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New Yorker Fest Political Humor Panel: Pro Sarah Palin Jokes, Against Another Holocaust

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I attended the Political Humor panel at last weekend's New Yorker festival, with the Daily Show's Samantha Bee, The Borowitz Report's Andy Borowitz, Colbert Report exec producer Allison Silverman, Onion head writer, SNL writing staff staple (and guy who made out with Jonah Hill last season) Jim Downey, and the New Yorker's articles editor (and Spy founding editor) Susan Morrison, who moderated. I live-Twittered it then, and have collected those bullet points here for posterity. (Keep in mind that they were typed on a blackberry with a 140-character limit, except where I've added/clarified.)

In a weekend of highlights this panel was a highlight, hearing this group of exceptionally sharp, funny people discuss the campaign and the coverage and the role of humor in shaping that. Never has there been an election where political humor played such a significant role. (Viewership for SNL, the Daily Show and the Colbert Report has surged.) My takeaways: Bee's behind-the-scenes of trying to get Republicans at the RNC to say the word "choice"; Silverman saying that she thinks the MSM is reluctant to call out racism for what it is; Downey saying that he thought the media actually did have it in for Hillary Clinton (funny how the actual media always begs to differ); Borowitz's excellent satirical headlines. Borowitz also had the best line of the entire panel, though, after Hanson had done a little rant against stupid people. Morrison noted that there didn't seem to be any of those stupid people in the audience. Said Borowitz: "They're at the New York Post festival."

The panels are slowly being put online at the New Yorker website, so check here for the full experience. Also here's a great write-up from Sharilyn Johnson at The Apiary.

Update: The entire panel is online here. Drop everything and watch.

  • At NYer Fest panel on political humor, warmed up w/ a Palin impression by 23/6's Sarah Palin impersonator Sarah Benincasa (with sidekick Dina).

  • "I have a message for Mr. Malcolm Gladwell: You might blink, but we don't." Also: "We just love your liberal rag, it's filled with so many hilarious untruths...we just hope you enjoy the entire panel, which is filled with many white people just like yourselves. It's good to know you liberals continue your devotion to diversity." Then she put on a tiara.

  • Morrison: We have to start with Sarah Palin - everything is being upstaged by this sitcom comedy mom. 03:16 PM

  • SamBee: Palin may be a comedy gift, but having great material isn't preferable to having a country that isn't going down the toilet. 03:18 PM

  • Borowitz: Agrees re: comedy gods - Bush has been like an 8 yr long YouTube clip, but wld rather have the country not be screwed. 03:19 PM

  • Jim Downey - diff btwn gold and fool's gold - the easy pickings are picked - and then you've got 4 years of a one-note caricature. 03:22 PM

  • Todd Hansen said season opener on SNL "may have saved the country" 03:26 PM

  • Silverman talking about how Palin said she was against the Holocaust; Borowitz: "She only said she was against ANOTHER holocaust." 03:27 PM

  • Borowitz: "I actually read about her in the Book of Revalations, right after the Four Horsemen"; Hanson, apologizing for his scratchy voice: "I've been debating Sarah Palin for the past week." (Per The Apiary.)

  • Silverman also loved Palin's mention of "The Castro Brothers" 03:28 PM

  • Clip from Colbert mocking McCain using POW diversion. In "The Word" - one of the most brilliant comedy devices ever. Truly. 03:30 PM



  • Morrison notes that Silverman + Colbert staff have a different approach b/c they are in character. So they disagree through extreme agreement. 03:33 PM

  • SamBee: I just don't think anyone would find our show FUNNY if they didn't get their news from somewhere else. They wouldn't get the jokes. 03:34 PM

  • Borowitz: Daily Show is not fake news. It's real news from a funny perspective; but "CNN is undeniably hilarious." 03:36 PM

  • Todd Hansen: Not getting news from comedy, they're getting their understanding of that news from comedy. 03:38 PM

