Tuesday, April 08, 2003
How is the war affecting TV comedians?
With troops in harm's way and passions strong both in favor and against the war, comedians have had to balance their barbs against broad public sentiment.
"There's a more nationalistic tone than there was even in the first Gulf War. Instead of just making fun of the bad guys, there's now a real 'rah-rah' element," said Robert Lichter, president of the Center for Media and Public Affairs, a nonprofit research organization based in Washington.
"There's a lot of stuff on late-night television that has an anti-authority edge. Now it has an anti-enemy edge," he added. [...]
American service personnel, meanwhile, remain a subject most comics avoid.
"It's not funny to us to make fun of the idea of people risking their lives, but there are a lot of ancillary subjects not connected to people dying and soldier sacrifice that are OK," said Stewart Bailey, producer of Comedy Central's news parody "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."
War leaders, however -- such as Bush, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell -- are still fair game.
UPDATE: the war's having a bad effect on this guy's work:
Jerry Haleva used to get a kick out of being known here as the lobbyist who moonlights as Saddam Hussein.
He'd kid about his 12 years as the go-to guy for Hollywood casting agents in need of a mustachioed Iraqi strongman. He'd pose in his dictator costume for gag grip-and-grins with politicians. He'd tell people he was going to write a memoir -- "Looking Like Saddam and Other Lucky Breaks," he'd call it. He'd send clients marketing brochures with a shot of himself in his beret, shaking hands with former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres. "If we can do this," joked the caption, "how tough can your issue be?"
They all laughed. Then the war started in Iraq, and people began dying. This week -- holed up in his office in a red tie, white and blue shirt and American flag cufflinks -- the staunch Republican said he's not much in the mood for discussing his secondary career.
TV news crews call, he doesn't call back. He's updating his marketing literature to downplay the Hussein thing. At a trade association banquet the other night, he said, Gov. Gray Davis told him, jokingly, "You know, my chief of staff had to dump that picture of herself with you." An old political hand, Haleva understood completely.
"What I do has always been in good fun," he said, "but some things are no longer funny. My physical resemblance to Saddam may well be one of them."