In the Age of Irony, there is no such thing as just a pig. It's what kind of joke you make about the pig that gets your point across. Its your meta-pig that counts.
Most of what passes for political discourse in the mainstream news media is either packaged, bought and sold like so many carloads of Smokey Links, or gets neutral-voiced into nothingness. Comedy is often the only honest voice in the crowd, the only thing we can count on for getting at the truth. After all, to make a joke about politics, a comedian (and his or her writers) has to be perceptive enough to see beneath the surfaces, smart enough to see through what is being sold to who's doing the selling.
We get so jaded, so brain-Botoxed by the endless waves of messaging and hype of the campaigns and candidates, that it takes the razor of wit to cut through it all and draw some honest blood. We would not be laughing if it the joke weren't conveying some truth that's generally agreed-to by the audience. Laughter is the litmus test.
It is a well-documented sign of these ironic times that young American audiences get their main news fixes from a couple of TV comedians, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert (and let's not forget their writers, including my buddy, Colbert staff writer Opus Moreschi). Stewart, Colbert, Moreschi and the rest of America's comedic community have been heroically speaking truth-with-humor about this presidential campaign. It cannot be easy for them. A McCain-Palin administration would surely be the best thing to happen to American political comedy since...well, since George W. Bush way back in Year Zero. Yet these selfless souls are putting the interests of their country ahead of their own financial well-being. And isn't that right there a breath of fresh air?
Here's some of what these stand-up citizens have been saying about the presidential campaign. For the ironically challenged, I have contextualized each bit:
I'll go with the guy with one house. The guy with one house is scared about losing his house.". - Chris Rock on Larry King Live.
Context: This is one of the simplest, most honest summations of the entire campaign. What Rock says is funny only because of how undeniably true it is. Our most basic instincts are self-preservation. The candidate preserving a "self" with one home is going to deal with banks and credit a lot differently than a candidate preserving a "self" with 10 homes and 13 cars. Whose interests, Rock is asking the audience, do you think are more aligned with your own?
This isn't a presidential ticket, it's a sitcom, The Maverick and the MILF. - Bill Maher
Context: The Republicans are using "stunt casting" to try to revive a tired program. Electing Palin and McCain would be like electing Joanie and Chachi. Entertaining? For Levi Johnston and Bristol Palin, probably. Good for the rest of us? Not a prayer.
Hey, John, I got a question. You need a ride to the airport? - David Letterman.
Context: This is not honorable behavior. I have lost respect for you. Now I'm pissed off, like any rational businessperson would be when someone backs out of a deal at the last minute, and does it dishonestly. I will destroy you. Jerk.
Every morning, when Alaskans wake up, one of the first things they do, is look outside to see if there are any Russians hanging around. - Tina Fey as Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live.
Context: Sarah Palin's world view is limited to what she can see out her window, and in Alaska, that ain't much. The rest of the world is riding the express and Palin has never been off the local.
Yes, his name is Barack Hussein Obama, it's a scary name, but you'd think that someone named Manischevitz Gooberman might understand that. - Sarah Silverman on www.thegreatschlep.com
Context: The old folks are scared enough when there's a strange car parked on the street, let alone a black man with a Muslim-sounding name parked in the White House. We have an obligation to explain to our grandparents that the car in the street is our car, and that Obama is our candidate. Getting them to lighten up and laugh about their fears is a step toward understanding.
Today, John McCain made a big announcement. He said he wants to postpone Friday's presidential debate, but not because of the economic crisis. It turns out TV Land is airing a Golden Girls marathon. - Conan O'Brien
Context: For anyone who is not a die-hard Bea Arthur fan, having John McCain as president would be a complete drag. It would be like giving your grandpa control of the remote. You would see nothing that you want to see.
Maybe a hundred. Say what? Maybe a hundred. Years?!--"John.He.Is" music video.
Context: It is insane to entrust anyone's future to a U.S. president who paints a scenario of 100 years of war. By electing John McCain, Americans will quite literally be committing an act of war on their own country. Future generations--who knows how many?--will pay a heavy price. A McCain presidency is a bad dream, and we have to wake people up before it comes true.
Thank you, comedians! Keep up the good work. If we can wake up enough people and Obama brings home the meta-bacon, America owes you. Will $700 billion cover it? Because in an Obama administration, Jeffrey Tambor wll be Secretary of the Treasury and (INSERT OWN JOKE HERE)...
Mike Bonifer is the author of GameChangers - Improvisation for Business in the Networked World. His website is www.gamechangers.com.