our country’s survival.)
The witch story spread even faster than last week’s masturbation story, and it’s significant for two reasons. First, Maher has given us a non-Daily Show example of comedians doing a better job than news organizations at unearthing embarrassing or hypocritical footage of public leaders. Second, and more importantly, Maher claimed to have 22 such examples from her past experiences. He threatened to play them one at a time until she came on his show, and he started with the witchcraft clip. This begs the question, what clips didn’t he show? By the Escalating Principle of Blackmail, the 21 clips that Maher has not shown yet have to be worse than this one, or else the blackmail didn’t work. So let’s keep this in mind: of 22 dumb things that potential Senator O’Donnell said to Bill Maher, admitting to experimenting with witchcraft was the least dumb.
So what have we learned about witches this week?
1. Witches float in water (or melt)
Stephen Colbert: O’Donnell’s past could come back to haunt her. Now luckily I have a way to stop this witch hunt. Miss O’Donnell, just come on my show and we’ll do a simple test. Bind your arms and legs and throw you in the river. If you sink to the bottom and drown, your bloated corpse can march to victory with a clean record. But if you float …
Craig Ferguson: A former Vice Presidential candidate and governor tweeted a warning to Christine O’Donnell that the national media is seeking her destruction. That is ridiculous. If the media wanted to destroy her, they would just douse her with water.
2. Witches cast spells
David Letterman: If elected she promised she’ll cast a spell on healthcare.
Jay Leno: Well, you know what’s interesting, O’Donnell said she dabbled in witchcraft, and her opponent, Democratic candidate Chris Coons, he had no comment. He wanted to comment, but he lost his voice, went blind and came down with boils. It was horrible.
3. Witches worship Satan, date Satan, or go on dates to Satanic altars
Letterman: Christine O’Donnell says that she once had a date on a satanic altar? Well, who hasn’t?
Letterman: In Delaware, they have a professional witch running for Senate, and she said at one time that she actually had a date on a satanic altar. Whoa! I mean, seriously, who hasn’t? … The date actually took place at Motel 666.
Leno: I saw that new movie ‘Devil’ or as Delaware Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell calls it, ‘Roots.’
Colbert: Of course their second date was at the Olive Garden. What evil sorcery made their breadsticks endless?
4. Witches form organizational bodies that are similar to government
Leno: There’s a clip going around of this Christine O’Donnell discussing how she once dabbled in witchcraft. Have you heard about this? Although she says she never joined a coven. Never joined a coven? Hey, what do you think Congress is?
5. Witches cook seasonally appropriate food
Letterman: Here’s how you can tell it’s autumn, Christine O’Donnell, the witch from Delaware, today she used her caldron to make chowder.
6. Witches control the economy
Letterman: The state of Delaware has nominated and they’re going to probably elect a witch as Senator from Delaware. Listen to this. One day Delaware elects a witch. The next day the recession is over. I don’t know. Is that a coincidence?
7. Witches don’t like pets
Jimmy Fallon: Yeah, everyone is talking about this. O’Donnell was like, ‘If one more person claims I’m a witch, I will take legal action against them and their little dog, too!’
8. Witch is a helpful term for defaming just about any woman in politics
Letterman: This is going to be exciting. We haven’t had a witch in Washington since, oh, Condoleezza Rice, I think.
Letterman: The Republican candidate from Delaware, Christine O’Donnell, it turns out she’s a practicing witch. And if she wins, and goes to the Senate, she’ll be the first practicing witch in Washington since Barbara Bush.
Leno: Nancy Pelosi’s Republican opponent, John Dennis, has an ad where he depicts Pelosi as the Wicked Witch of the West. Pelosi is very angry and the Wicked Witch is even angrier. (Leno’s joke, from last week, actually had no connection to O’Donnell. He just likes making jokes about what a witch Pelosi is.)
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|Christine O’Donnell Witch Test|
We should remember to always be careful when dealing with witches. They are a famously tricky bunch, and according to a penitent Karl Rove on Fox News, it looks like the late-night comedians fell right into O’Donnell’s hands this time: “She handled the witchcraft issue great – she made it a joke.” The right has become so adept at discounting and laughing off any incriminating traits in their candidates while making lesser charges stick to their opponents, that it’s now an impressive magic trick in its own right. Letterman made note of their hypocrisy gap: “Republicans claim Obama isn’t an American. Then they run a witch.”
A report released this week claiming the recession had ended in June 2009 generated a greater share of humor than many real news stories this week. It was phenomenon enough that Christian Science Monitor wrote a piece covering it. I’ll just leave you with my personal favorite:
David Letterman: According to experts, the recession is over. Is it really over or is it just pulling a Leno?
The Colossal Donut Index
This week’s Colossal Donut Index (CDI) is 12. That represents a 33% increase over last week’s index. (Read about the Colossal Donut Index.)
Stephen Hoban is a writer living in New York.