Bill Maher recently said Barack Obama “needs to give comedians something to work with.” The President-elect is “too perfect,” he groused, and worse, liberals are afraid to laugh at black people. If only Dave Chappelle were working, laments Salamishah Tillet for the Root. He’d quickly prove Obama is plenty funny, if only white comedians learned the “cultural nuances of black America.”
Comedians have typically dealt with black people either by way of stereotype, or black invisibility. Fred Armisen imitates Obama well enough on Saturday Night Live, but it’s not funny because the performance lacks “backstory.” To get Obama, you need to understand the “black bourgeois respectability” Obama represents. “It’s not that Barack and Michelle aren’t funny,” it’s that white comedians need more black writers.