"To the left, Palin is a non-woman thing in heels"

Even if the routine was unfunny and pathetic, it shows where the line is — for now, anyway. If a mainstream comic felt comfy with the jape, it’ll be back. Jokes that won’t fly today will be cheerfully deployed down the road, because we get bored of being pious. We’re appropriately solemn about a Bad Thing at first, but after a while, everything’s fair game. Let someone twitter a rude remark, let Gawker test the ice, then it’s monologue material. The next Republican First Daughter will have her entire puberty charted through late night monologues.

How did we get here? Blame Dave. When he came on the air, he was utterly new, and hilarious. He may have invented the posture of Nerd Cool, an aspect so familiar to anyone who reads Internet message boards — the skill at deflating enthusiasm, puncturing passion with a hatpin lobbed from a safe distance.

Now he’s about as edgy as a soccer ball, and exists to ladle out rations of Wryness and Irony. With those shields we can never grow old, you know. We’ll always be as sharp and perceptive as we were when we were sitting on a cast-off sofa in college, working through a midweek buzz.