The Year Ahead in Political Comedy

The new year has just begun, but already political forces have been lining up that will define politics and political comedy for the next 51 weeks. Based on the events of the past week and from the end of last year, we can already get a pretty good glimpse of what’s to come. Here are my predictions for the biggest topics for political comedy in the year ahead. Predicting things is easy and fun! If there’s one thing we should have learned from all these years watching the Daily Show, it’s that no journalist or commentator has ever been penalized for being wrong, even when they’re wrong about everything. So let’s get speculative.

Welcome, Republican Overlords

You might be under the impression that since the Democrats still control the Senate and the Presidency, they have a say in our government. Snap out of it. If you watched the news, you’d know the Republicans control everything. It’s their America now.

But who are these Republicans, and how do we recognize them? How should we behave around them? What are their customs? First, don’t confuse these Republicans with the “Republicans” who were in power until two years ago. This is a new party, and if we’re going to let them rule us, we need to learn their ways. Luckily, comedians are already on the case, helping us identify who these Republicans are and explaining to us their strange ways.

How to Be a Female Republican in 2011

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Top of the GOPs
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John Boehner, easy caricature

John Boehner looks like what you’d get if some evil force materialized on planet Earth and needed to blend in among rich people. Yes, he could just be a regular person, but if I’m right, his goal for hiding among us will probably shake out in the next two years. In the meantime, there’s enough to make fun of with his being orange, the chain smoking, and the crying like a baby at the slightest provocation. Which is fitting, because that’s how humanoids display emotion.

David Letterman Makes Brian Williams Acutely Uncomfortable

Barack Obama’s continuous cycle of death and rebirth

The Daily Show ran a piece this week on the number of newscasters calling Obama the Comeback Kid. Jon Stewart’s counter-proposal was that Obama was Luke Skywalker, what with all the Star Wars trilogy’s ups and downs.

But maybe Obama is most like South Park’s Kenny, constantly dying a political death and popping back up right where he left for the next episode. He’s been called dead and alive so many times, I’m starting to understand how the Sean Hannities of the world think he’s the most ineffectual, do-nothing president in history while also the greatest progressivist-socialist threat America has ever known.

Also, Saturday Night Live will finally give the Obama impersonation to Jay Pharoah.

Barack Obama is Luke Skywalker

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Barack Obama Is Luke Skywalker
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The Onion News Network

The most surprising thing about the Daily Show’s popularity is the lack of copycat shows. Not that replicating their formula would be easy, but that never stopped any television executive before. Remember what the network schedule looked like the year after Lost premiered? And we are still paying the price for the success of the first Survivor.

That gap leaves plenty of room for the new Onion News Network show on IFC. The question for ONN is not how successful it’s going to be, but will other comedy shows be forced to retool their formats defensively. Since it’s on IFC, and we’re all busy dropping our cable plans, its success might be tied to how easy it is to see their clips online.

New Clips from IFC’s Onion News Network

Joe Biden

If last year was a classic year for Joe Biden comedy, in 2011 Joe Biden comedy should be entering its baroque phase. Already at the cusp of absurdity, Biden jokes just need that little push to lose all connection with reality and cross into genius.

This could happen through conventional routes, like an all-Joe Biden sitcom (a la That’s My Bush), but it’s more likely the instigation will come from Biden himself. His gaffes as VP have been pretty small potatoes, compared not only to his embarrassing moments as Senator, but to other recent Vice-presidential behaviors (getting drunk and shooting your friend in the face, for example). Biden is all set for the big one. Maybe he will run someone over with a train. Maybe he’ll start a war. But when it happens, and it will happen in the summer, comedians will need to put all their other jokes away, and give this its proper attention.

Moment of Zen: Joe Biden Forgets Number One

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Moment of Zen - Joe Biden Forgets Number One
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Will a reality star run for president?

This reality star will tease us about whether or not she will run on a weekly basis if not more often. Please, comedians, just ignore her. For the sake of America.

Will Kanye West run for president?

That is the question comedians should be asking every week. He might listen.

Stephen Hoban is a writer living in New York.

The Year Ahead in Political Comedy