Jon Lovitz and Dana Carvey: Why can't comedians make fun of Obama?

Via Breitbart, a few days old but worth listening to if you missed it elsewhere. I was tempted to make this a post focusing on Lovitz — he’s been a big hit on the site since his class-warfare critique of The One — but Carvey’s the more interesting of the two here. He’s unusual in that he became a star in part by doing political impersonations (Bush 41 and Perot most notably) but there’s never been anything malicious in his political comedy. His humor was more silly than biting, which is one reason why audiences like him so much. So I was surprised when he said his Obama impression bombed at a Hollywood fundraiser. (You’ll hear a snippet of it below; it’s not genius, but it’s good enough.) Even if you’re a rich lefty who’s typically humorless about liberal sacred cows, the mere fact that it’s Carvey being Carvey should be worth some giggles — especially in a private setting, where the audience doesn’t have to sit in stony silence to show their disapproval to viewers watching on TV.

But maybe I’ve got this wrong. Jon Stewart goofs on Obama sporadically and “The Daily Show” crowd laughs along, albeit a bit less heartily than when he’s focused on The Enemy. How come? I can think of three possibilities. One: Plain and simple, Stewart’s funnier. End of story. Two: When Stewart goofs on Obama, he often hits him from the left, which makes it “okay” to laugh. I haven’t heard Carvey’s routine but I doubt that’s true of him. Either he’s jabbing lightly onstage at O’s class warfare shtick, I’d bet, or he’s focused entirely on his bearing/voice/persona. There’s no benefit to liberalism in either of those things. Hence, silence. Three: It’s a pecking order thing. Stewart’s not just a comedian, he’s the top liberal political comic working today. He’s something of a liberal icon, so he’s entitled to poke fun at a fellow liberal icon like O. Carvey, being mostly nonideological, has no such status and therefore no authority with which to goof on Obama. Makes me wonder how audiences would react if another prominent liberal comic, like Will Ferrell or Louis C.K., decided to start doing Obama bits regularly. Would they be indulged because their ideological bona fides is well known, or would they draw silence too because, unlike Stewart, political comedy isn’t really their thing and therefore their jabs at O would seem “gratuitous”?