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When It Hurts to Laugh

Image has not been found. URL: /wp-content/uploads/2008/09/laughter.jpgSen. Hillary Rodhan Clinton (D-NY) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) (WDCpix and Joe Crimmings)

Claiming that the 2008 Presidential primary candidates’ cavalcade of pratfalls, tantrums, distortions, stumbles, gaffes, nonsense, screw-ups and bald-faced lies is spiraling out of control and leaving the working funnyman ever further behind in manufacturing up-to-the-minute mockery, American political humorists are quitting their keyboards and refusing to satirize again unless the heedless overflow of absurdity is dialed way back.

The crisis seems all too real. In Baltimore, forensic jokesters reported that the late god of political ridicule H.L. Mencken was rotating in his grave for the first time since former Vice President Dan Quayle last spoke.

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Jaundiced_i_large.jpg

Rumors are rife in New York broadcasting circles that Comedy Central’s popular “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” will switch to a poker-game format now that its writing staff has fallen victim, en masse, to severe depression from sustained overwork.

“Back in ’04,” grumped one exhausted political rib-tickler, “we had decent breaks between knuckle-headed faux-paux. You could spend days on Kerry’s wife’s ketchup fortune or W.’s fractured syntax. Today it’s non-stop: no sooner has Clinton told a whopper than Obama puts his foot in it and then McCain mumbles something colossally stupid. And that’s just Monday morning!”

Observers point to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s recent record-setting spate. Over one dizzying weekend she generated so much chuckle-fare about guzzling beer, shooting off guns, pining away for her cabin in rural western Pennsylvania and loving hubby Bill to death that one humor maven went back to writing Dennis Kucinich jokes rather than even try catching up with this mother lode of political mirth. Another begged for reassignment to the Vice President Dick Cheney beat — where nothing funny has ever been known to happen.

Meanwhile, presumptive Republican candidate Sen, John McCain (R-Ariz.) must be shadowed virtually minute by minute so that jokesmiths can stay abreast of every freshly minted howler. In Florida last week one frazzled humor pro took a swan-dive off a 42rd-floor balcony after failing to keep up with the hail of hilarious McCain misstatements, simply from overhearing the Arizona senator order hotel room-service while Sen. Joe Lieberman whispered corrections.

For his part, Sen. Barack Obama (D- Ill.) has denied deliberately cranking up the drollery factor – in itself the inspiration for more than 300 humor columns – while openly praising Hillary Clinton’s “infinitely richer” gift for providing the pundits with high-octane fun fuel.

The New York senator quickly responded by reminiscing about her career as a stand-up comic ducking bullets during Las Vegas mob turf wars.

Several satirists were felled by the anecdote. Their recovery is uncertain.

**

Bruce McCall, a humorist, is a regular contributor to The New Yorker and Vanity Fair. He is the author of “All Meat Looks Like South America: The World of Bruce McCall” and “Zany Afternoons.”

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