  • Allison: "Real" news people are worried about access. We're not. 03:43 PM

  • Borowitz Report headline: "McCain Replaces Palin With Startled Deer." 03:44 PM

  • "McCain Vows To Campaign In All Thirteen Colonies" 03:45 PM

  • Borowitz: Plenty of Obama humor in the stuff around Obama (like super-lib blogs) 03:46 PM

  • "Market Tumbles on News That Bush Is Still President" 03:47 PM

  • Hilarious SamBee clip from the RNC trying to get Repubs to say the word "choice." 03:55 PM



  • SamBee: "It's such a personal decision for me and I feel very strongly about." 03:56 PM

  • "....and other people who feel strongly about other people not having that choice will have a LOT to say about it." 03:58 PM

  • She also said "it was like everybody at the convention got a memo or a text message to eradicate the word "choice" from their vocabulary." 04:00 PM

  • Hanson: It's not our fault that people are stupid. 04:02 PM

  • SamBee on CNN's panel of undecided voters, interviewed by Soledad O'Brien: "It was like she was interviewing 12 halibut." 04:04 PM

  • Morrison: "Why don't we have any of these stupid people in this audience?" Borowitz: "They're at the New York Post festival." 04:09 PM

  • SNL montage of mock presidential debates. Awesome. 04:10 PM

    (if that is online anywhere, people, let me know! In the meantime, here is a video of people like Chris Farley, David Spade and Adam Sandler doing a Bill Clinton:)

  • Hanson talks more than I wish he would. 04:11 PM

  • Downey says Obama is hard to mock; Borowitz disagrees. 04:16 PM

  • (For the record, I've made jokes about Obama. Here's one.) 04:16 PM

  • Silverman: I can't believe how much protection racists get in this country, anchors like Brokaw using code words like "newness." (i.e. Voters may not know how to handle his "newness.") 04:18 PM

  • Downey: There was something about Hillary that the media just didn't like...it was more Bill, but he got a pass. They took it out on Hillary 04:20 PM

  • Downey: Also, the media love for Obama was almost "homoerotic." And there was a glee in savaging Hillary, "not just from the MSNBC guys." 04:22 PM

  • Borowitz: The idea of balance in satire is the opposite of satire. 04:22 PM

  • Borowitz: For example, if one candidate picks a VP who's qualified and the other picks one who's qualified to be behind the reception desk at the Doubletree Inn, it may be balanced - but it's not fair to equate the two. 04:26 PM

  • SamBee: When we mock Obama, a "paralysis" descends on the audience, like 'I don't really know if I can laugh at this.'" Sounds familiar. 04:28 PM

  • Hanson: It's finding the humor in the reality of the situation. 04:30 PM

  • Hanson: "Nothing is off limits. And I thought that New Yorker cover was great." Uncertain, scattered applause. 04:33 PM

  • Downey: "You shouldn't farm out your comedy to the art department." Ouch, but then he says that no, no he liked it. 04:37 PM (Update: My boyfriend, who was there with me, says that he did not get the impression that Downey actually liked it. But either way, the quote is legit.)

  • Question re: the tired old "are women funny?" trope a la Hitchens. Living proof was on that stage, but anyway.

  • Silverman says she rarely gets submissions from women. Morrison says that too. Go get 'em girls! 04:38 PM

  • Hanson on 9/11 issue - it was very hard to do, they were all crying: "Wasn't funny ha-ha, it was funny cry-cry." 04:41 PM

  • Question: There are reports that Daily Show etc. promotes apathy in young people. Borowitz: "I guess I don't really care about that." 04:43 PM

  • Borowitz actually thinks TDS/Colbert makes people more energized - and young people have told him that they now read up to get the jokes. 04:44 PM

  • Silverman: I think taking people to task for what they say is incredibly earnest, not apathetic at all. 04:45 PM

  • Downey: The part of the Palin-Couric interview sketch taken verbatim did NOT write itself, the jokes were built in around it (also was meta) 04:48 PM

  • Downey: When Palin came on scene, I thought of Tina not b/c of the glasses, but b/c of the voice. 04:49 PM