Why Comedy Failed Us for Eight Years

During the Obama presidency, blunt and biting honesty was nowhere to be found in this venue

Comedy is a powerful tool. In many ways, the ability to tell a joke is one of the best examples of free speech. In its purest form, it doesn’t matter if comedy is politically incorrect, if it offends the powers that be, or if it pushes cultural boundaries. All that is supposed to matter is that it is funny and honest.

That biting honesty has been lacking in mainstream comedy for eight years. Power was not kept in check by satirists, and a fumbling administration was not just given a free pass by most comedians, but many downright used their comedic tools to celebrate the outgoing president. The powerful tool of comedy was used to celebrate power instead of humbling it.

“Didn’t love that part so much.”

There were perhaps no better examples of this than the Luther/Obama skits from Comedy Central’s “Key and Peele.” Comic actors Jordan Peele and Keegan Michael-Key have performed in skits throughout Obama’s presidency, with Peele taking on the role of an always calm and collected Obama, while Key takes on the role of Luther — Obama’s “anger translator.”

While Peele and Key have created numerous viral comedy bits, the Luther sketches have been embarrassing for the comedians. You get to watch as two talented artists use their tools to service the government and play partisan politics.

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The two brought the characters back for a segment on “The Daily Show” where they talked in character about leaving the Oval Office and President-Elect Donald Trump.

“I have greatly enjoyed my time as president,” Peele’s Obama says. Key’s Luther then “translates” saying, “Except when, let me think, when Republicans wouldn’t let me do sh**, and then that one dude said I wasn’t born here, and then y’all elected him, so you know what? Didn’t love that part so much. So pretty much the beginning, middle, and the end sucked.”

Peele’s Obama continues, “I have met with President-Elect Trump and pledged my support in his transition.” Luther then “translates,” “He doesn’t even want the job, y’all! I saw it in his eyes.”

“I assure you that if [Trump] succeeds, we all succeed,” Peele’s Obama continues, with Luther “translating, “Until he succeeds at all the sh** he promised to succeed with, in that case, we’re f***ed.”

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Luther finishes the segment by saying, “Apparently, orange is the new black. Good luck with your health care, a**holes. I’m out.”

With an impending President Trump, comedians and satirists everywhere obviously feel safe allowing their comedy to have bite once again. They feel comfortable once more in doing their best to disparage and laugh at power. Yet, during the Obama years, we got partisan comedy like the Luther/Obama skits. They did the exact opposite of what comedy has the amazing power to do.

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“Saturday Night Live,” “Key and Peele” — the list of shows that sometimes aggressively worked to use comedy to smooth over Obama’s cultural standing goes on and on. It’s sad to see. Where was the satire going after a president who fulfilled almost no campaign promises, who kept wars going he was so adamantly against, who drove through a health care law that helped to destroy the middle class, who parties with celebs and is pictured golfing more than he was ever in the Oval Office?

The final Luther/Obama skit was the last gasp of eight years where comedy failed us, where comedians worked overtime to use their gifts to celebrate a failing president when they should have been giving him the same treatment they give others.

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