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The joke's on McCain: Late-night comedians lay off Obama

A hilarious new study of late-night political jokes, due to be released later today, finds the network comedians clearly avoiding humor about Democratic candidate Barack Obama, while piling the jokes on President Bush and Sens. John McCain and Hillary Clinton.

The study by the Center for Media and Public Affairs finds that only cable's Comedy Central -- whose primary comedians, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, more closely follow the day's headlines, which have been dominated by Obama -- has slightly more jokes about the freshman Illinois senator.

Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert who's 44 years old and looks it

The study covered all jokes between Jan. 1 and July 31 in late-night monologues by Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien, David Letterman, Stewart and Colbert.

Apparently, Jimmy Kimmel was not deemed funny enough to be included, which should give his writers some ammo for tonight's show.

The center found that the network shows broadcast only 169 jokes about Obama, compared with 428 about Bush. McCain drew 328 jokes. Hillary Clinton, who dropped out of the presidential race and much political news in early June, still drew more than twice as many attempted yuk lines (382) as Obama.

On Comedy Central, Obama and McCain were close, with 207 and 201, respectively, while Clinton and Bush nearly tied at 179 and 177, respectively.

Combining the laugh lines from all five shows, Bush was the ...

... most mocked, with 605; Clinton had 562; McCain got 549; and Obama trailed, with 382.

Letterman had the most fun at Clinton's expense, with 146 jokes about her and only 46 about Obama. Leno had the most Bush jokes (208), with Clinton right behind at 204.

Colbert worked McCain over the most, with 129 jokes, compared with 91 for Obama and 79 on Clinton. An example: "It's time the media started trumpeting McCain's exciting story. He's old, and no one likes him."

It'll come as a huge surprise to everyone that the main focus of jokes about Vietnam veteran McCain was his age, which is 71. "McCain was asked how he's going to conserve energy," said Leno, who is 58 and being forced to retire from NBC next year. "He said by taking three naps a day."

Obama's recent Mideast and European tour "may strike some as presumptuous," said Stewart, who's 45. "In fact, I joked that Obama would be stopping in Bethlehem to visit the manger where he was born."

Leno on 60-year-old Clinton: "Only in America could a woman who's married to a man from Hope go to a town called Unity and fake something called Sincerity."

The study did not explore why Obama got off so lightly on the network shows from New York and Burbank. So we'll all just have to guess: probably out of simple respect for Obama's long public service.

-- Andrew Malcolm

Photo: Stephen Colbert. Credit: Comedy Central

Comments () | Archives (63)

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maybe you will also present your audience with the polls or scientific data that show or suggest whether being the object of comedy actually more helps or harms a candidate's campaign? or whether, and if so how, comedy can be, or is being used, as a propaganda tool.
without further information, your material seems rather pointless.

Well if it will make you feel better, over 70% of the media coverage about Barack Obama is negative, and 90% of the coverage of Black men in general is negative. Think about it when is the last time read a positive article about a Black man in the Los Angeles Times or any other publication.

The reason for this is obvious. They have more respect for him. He is more presidential than all of them.

thats bull, the reason is because he is black, liberal television, race fear again, double standard..its disqusting

is that self censor? or we will be label many kind of word form racis* , gender bia*....? oh thats not good for media freedom.

This study reveals the bias of the entertainment industry as a whole, not just the TV "comics".

Let's face it, we moderates and conservatives are just not PC!

What a joke that is.

"Probably out of simple respect for Obama's long public service" - good one.

Obama is comedy gold, but Hollywood types won't gore their own ox.

Mocking him pisses him off more than anything it will be fun to watch.

How about this story? Game changer and you don't even see it. Imagine the ads targeted at rural dems in key states. While millions of Americans lose the only home they have ever owned, John McCain tells them, Gee, I have to get back to you on how many homes I own! Wow! And who is that elitist?!
Couple this unreal moment with his claim that peopel who make over 5 mil are rich, his making millions off of his mob-tied father-in-law, and his travels to The Bahamas with Keating...and this election is done for him.

McCain unsure how many houses he owns Jonathan Martin, Mike Allen
1 hour, 12 minutes ago

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in an interview Wednesday that he was uncertain how many houses he and his wife, Cindy, own.

"I think — I'll have my staff get to you," McCain told Politico in Las Cruces, N.M. "It's condominiums where — I'll have them get to you."

