April 13, 2004

What do you expect from a Canadian?

Tim Long, a friend of mine back in the Spy days and now coexecutive producer of The Simpsons (oh, sure, but does he have a blog?) was asked why the show is going easy on George W. Bush. Much to my surprise, he gave the wrong answer.

As US News sets it up: "After all, who can forget Homer's failed effort to stop aliens who took over the bodies of President Bill Clinton and Bob Dole in the '96 campaign? Or the spanking the first President Bush gave Bart?"

Tim gives the stock Clinton-was-comedy-gold answer, which works for other comedians, but what he should have said is, "Hey, shmuck, The Simpsons doesn't do topical political satire." After all, those two shows cited by US News make up, as far as I can recall, the only foray into the genre the show has made in its entire 15 years. And if they're memorable for anything it's for being among the most awkward and least funny episodes of the show.

Makes you wonder what else they don't get at that 56th Annual Conference on World Affairs. Are these the same people who planned the occupation of Iraq?

[via Wonkette]

Posted by Daniel Radosh


The Simpsons made plenty of jokes about George H.W. Bush, Clinton, and most of the other presidents. See http://www.snpp.com/guides/presidents.html for a list. These generally aren't political jokes, but more just pokes at the presidents as celebrities. Jokes about Clinton, Reagan, Nixon and Kennedy are standard on any show. Bush Sr., Carter, Ford, LBJ, and Ike are tougher targets, but the Simpsons regularly lampooned them.

I'm not sure if the reduced number of Dubya jokes means that The Simpsons is going easy on him, but I don't think "we don't do topical political satire" works as an answer for the show.

I stand corrected, at least in part. Clearly many of the gags on that list are topical political satire, and Clinton comes in for more than Bush 2 (though Bush 2 has been a target almost as much as Bush 1, which would seem to undermine the orignal question). But the fact that there are actually far more jokes about old presidents -- the ones, as you note, that are harder to mock and that no other show even acknowledges -- tends to back up my main point which is that the Simpsons strength, which it mainly plays to, is a more timeless humor that doesn't go stale (those Clinton jokes don't seem very funny, do they?).

Also, "shmuck" was my word. Tim is way too polite to call anyone that. As I said, Canadian.

How wrong you are, Dan. "Citizen Kang," from Treehouse of Horror IX (I think) might be one of the best Simpsons episodes ever, and happened to be a devastating piece of political satire. It's punchline -- "Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos!" surely ranks as one of the all-time best one-liners in the brief, grim history of american political humor.

If Wag The Dog, Bob Roberts, etc. had the smallest part of Citizen Kang's edge and wit, we'd all be a lot better off.

Hey Daniel. Love the blog -- and don't even mind getting busted on resorting to a bullshit cliché. Best to Gina, Tim L.

Daniel, easy on the back-handed Canadian references partner.. After all we Canucks continue to let you 'americun' types think your somthing special, even with George dubya at the helm. Go see Michael Moore's 'Farenheight 9/11' next week and remember the great 'americun' company Disney pulled out as distributors to your precious states under pressure from 'JEB'. Ahhh, the good ol' reliable Canadians come to the rescue yet again (Lions Gate and IFC are distributing the film to U.S. theatres). Canadians kick ass - and Tim Long should be kicking yours... Best regards AYE!

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