Faked out

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Change may be good for America, but it doesn't look too hot for Jon Stewart and company.

From the Florida recount fiasco to the '08 campaign, the past eight years have been a golden age for fake news. Now that Barack Obama has been elected president, that era could be in jeopardy.

As The Daily Show host put it after an Obama-William Ayers joke bombed last week: "How we gonna make this s--- funny?"

Campaign season is always prime time for farcical news programs like The Daily Show and Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update." But the comedown could be much harder than usual because Obama, a media-savvy family man who represents a historic civil-rights watershed, is hard to mock.

Obama's not a goofy word-mangler like George W. Bush, nor a chubby ladies' man like Bill Clinton. And, in part thanks to his relatively short resume, he hasn't really screwed up yet.

Comedy writers insist that America's first black president will develop into a fine punching bag once he makes a few crucial errors in office. But Obama is so dignified and idealistic that even his failures will probably just make America frown with empathy, not cackle with sarcastic glee.

It's simply tough to lampoon the guy, as anyone who's seen Fred Armisen's impression of the president-elect on SNL will tell you.

Of course, SNL has a bigger problem than Armisen's lackluster Obama. Erstwhile "Weekend Update" anchor Amy Poehler is on maternity leave, and she'll depart for good next season to headline a new NBC sitcom.

That leaves Seth Meyers alone at the anchor's desk. The man is no Norm Macdonald.

If SNL looks limp, The Daily Show seems outright scared. Stewart has built his legend by pandering to the left. He's excelled as the straight man to the Bush administration's comic relief, but now that his audience has their man in office, Stewart will have to work a lot harder for laughs.

Perhaps the pundit positioned best for four years of Obama is Stephen Colbert, who plays a trumped-up parody of Fox News' Bill O'Reilly on The Colbert Report.

Colbert's first post-election shows were riotous send-ups of conservative dread. And just as traditionally conservative Fox will make a meal of Obama's miscues, Colbert seems primed to feast on every faux pas.

It may be famine for the rest of the landscape, which is why CNN's decision to jump in the game late with D.L. Hughley Breaks the News is so puzzling. That poorly executed program would probably end up on the scrap heap regardless of the political climate.

The tough task of the tried-and-true fake newscasters will be to endure until the next fake-news renaissance.

After all, Sarah Palin could be gearing up for 2012.

"The Colbert Report"

11:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, Comedy Central

Web: colbertnation.com

"The Daily Show with Jon Stewart"

11 p.m. Monday-Thursday, Comedy Central

Web: thedailyshow.com

"D.L. Hughley Breaks the News"

10 p.m. Saturday, CNN

Web: cnn.com

"Saturday Night Live"

11:30 p.m. Saturday, NBC

Web: nbc.com/snl