Obama:Colbert::Clinton:SNL

A campaign blog.
March 12 2008 2:03 PM

Obama:Colbert::Clinton:SNL

In a campaign full of bizarre, vaguely defensible analogies—Obama is a Mac, Clinton is a PC! Obama is Starbucks, Clinton is Dunkin Donuts!—here’s a new one to consider: Obama is The Colbert Report , Hillary is Saturday Night Live .

Facile analogies aren’t particularly productive, but in this case, the two comedy shows’ campaign coverage is starting to reflect it.

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After a skit last Halloween featuring Obama, SNL has seemed to drift Clinton-ward. First their sketch about how the media are "in the tank" for Barack. Then Tina Fey’s joking-but-actually- serious " bitch is the new black " endorsement of Hillary Clinton. Then Clinton herself went on the show . She didn’t get the show’s explicit endorsement, but they resurrected the old media-fawns-over-Obama trope in that episode.

Meantime, the crew over at Comedy Central is looking more and more Obama-friendly. Take the latest argument over whether "big states" matter. The Clinton campaign has claimed that Hillary’s strength in California, New York, and Ohio will matter in the general election. The Obama campaign is trying to flip Clinton’s argument around, pointing out in a recent memo that "more than 55% of her popular vote total and nearly half of her pledged delegates have come in just five states."

But they might as well have just linked to Stephen Colbert’s withering takedown . "It’s not how many votes you get," he snarked on Monday’s show. "It’s the geographic boundaries that contain those votes. Getting 10 million votes in one state is way better than getting 12 million votes split between two states." As Jonathan Chait put it when Sinbad challenged Clinton’s account of her Bosnia tour , " When your main campaign theme is foreign policy experience, and that experience is persuasively refuted by a comedian, it's time to find a new theme."

Also, look at the demographics. Obama is most popular among college-age kids with too much time on their hands, same as Colbert. Clinton, meanwhile, relies on older voters, just as SNL is also a boomer phenomenon that, compared with Colbert’s energy and pace, just feels tired. No doubt both shows strive for equal-opportunity mockery, but their roots show. You can’t help but think that Obama’s rise and Colbert’s supplanting SNL atop the political satire pile is no coincidence.

Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.

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