Making Fun Of The News Daily Show writer Kevin Bleyer tells us how satirists will fill the vacuum President Bush leaves behind.
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Making Fun Of The News

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Making Fun Of The News

Making Fun Of The News

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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This week's news, of course, has been dominated by events in Mumbai, but even in an age of terrorism and economic meltdown, these past few years have seen a proliferation of popular satire. From a rejuvenated "Saturday Night Live" to "The Onion," late-night monologues, Internets satires and, most prominently, "The Daily Show." President Bush has frequently been the object of such satires.

How will satirists fill the vacuum that he leaves behind? Our friend Kevin Bleyer, a writer for "The Daily Show," joins us in our studios. Kevin, thanks so much for being with us.

Mr. KEVIN BLEYER (Writer, "The Daily Show" ): Oh, it is, I assure you, my pleasure. And actually, if I might echo your earlier sentiments, this is one of those weeks that makes you long for the days of moose burgers and the silly campaign season, but nonetheless.

SIMON: Yeah. Satirists have had the advantage of a president whom himself makes jokes about his struggles with language and pronunciation. But what happens now?

Mr. BLEYER: Well, I don't know if you read about this. But as it happens, President Bush was voted out of office. Can you believe that? After...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BLEYER: After eight years, they just kicked him out, so...

SIMON: Well, I think there's a constitutional provision, yeah.

Mr. BLEYER: Plus you can say, he must have either been doing a terrible job or have a very poor understanding of the American electoral process. What happens now? Well, we tread forth, and we - you know, it might be unchartered waters. As it happens, I was just in - at the University of Cambridge in England where, as you know, satire, I believe, was invented in some lab in Cambridge - Magdalene College, I imagine.

SIMON: Yeah. And Sir Nigel Satire(ph).

Mr. BLEYER: There you go, Sir Nigel Satire. He has been knighted twice over now. And even the British students there were asking me, how - after Bush, how can you possibly continue to do what you do? Is satire over? Well, I am happy to report to you, of course, it is not over. It lives on. And I kind of feel, and the country might be behind me on this, that after eight years of Bush jokes, that is brush that has been somewhat thoroughly cleared.

So you know, we at "The Daily Show" certainly are eager to look forward and excited about what we can accomplish, you know, in, I guess, the first hundred days of an Obama administration, if we all work together.

SIMON: Without giving away any trade secrets, what do you see as this incoming president's most vulnerable points of potential satiric...

Mr. BLEYER: Oh, I'm happy to give away trade secrets, sir.

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. BLEYER: Well, first of all, he's a politician. So anytime that you have a politician acting like a politician, you're in good stead. He happens also to be a politician who believes that he should be in charge of running the world, so anyone who stands that tall is likely to bump into something. He may, in fact, do something out of character and even absurd like - oh, I don't know, appoint a Clinton to his Cabinet. That couldn't possibly happen. But it might happen, a team of rivals and all that.

You know, I do think that there are some handles, that is to say, satirically speaking, for Obama. He does have a very lofty rhetoric, without a doubt. He has kind of claims of a Midas touch. You know, when he was on our show, we asked him if he would, in fact, hope-up some everyday phrases just to see if he has that Midas touch with everything he says. In fact, I think we asked him to say, hi, I'm Barack Obama, and I'm calling to ask you if you're happy with your cell phone service.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Hi, I'm Barack Obama. And ladies and gentlemen, Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians.

(Soundbite of laughter)

But you know, it is the case that - I think early on, we did a joke about when he was giving a speech, and it was rather moving, and he turned to the side, in a way. And we said, look at that man. He's not running for president. He's running for coin(ph), and we mocked him up on a coin. And it is the case that the audience in the studio was a little bit alarmed. They didn't quite know how to respond. So John, characteristically, turned to them and said, you know, it's OK to laugh at him, you know. He will have faults. He will have flaws. And it's our job to essentially make sure that everyone knows them. You know, he's complicit in all this, in a way, if I might. You know, he - if you recall for the last two weeks of the campaign...

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. BLEYER: He actually was listing off: in 12 days, at this defining moment in history, you can vote for change. In 11 days, at this defining moment, you can vote for change. In 10 days, in nine days. It was a change countdown to a hope-splosion(ph).

(Soundbite of laughter)

And then even on election night, he said, you have voted for change. Of course, three days later, at his first news conference, he said, ladies and gentleman, it's only been three days. Please, give me some time. So he's been complicit in the over-promising, but it's an inevitable consequence.

SIMON: Let me ask you a market question.

Mr. BLEYER: Pardon me. A market question?

SIMON: Market question. OK. Mort Sahl, who became famous for doing satire during the latter Eisenhower era. Now he acquired a following among many liberals, and he told us once that when John Kennedy was elected and he started doing jokes about the Kennedy administration, a lot of his former fans got upset with him. Do you, at "The Daily Show" and other places, worry about alienating some of your fans?

Mr. BLEYER: Well, to be frank, I'd hope that we alienate at least a couple every night.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: For general purposes in taste, right?

Mr. BLEYER: Of course. I'm not worried about it. If I may be candid, one thing I'm concerned about is that when and if we start on a regular basis making fun of Obama and then have an off night, as we have had, we might - those fans might say, see, look, I told you they couldn't make fun of Obama.

But if I may - to accept your larger premise of, OK, you know, let's say that for the last 10 years, the whole decade that "The Daily Show" has been on the air, even before Obama, we at the show have had one goal, and that is to take an elitist, terrorist, socialist Muslim and elect him president. All right?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Well, I guess I would say, having done that, we'll just have to turn to the next goal, which is to take a communist, Christian scientist and elect him emperor. And now I realize an emperor is not an elected position, but we'll just have to work that much harder, and in doing so, perhaps we'll gain some new fans and look forward to alienating them, as well. And please let it be noted that I'm saying this all with tongue and cheek.

SIMON: OK, good. I'm glad you added that. And should we give them your email address?

Mr. BLEYER: Oh, please.

SIMON: Or shall I just pass them along?

Mr. BLEYER: Just write, care of New York, New York.

SIMON: I don't think I have the time. All right, Kevin. Thanks so much.

Mr. BLEYER: Oh, I assure you. This has been a horrible mistake, and you're more than welcome.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Kevin Bleyer of "The Daily Show." Thanks so much for being with us talking about the prospect for the future of satire in an incoming Obama administration. Since you're in the studio with us, Kevin, I ask you to note how I'm talking my way down to the clock.

Mr. BLEYER: I see.

SIMON: This is, yeah, this is what we call...

Mr. BLEYER: Professional.

SIMON: Yeah, I hope so. This is NPR News.

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