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
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 2322 GMT (0722 HKT)
Is ballet dying? CNN spoke with Isabella Boylston, a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, about the future of the art form.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 2147 GMT (0547 HKT)
Sally Kohn says it's time we take climate change as seriously as we do warfare in the Middle East
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah says an Oklahoma state representative's hateful remarks were rightfully condemned by religious leaders..
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1922 GMT (0322 HKT)
No matter how much planning has gone into U.S. military plans to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Arab public isn't convinced that anything will change, says Geneive Abdo
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1544 GMT (2344 HKT)
President Obama's strategy for destroying ISIS seems to depend on a volley of air strikes. That won't be enough, says Haider Mullick.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Paul Begala says Hillary Clinton has plenty of good reasons not to jump into the 2016 race now
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1501 GMT (2301 HKT)
Scotland decided to trust its 16-year-olds to vote in the biggest question in its history. Americans, in contrast, don't even trust theirs to help pick the county sheriff. Who's right?
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0157 GMT (0957 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says spanking is an acceptable form of disciplining a child, as long as you follow the rules.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1547 GMT (2347 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says the foiled Australian plot shows ISIS is working diligently to taunt the U.S. and its allies.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1958 GMT (0358 HKT)
Young U.S. voters by and large just do not see the midterm elections offering legitimate choices because, in their eyes, Congress has proven to be largely ineffectual, and worse uncaring, argues John Della Volpe
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0158 GMT (0958 HKT)
Steven Holmes says spanking, a practice that is ingrained in our culture, accomplishes nothing positive and causes harm.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1831 GMT (0231 HKT)
Sally Kohn says America tried "Cowboy Adventurism" as a foreign policy strategy; it failed. So why try it again?
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1427 GMT (2227 HKT)
Van Jones says the video of John Crawford III, who was shot by a police officer in Walmart, should be released.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1448 GMT (2248 HKT)
NASA will need to embrace new entrants and promote a lot more competition in future, argues Newt Gingrich.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 2315 GMT (0715 HKT)
If U.S. wants to see real change in Iraq and Syria, it will have to empower moderate forces, says Fouad Siniora.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 0034 GMT (0834 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says there are basic rules to follow when interacting with law enforcement: respect their authority.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1305 GMT (2105 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT)
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
ADVERTISEMENT