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White House press secretaries aren’t always catnip for comedy scribes.
Sean Spicer proved an exception.
Spicer, who served in the position for just six months under President Donald Trump, inspired Melissa McCarthy to repeatedly appear on “Saturday Night Live” to mock the embattled spox.
She even earned an Emmy nomination for the recurring bit.
Late night comedians similarly pounced and seized on Spicer. The former spokesman proved a good sport by appearing with Colbert during the 2017 Emmys, the appearance following endless ribbing from across the comic landscape.
The Guardian described Spicer’s comic appeal as “his antagonistic relationship with the press as well as his embrace of alternative facts.”
The precedent has been set, yet “SNL” and Team Late Night has yet to lay a satirical glove on Biden spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre.
Sketch Comedy Gold Mine
She began her duties late last year, and for weeks we watched her stare down at her prepared notes like a hungover teen cheating on the midterms. She’s the voice of the Commander in Chief, and she shouldn’t need notes to answer every press query.
Have previous spokespeople relied so heavily on their notes? Love or hate Jen Psaki, but she typically answered off the cuff without glancing at the podium for every third fact.
That tic alone would be priceless for a comedian to mock, and it’s something everyone who has seen her in action would “get” instantly.
For comedians, a certifiable tic is gold, like a killer catch phrase (Dana Carvey’s “not gonna do it” from his President George H.W. Bush days).
Plus, she’s not very good at her job. She often gets snippy with the press for little reason and falls back on certain words like “process” so much her critics put compilations of her saying it on the web.
If Spicer bent the truth on behalf of Trump, she twists Biden’s policies it into a pretzel and slathers on salt and mustard.
Jean-Pierre has several advantages over Spicer, though, and it’s obvious no matter what she’s done, or does next, the comedian class will steer clear.
Jean-Pierre Is Apparently Off Limits?
For starters, she’s a Democrat. Most mainstream comics avoid poking fun at their fellow travelers. We’ve seen two full years of “SNL” avoiding the Commander in Chief. No matter how much President Joe Biden stumbles, it’s not enough to spark a withering “cold” open or other “SNL” staples.
The most recent episode, the first since Biden’s document scandal exploded, barely mentioned it.
The same goes for most late-night jesters. Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel steer clear of Biden, occasionally poking fun at Biden’s age (he’s 80) without drawing satirical blood.
Jean-Pierre is also black, lesbian and an immigrant. That puts her in several “protected” classes in the eyes of both the media and progressive comics. Any sketch targeting her, even in a mild fashion, might be deemed racist or homophobic in social media circles. And that’s something most comedians avoid at all costs.
Joe Rogan survived a Cancel Culture assault, but not everyone is so lucky.
Comedians once spoke “truth to power,” sniping at leaders to keep them honest and humble. The old “SNL” did just that, skewering Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush without restraint. The old “Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson and Jay Leno did so, too.
Those accumulated laughs brought the nation together, too.
Now? Comedians have unwritten rules they must abide by before telling a late-night monologue. And they don’t need prepared notes to remember certain pols are off limits.