The correct answer is at least four, located in Arizona, California and Virginia, according to his staff. Newsweek estimated this summer that the couple owns at least seven properties.

In recent weeks, Democrats have stepped up their effort to caricature McCain as living an outlandishly rich lifestyle — a bit of payback to the GOP for portraying Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) as an elitist, and for turning the spotlight in 2004 on the five homes owned by Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry.

Pro-Obama labor groups have sent out mailers highlighting McCain’s wealth, and prominent Democrats have included references to it in comments to reporters.

Twice in the past two weeks, those Democrats have focused on McCain’s houses.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told Politico’s Ben Smith that it was McCain “who wears $500 shoes, has six houses and comes from one of the richest families in his state."

And David Axelrod, Obama’s chief strategist, referred in an interview with Adam Nagourney of The New York Times to an imagined meeting of McCain strategists “on the portico of the McCain estate in Sedona — or maybe in one of his six other houses.”

McCain’s comments came four days after he initially told Pastor Rick Warren during a faith forum on Sunday his threshold for considering someone rich is $5 million — a careless comment he quickly corrected.

In the interview, McCain did not offer an alternate number, but had a new answer ready.

“I define rich in other ways besides income,” he said. “Some people are wealthy and rich in their lives and their children and their ability to educate them. Others are poor if they’re billionaires.”

McCain, by anyone's measure, is well-off, if you account for his wife's fortune. Cindy McCain inherited control of her father’s beer distributorship, the largest in Arizona, and has an estimated worth of more than $100 million.

Does the fact that Obama is not the subject of jokes work against him? O's problem is that he comes across as distant and too cerebral suggesting a lack of decisiveness when he answers questions (as happened at the Saddleback "debate"). Our humanity comes as much from our foibles as our strengths. Foibles are the prime source of humor and a visceral way we connect with our leaders and they with us (which is why laughing at one's self is so endearing).

Its easier to make fun of someone with more imperfections. Its no joke, that's just the way it is.

2 words: White Guilt

What about Craig Ferguson?

We have the media, including late night talk show hosts, to thank for foisting this charlantan on the American public. Of course the DNC contributed heavily. Their actions, combined with the gullibility of many Americans, has resulted in the most unqualified candidate ever to run for the office being a hair's breath away from the presidency. Nice work!

I took Leno & Letterman out od my TIVO. They are not funny anymore. I think they are getting too old.

this is meaningless because comedy central destroys the argument

They're afraid to poke fun of Obama because they're scared of being labeled "racists." He's too "holy" for jokes.

Obamamania in the media started almoust immediately. One of the best example of the Obamamaniacs, i think, is Keith Olbermann. Nobody investigates who is behind all of that nonsence.

The Center for Media and Public Affairs that released this "study" is a conservative think tank. The president of the the CMPA is a Fox News consultant and used to be head of the American Enterprise Institute. CMPA is funded by the Olins, the Scaifes, and the same millionaire heirs that fund so many of these conservative groups. Of course, this "news" is not provided by the reporter Andrew Malcolm. Thankfully, the LA Times makes him list on this page he used to work for the Bushes (yet another bunch of millionaire heirs who never worked a day in their lives), so at least we know what angle he is trying to push.

I'm told by the software that these items are moderated and thus there is a good chance this will never show up. Of course, LA Times Tribune company's readership has been plummeting since the web breaks up their little corporate propaganda campaign, as did their stock price which went from 60 in 1999 to below 30 last year before it was finally privatized. The Times can spit out corporate PR and hide this comment, but they can't stop their plummeting readership and disappearing advertising. where is Craig Ferguson in this study? He's much funnier than these guys. He tells several jokes on McCain nightly. Have never heard him say a joke about Obama.

Remember, the new definition of a racist is someone who uses facts and logic to win a debate with a "liberal."

Americans don't want a President that comedians can't make fun of out of racial hesitations. That is for sure.

they don't joke about B.O. because he's divebombing in the polls. it's bad sportsmanship to mock losers.

"Well if it will make you feel better, over 70% of the media coverage about Barack Obama is negative..."

I'd like to visit your planet some day. How many Suns do you have and what color is the sky there?

This is news to anyone? That a black liberal who can't speak off teleprompter, is a two-legged gaffe machine, has zero grasp of history, but has a history of drug use, is totally whipped by his domineering wife, and is currently divebombing in the polls offers nothing to make fun of?

