Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Paul Ryan: Good for GOP, bad for comedy

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
August 19, 2012 -- Updated 1810 GMT (0210 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dean Obeidallah: There's a severe downturn in the world of political comedy
  • Obeidallah: Paul Ryan, a middle-aged white guy from the Midwest, is "boring"
  • He says the golden years of political comedy were during the Clinton and Bush eras
  • Obeidallah: Comedians can only dream about a ticket like: Sarah Palin and Anthony Weiner

Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the editor of the politics blog "The Dean's Report" and co-director of the upcoming documentary, "The Muslims Are Coming!" Follow him on Twitter: @deanofcomedy

(CNN) -- When will this recession end? I'm not talking about the economic challenges facing our nation. I'm talking about the severe downturn in the world of political comedy.

By picking Paul Ryan as his running mate, Mitt Romney may have energized the Republican Party. But is Ryan all that exciting? He's a middle-aged, conservative white guy from the Midwest. As NBC's Jimmy Fallon aptly joked earlier this week on his late night show: "Mitt Romney is hoping to energize conservatives with his choice of Paul Ryan as running mate. That's like trying to spice up a bowl of oatmeal with more oatmeal."

Don't get me wrong -- compared with Romney, Paul Ryan is Ashton Kutcher on crack. But even Rush Limbaugh labeled Ryan as "the last Boy Scout." Translation: Reliable but boring.

The guy who makes politicians funny

Let me give you a little background about the plight of political comedy. When the nation found itself in an economic recession as President Barack Obama was taking office, comedians headed into a comedic depression. George W. Bush was comedy gold for eight years. If we knew how little material Obama would be providing us, comedians would have joined forces to repeal the 22nd Amendment to enable Bush to be president for a third term. (I know that would've been bad for the country, but we, comedians, are a particularly selfish breed -- after all, we won't even share the stage with other performers.)

Dean Obeidallah
Dean Obeidallah

Sure, there have been glimmers of a comedic recovery over the last few years. We perked up when Sarah Palin explored the possibility of running for president. Her candidacy would have been the equivalent of a comedic stimulus package.

Who can forget Rep. Anthony Weiner, who famously posted photos of himself in his underwear on Twitter? This controversy harkened back to the comedy boom bestowed upon us by Bill Clinton's sex scandal.

And recently, the Republican presidential debates offered some good stuff. Most notably, Rick Perry forgetting the name of the third government agency that he wanted to eliminate.

To his credit, Obama has supplied some material, like when he said, "The Middle East is obviously an issue that has plagued the region for centuries." Or when Obama claimed he had traveled across the nation visiting our "57 States."

I know many on the right see Obama as providing much more comedic material than comedians do. They often send me "jokes" about Obama on issues like Obamacare or the "Fast and Furious" program.

While I appreciate the sentiment, here's the cold, hard truth: Conservatives are not funny. I'm being brutally objective here. There are some funny conservative comedians and pundits, but how many can you name? I have my theories why conservatives struggle so horribly when trying to be funny, but I'll keep them to myself because I'm not a mental health professional.

In the midst of this comedy recession where we have witnessed a severe contraction in our GDL -- gross domestic laughter -- there is one potential goldmine that could use a bit more exploration. I'm speaking of vice president Joe Biden.

Just search on Google the words "Biden" and "gaffes" and watch your computer's screen fill up with page after page of "Bidenisms." A few months ago, while referring to Teddy Roosevelt's famous comment to walk softly and a carry a big stick, Biden said: "I promise you, the president has a big stick. I promise you." And now, we have another "Biden moment" when he proclaimed that Romney's policies on regulating Wall Street would put, "y' all back in chains."

Oddly enough, Biden's blunders have not defined him as a comedic figure. At least when compared to say, former Vice President Dan Quayle, who entertained us with gaffe after gaffe, from famously misspelling the word "potato" in front of a class of young students (he added an "e" at the end) to saying things like, "It's wonderful to be here in the great state of Chicago."

