Speculative History of a Joke
So, Fox has just started airing The 1/2-Hour News Hour, a hi-larious new conservative version of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report conceived by 24 producer Joel Surnow.
This makes sense, given that Fox News supplies so much of the footage those shows use anyway.
As far as I can tell from my sample of online viewing, Surnow's show isn't very funny. (Click below to see what I mean.) Surnow should probably stick to terrorists and torture. But watching it did provide me with an incredibly vivid fantasy so crisp in its detail that I'm tempted to take it for a vision. To wit:
In the show, the unfunny male anchor (Kurt McNally) says:
[picture of Obama in background]
Illinois Senator Barack Obama admits that as a teenager he sometimes used cocaine.
This news sent Obama's approval rating among Democrats plummeting to an all-time low of 99.9%
But in a related story, Senator Obama has just been endorsed for President
[picture of Barry in background]
by former Washington, DC Mayor Marion Barry.
Here's my vision. In the pitch meeting a writers says, "We're doing a conservative Daily Show, right? So we should make fun of Obama, right? But the Daily Show does a pretty good job making fun of Democrats, right? So we should do joke that shows we're out to bring the funny first and foremost, not caring whose ox gets gored. So use Obama's coke use as a set-up to a punchline about how Democrats seem to love him without thinking about anything he does. And then we turn it around with, 'But in a related story, Senator Obama has just been endorsed for President by current President George W. Bush.' Cuz, we all know that W. used to party like crazy, right? Never even bothered to deny it, right?"
And then, three minutes before the show goes on the air, Rupert Murdoch pressures Surnow to pressure the writers to cut the Bush reference. Since writes and producers can't find a single archive photo of someone arrested for drug use in the past decade, like, say, the Rev. Ted Haggard or Kate Moss or Tara Conner, they reluctantly go with the Marion Barry joke.
And I believe my vision. After all, Barry's drug use has been out of the news way too long (13 years) to have been the real punchline in the story. And no way the fine folks at Fox News thought, "Hey, you know what's funnier than black man on coke? Two black men on coke! " (No way.) So the Barry punchline must have been a late, involuntary substitution, right?
The poor bastards over at the 1/2-Hour News Hour. Comedy's rough when you don't get to play at the top of your intelligence.