Yup, makes sense to me...

"How about this story? Game changer and you don't even see it. Imagine the ads targeted at rural dems in key states. While millions of Americans lose the only home they have ever owned, John McCain tells them, Gee, I have to get back to you on how many homes I own! Wow! And who is that elitist?!"

When will the moonbats learn that this sort of class warfare just doesn't work? Most Americans simply don't share your resentment of success.

They don't make jokes about Putin in Russia either.
An investment in the future. I guess...

why dont they make jokes about barack hussein obimbo
it is obvious, he is black and tthat would be wrong and they would be called racist even thoug the obamanation is a black racist
white guilt it may be however it may also be self loathing that whites are taught by the media.
i wonder where obimbo and his kind would be without whitey, getting eaten by lions and alligators and living in cesspools like somalia, kenya, the congo or the future hell hole that was a great country called south africa

tis a pity

Man, this article likes to start a flame war. Look at these comments, all politics and racism talk. I don't think anyone is even talking about what the article is actually about; how Jay Leno sucks and Conan rules.

And 'squinty-eyes' Kimmel is not funny

They don't make fun of Obama because it would piss off the Hollywood Elite, and they might even boycott their shows, Or be accused of making jokes at Obama because he's black. So sad.

And how many homes does Ted Kennedy own,? Give me a break. You liberals live in a world of your own!

They're scared. Look what happened to Imus.

For all the people who have commented to the effect of "no one makes fun of Obama because they fear being branded racist/he's too out of touch" - this argument would only hold up if people weren't telling jokes about him. They are. Just less than they are telling jokes about McCain.

The likely reason: they're terrified.

To make any jokes about Obama is to invite immediate condemnation for racism from the campaign and the entertainment industry, with calls to pull them off the air.

Gives a whole new meaning to the term "Hollywood blacklist."

As a senator in the Illinois legislature, Obama voted against a measure that would have protected BABIES who were already born. Obama's action would have the effect to allow doctors to withhold medical attention from BABIES and allow them to DIE!
Gives new meaning to the song "Killing Me Softly" doesn't it?
The records from the Illinois Legislature fully support the story and the facts. When confronted with the facts and copies of official documents, Obama accused people of lying about his record. It turns out that Obama was the one who was not telling the truth. And he tried to force his deception upon The American People by calling his accusers liars. A few days later, his campaign very quietly admitted that Obama was "Mistaken" in his assertions. MISTAKEN? I think there are more appropriate words which more accurately describe Obama's assertions rather than "MISTAKEN".
These facts would lead a reasonable person to conclude that Obama supported infant killing in Illinois and then when faced with the truth tried to cover his tracks. What do you think?

These people NEVER get the studies right.

The problem with evaluating these comedians according to the sum-total of their jokes about candidate X or candidate Y is that some comedians have larger audiences than others.

The audience-size thing is critical. To plausibly measure influence, one should multiply each comedian's joke-total (for each candidate) by the number of persons who're likely to have heard the joke. Dennis Miller could crack on Obama all night and it wouldn't have a tenth the impact of Leno cracking on McCain, 'cause the former has no audience and the latter does.

The same thing is the problem when people argue that, "The Mainstream Media aren't really that left-biased; after all, most editorials in small-town newspapers are written by fairly conservative people." Yes: And the small-town newspapers have a circulation of 150; the New York and L.A. Times and Washington Post circulate 15 million. This is, uh, a difference worth considering.

Once the findings of these "bias" studies are audience-weighted, they'll be meaningful.

But not until then.

(Another problem is that some jokes evoke sympathy for a person or don't bear on aspects of that person's qualifications for being president, whereas others evoke contempt and/or do reflect negatively on that person's presidential qualifications. But we'll leave that aside for a moment.)

Lets stop beating around the Bush--of course it's a "white Guilt" deal, plus the Imus fear factor, fear of being labeled racist--all of it. And the fact that the majority of the entertainment industry itself is so undeniably liberal and leftist. To contend otherwise would take a Lake-Superior-sized vessel full of unmitigated gall. Let's not kid ourselves, sports-fans, the only politically acceptable category left ok to ridicule is straight white conservative Christian males. Everything else is PC-like beyond the pale--UNLESS your a member of the minority group that you're making fun of. DL Hugley, on the Lenno show only a week after Imus was fired said:"Imus was right, those WERE some ugly nappy-heads out there--although they weren't Ho's." Not a PEEP of criticism.

