Friday, March 20, 2009

President of Hip

Is Obama the first president to do late night? I know Clinton went on Arsineo while he was campaigning, and this last election it seemed everyone had to make a run through Saturday Night Live. McCain announced on the Tonight Show. But a sitting president? On a late night comedy talk show? Once upon a time it would have been unheard of. Ford reportedly wanted to host Saturday Night Live while he was president, but his handlers talked him down off the ledge.

So Obama going onto The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (a show I have successfully boycotted since NBC screwed Letterman out of what should have been his job) may not seem like much, but I think it is. In our post modern world a lot has been written about how comedy has become an important political forum, and satire has been elevated to the realm of serious discourse. What once was frivolous is now serious as the old hierarchies of taste and propriety are broken down along with that of high and low culture. I don't know if Obama is the first sitting president to do late night or not, but no matter: he has given the ultimate imprimatur to the guys who brought you Bassomatic, Stupid Pet Tricks, and Floyd R. Turbo, American.


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