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Better Obama Sketches, Please

Gaius Publius hones in on a very interesting aspect of Matt Stoller’s piece about Neil Barofsky’s TARP tell-all:

You can see [the strength of Obama’s narrative] in the utter lack of an effective comedic impersonator of Barack Obama.

When Tina Fey first gave her impression of Sarah Palin, the political world exploded in chatter about how perfectly Fey had captured Palin’s character. Will Ferrell nailed something about Bush … a kind of juvenile cunning frat-boy type spirit.

No one has captured in comedy Obama’s flawed self, whatever you think those flaws are.


The closest I found to an actually adversarial “impersonation” of Obama (and it’s really just a characterization, but with comic potential) is this, from Karl Rove of all people:

“…even if you never met him, you know this guy. He’s the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by.”


Using this core as a base — the self-absorbed, poised Mr. Smarter-than-you — the self-confident opportunist who wants your help but won’t give his (why won’t he go to Wisconsin for the Walker Recall?) — could have real comic potential.

I agree that we need more pointed impersonations of Obama, but the Karl Rove version just rehashes the right’s standard narrative of elitist limousine liberals looking down their nose at hardworking decent Americans.  Obama’s core flaw isn’t smarter-than-you elitism, it’s sneakiness.  For me, the definitive Obama characterization would be that of an insincere phony who talks a good game but always finds a way to fail that just happens to enrich the wealthy and screw over progressives.  Here are a couple of sketch ideas that might get that across:

Sketch #1:  Obama is presented with a progressive policy concept and says, “Yes, this is exactly the kind of bold reform I want to be my legacy!  I will turn it over to a bipartisan congressional committee right away!”  Cut to multiple short scenes of an aide rushing into the Oval Office with breathless updates every time the bill gets watered down, while Obama alternates between moaning about how he can’t influence Congress, and looking completely uninterested: texting, playing videogames, throwing pencils at the ceiling, etc.

Finally, when the original idea has been “compromised” so much that it’s a right-wing parody of itself, Obama springs into action and starts physically intimidating Democrats into voting for the conservative monstrosity, then proudly declares victory when it passes.  If he has some kind of “Oh Barack, you’ve done it again” catchphrase to smugly congratulate himself with, that would be even better.

Sketch #2: Obama appears to be having a war of words with some crooked corporate CEO, but the camera periodically zooms in on their hands to reveal that while they’re publicly calling each other “vulture capitalist” and “socialist,” they’re secretly signaling each other in sign language or Morse Code.  Subtitles would reveal the real conversation to be something along the lines of “Don’t worry, I’ve got your back.  How’s the wife and kids?” “They’re good, thanks.  Are we still on for golf next Tuesday?” “You bet.  Tee time’s at 3, prepare to be schooled.”

Feel free to contribute your own sketch and character ideas in the comments.

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