There are upcoming events that offer some hope that we will emerge from the comedy doldrums. Donald Trump will be attending the Republican National Convention scheduled later this month and has promised a "big surprise." Perhaps he will pay homage to Romney at the convention by tipping his hair to him.

From Adams to Obama: 10 funny political lines

And we comedians can all dream that at the upcoming Democratic National Convention, Joe Biden will throw away his script and just ad lib his speech. (I would predict that the Secret Service has standing orders to tackle Biden if he tries that.)

Even if these events could provide temporary relief, it's unlikely that we will ever return to the political comedy golden years of Clinton and W. Bush. Like many Americans, we'll simply have to learn to make do with less.

However, I have an idea that is motivated solely in helping the country and not my career. It may end the toxic political climate that is plaguing us. What about a bipartisan presidential ticket in 2016: "Sarah Palin and Anthony Weiner"? Think of the possibilities!

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 2203 GMT (0603 HKT)
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1727 GMT (0127 HKT)
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 2152 GMT (0552 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette notes that this fall, minority students will outnumber white students at America's public schools.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 2121 GMT (0521 HKT)
Humans have driven to extinction four marine mammal species in modern times. As you read this, we are on the brink of losing the fifth, write three experts.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 1158 GMT (1958 HKT)
It's been ten days since Michael Brown was killed, and his family is still waiting for information from investigators about what happened to their young man, writes Mel Robbins
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT)
Sally Kohn says the Ferguson protests reflect broader patterns of racial injustice across the country, from chronic police violence and abuse against black men to the persistent economic and social exclusion of communities of color.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1242 GMT (2042 HKT)
The former U.K. prime minister and current U.N. envoy says there are 500 days left to fulfill the Millennium Goals' promise to children.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1310 GMT (2110 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says the left mistrusts Clinton but there are ways she can win support from liberals in 2016
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
Peter Bergen says the terror group is a huge threat in Iraq but only a potential one in the U.S.
August 16, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the way cops, media, politicians and protesters have behaved since Michael Brown's shooting shows not all the right people have learned the right lessons
August 17, 2014 -- Updated 1523 GMT (2323 HKT)
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says the American military advisers in Iraq are sizing up what needs to be done and recommending accordingly
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1941 GMT (0341 HKT)
Marc Lamont Hill says the President's comments on the Michael Brown shooting ignored its racial implications
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 2146 GMT (0546 HKT)
Joe Stork says the catastrophe in northern Iraq continues, even though many religious minorities have fled to safety: ISIS forces -- intent on purging them -- still control the area where they lived
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 2226 GMT (0626 HKT)
Tim Lynch says Pentagon's policy of doling out military weapons to police forces is misguided and dangerous.
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)
S.E. Cupp says millennials want big ideas and rapid change; she talks to one of their number who serves in Congress
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 2357 GMT (0757 HKT)
Dorothy Brown says the power structure is dominated by whites in a town that is 68% black. Elected officials who sat by silently as chaos erupted after Michael Brown shooting should be voted out of office
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Bill Schmitz says the media and other adults should never explain suicide as a means of escaping pain. Robin Williams' tragic death offers a chance to educate about prevention
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Nafees Syed says President Obama should renew the quest to eliminate bias in the criminal justice system
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 2024 GMT (0424 HKT)
Eric Liu says what's unfolded in the Missouri town is a shocking violation of American constitutional rights and should be a wake-up call to all
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 1922 GMT (0322 HKT)
Neal Gabler says Lauren Bacall, a talent in her own right, will be defined by her marriage with the great actor Humphrey Bogart
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1056 GMT (1856 HKT)
Bob Butler says the arrest of two journalists covering the Ferguson story is alarming
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 2035 GMT (0435 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says we all need to work together to make sure the tension between police and African-Americans doesn't result in more tragedies
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Pepper Schwartz asks why young women are so entranced with Kardashian, who's putting together a 352-page book of selfies
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 2308 GMT (0708 HKT)
Michael Friedman says depression does not discriminate, cannot be bargained with and shows no mercy.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 1525 GMT (2325 HKT)
LZ Granderson says we must not surrender to apathy about the injustice faced by African Americans
ADVERTISEMENT