"That's pretty amazing, winning the Nobel Peace Prize," Jay Leno said Friday night of President Barack Obama's latest accolade. "Ironically, his biggest accomplishment as president so far ... winning the Nobel Peace Prize."
That joke may be indicative of the TV comedy world sharpening its arrows a bit more when the current occupant of the White House is the target, The New York Times reports.
The Times quotes Bob Lichter, who has tracked themes in late-night humor for 21 years, as saying "it will be telling to see how the comedians treat" the president's winning the peace prize: Is there now a caricature taking hold of a man more celebrated than accomplished?
Lichter, of George Mason University's Center for Media and Public Affairs, said it was too soon to tell whether the Oct. 3 Saturday Night Live skit suggesting that Obama has accomplished nothing is a "harbinger" or not. "The danger is that Mr. Obama is going to be defined by inaction and not living up to expectations," he said.
SNL this weekend joined in the jokes about Obama not deserving the prize just yet, suggesting that honors like People's Sexiest Man designation may soon go to children.
Last week Jon Stewart continued with the "done nothing" theme on The Daily Show, chiding Obama for not yet getting around to reversing the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy about gays. He cited Obama's "full plate" of business.
Stewart then acted apoplectic, displaying his exasperation. "All that stuff you've been putting on your plate?" he said. "It's [expletive] chow time, brother. That's how you get things off your plate."
Ric Keller, a former Republican congressman from Florida who once wrote jokes for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, told the Times: "There have been some clear shots coming across the bow from the comic left."
But Jeff Nussbaum, a Democratic speech and joke writer, disagreed that late-night comedy is a leading indicator of the zeitgeist. "To use an economic term, it is more of a lagging indicator," he said.
Those old enough to remember Watergate might recall that it took Johnny Carson awhile to start making jokes about President Richard Nixon and his connection to the break-in. But once the Tonight show host did, it felt like the beginning of the end for the U.S. leader who eventually resigned.