With New Administration, Comedians Shift Gears With a new president and a new Congress come new opportunities for comedy. Will Graham and Carol Kolb of The Onion News Network talk to host Andrea Seabrook about the challenges of making fun of the new administration.
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With New Administration, Comedians Shift Gears

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With New Administration, Comedians Shift Gears

With New Administration, Comedians Shift Gears

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ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

Back stateside, with a new Congress and a new president come January, there's a whole new opportunity for comedy. See, every time the government changes, comedians have to shift gears, too.

One site transitioning right now is the Onion, the satirical newspaper and website. Will Graham is the executive producer of the Onion News Network, and Carol Kolb is the show's head writer. They're both in our New York bureau. Hello there.

Ms. CAROL KOLB (Head Writer, Onion News Network): Hi.

Mr. WILL GRAHAM (Executive Producer, Onion News Network): Hi. How's it going?

SEABROOK: Good. So what do you think? Will President-elect Barack Obama be as funny as President Bush was?

Ms. KOLB: I think he will. I, you know, I think it remains to be seen what ridiculous things he'll do. But I have a lot of confidence that something will happen.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GRAHAM: I think also, you know, Bush in some ways represented sort of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for comedians.

SEABROOK: So here's my question. When you're looking to spoof someone, what are you going for? What do you look for, soft spots, weaknesses?

Mr. GRAHAM: I think we look for, in part, the kind of things the people aren't saying about them, the jokes that sort of haven't been done yet, and that was one of the things that, with Bush, I think that got kind of harder and harder as his administration went on. The kind of bar for Bush jokes went higher and higher. So I think we're actually excited to have some sort of fresh start to make fun of.

SEABROOK: So you guys are already starting. Let's listen to this clip from the Onion Network News.

(Soundbite of Onion News Network)

Unidentified Woman: Welcome back. We now continue our coverage of the terrible aftermath of Barack Obama's victory, which has left Obama supporters across the nation with nothing to talk about. For an update, let's go to Jane...

(Soundbite of laughter)

SEABROOK: OK. Good job, but that's not exactly making fun of the president-elect. What you got? Throw it at me?

Ms. KOLB: I don't know. I mean, I think we're just waiting to see. I mean, I think, you know, after he has to make that transition from just being a candidate and actually making things happen, I'm sure that a lot of things will not go his way. And I guess we're just sort of waiting to see how he reacts to that.

Mr. GRAHAM: But I also think, you know, the Onion paper had a headline that was "A Black Man Asks Nation for Change." That, I thought, was a pretty good one.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GRAHAM: And we had a piece about Obama running kind of against the Republican attacks, running constructive criticism ads against McCain, like, let me give you a couple of pointers on how you could kind of clarify your policies.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GRAHAM: So that's sort of ongoing narrative of him being just, you know, such a nice guy and something...

SEABROOK: Well, you know that's partly why we wanted to call you guys because we keep hearing people say, oh, Obama's just not funny. I mean, there's going to be no good comedy about him, which I categorically reject.

Ms. KOLB: Right. Yeah. Yeah.

Mr. GRAHAM: Yeah, we do, too.

Ms. KOLB: I do, too. I mean, it's actually probably a source for better comedy because it will be more complex, probably even just, oh, this guy is stupid. But I mean, right now, he really hasn't made a whole lot of missteps yet, you know? It is a little more difficult at this point to find something to make fun of.

Mr. GRAHAM: He's kind of a snob. He's an egg head.

Ms. KOLB: Hmm mm.

Mr. GRAHAM: You know, sort of a brainier guy.

Ms. KOLB: Yeah, a nerd.

Mr. GRAHAM: Yes.

Ms. KOLB: He likes comic books.

Mr. GRAHAM: He's a nerd. And that seems like a pretty good starting place.

SEABROOK: Will Graham and Carol Kolb of the Onion News Network. Thanks so much for joining me.

Ms. KOLB: Thank you.

Mr. GRAHAM: Thank you.

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