I have a great respect for America. But all these years politicians have been folling around and especially repub..

Look at unemployment,health all these have killed americans real guts but still you are talkng about security millions billions to FBI,CIA,NSG for what ..what are they doing if you are asking to be pres ..ask for health reforms jobs .....

Mccain talk about fuel and stuff like that what was he doing ...why did Sr Bush killed the electric car...

Is Obama American? Otherwise, he can not take a joke.

Walter Winchell, the famous gossip columnist said, "I don't give a damn what they say about long as they spell my name right". McCain is easier to ridicule so I guess he wins the exposure round in this matchup.


That's kinda ironic because all the civil rights legislation that the democrats started and continue to push for have been around since the 1960's and what have they done for the country? It seems like if these policies worked so well, we wouldn't still be talking about them, now would we?

It's very simple: McCain is just a funny ol' dude trying to act presidential and failing.

"Apparently, Jimmy Kimmel was not deemed funny enough to be included ... "

Hahaha, I rofl'd.

The study is meaningless for a variety of reasons:

1. Selection Criteria is what? Conan is in, but Fergeson is out? On what basis?

2. Colbert's show is stylistic in premise and that premise inherently pokes more fun at certain targets.

3. Letterman is in NEW YORK where one of the candidates is a sitting Senator, skewing his joke selection.

4. We made more fun of Quayle than Bush I as a VP. Media bias, or are some people just better fodder? Both can be critiqued on policy, negativity, flip-flops, and the usual stuff -- but the values of their real defining characteristics for simple, base comedy (Mccain - Age, Obama - fanatic pop culture vs substance) are different, and frankly McCain's vice is easier to exploit for a quick punchline.

5. Who the heck cares?

Simple. McCain gets the brunt of the jokes because he is the Bigger Clown. By far. The man is a buffoon who doesn't know that Pakistan and Iraq aren't contiguous, who admits to know nothing about the economy, who married a woman young enough to be his daughter shortly after dumping the wife who had stuck with him through thick and thin, who doesn't know how many houses he has, who claims to be a straight talker but who can't go a press conference without lying (the latest: his wife met Mother Teresa... bwaaah!)

Mecane steels people heart by telling his captivitu in vetnam and when he talks about it he thinks makes his listeners to belive he is the only vetran from that wrongly started war and finished shmefully.
He uses it like a currency to buy peoples heart, ear and now their vote AMERICA WAKE UP BEFORE CRYING FOR THE NEXT FOUR YEARS.


It's all for ratings people! They joke about what's funny. Those crying that the TV stations are too easy on Obama need to listen to the "Eagles" single named "Get Over It".

It doesn´t really matter which party wins its all a show, all controlled by the CFR and Bilderberg until everyone realizes that these elections are all a show then we´re in the same position that we are with Bush. Learn more people open your eyes.

Obama is going to get hammered now about HIS house courtesy of convicted felon Tony Rezko...and someone should ask him if he objected when John Kerry with his many mansions and his billionaire wife Teresa Heinz ran for President.

Simply put, Bush, McCain and Clinton are more buffoonish than Obama. He doesn't really have that many qualities that lend themselves to comedic skewering. He's intelligent, speaks eloquently, always appears calm and confident, is neither strident or befuddled.

Nicely put Midgie.

To exapnd a little McCain seems more like Bush a figure of fun for the late night shows and a nightmare for the rest of us.

McCain offers up an easy comedy target.
Compare: Obama goes to Germany a makes a very presidential speech. McCain goes to a supermarket and talks while cans are dropped behind him by an uninterested shopper. Come on, comedians can't pass up that kind of opportunity.

How about the bikers rally he attended were he offered up his wife for a strip dancing beauty contest!! and doing that vroom vroom thing just to get them to rev their engines - So sad.

Add the fact that he is old which means he forgets how many houses he has and mixes up Shite and Sunni gives them another easy target.

Obama talks sensibly and intelligently about subjects, even if you don't agree with him and doesn't come across as senile.

Should comedians base their jokes on the lies about Obama, muslim etc or the reality that is John McCain.

Maross - I presume you are talking about John McCain or are you referring to President Bush?

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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