August 21, 2008

Press Release
August 21, 2008
Contact: Donald Rieck

Trails McCain, Bush and Hillary in Humor Race
But Obama Rules on Comedy Central

Barack Obama still lags far behind Hillary Clinton and John McCain as the most joked-about presidential candidate in opening monologues by hosts on the late-night TV talk shows, according to a new study by the Center for Media and Public Affairs. However, the study finds that Obama attracted the most jokes on Comedy Central’s “fake news” shows. (The study period does not include recent revelations about Senator John Edwards’ sexual indiscretions.)

These results are from the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) 2008 Political Humor Study. The study analyzed all jokes from January 1 through July 31 in monologues by Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien on NBC, David Letterman on CBS, and John Stewart and Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central. The Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) is a nonpartisan research and educational organization which conducts scientific studies of the news and entertainment media.

Major Findings:

Future Democratic nominee Barack Obama has attracted only 169 jokes from late-night TV talk show hosts in 2008, far fewer than his opponent John McCain’s 322 jokes, and less than half as many as the 382 jokes aimed at Hillary Clinton, despite her departure from the presidential race on June 7th. George W. Bush tops the list with 428 jokes.

However, Obama led the pack on Comedy Central with 207 jokes, compared to 201 for McCain, 179 for Clinton, and 177 for Bush. Obama’s heavy coverage by the news media may have spurred greater attention from these “fake news” shows, which stick close to the daily headlines.

When jokes from all five shows are combined, the ten most joked-about public figures were:

George W. Bush: 605
Hillary Clinton: 562
John McCain: 549
Barack Obama: 382
Elliot Spitzer: 240
Bill Clinton: 152
Mitt Romney: 125
Dick Cheney: 101
Roger Clemens: 74
Mike Huckabee: 55

  • Jon Stewart told the most jokes about Obama – 122, compared to 100 on Hillary Clinton and 98 on McCain.
  • David Letterman told only 46 jokes about Obama, compared to 131 about Hillary Clinton.
  • Stephen Colbert zapped McCain most often – 129 jokes, compared to 91 about Obama and 79 about Sen. Clinton.
  • Jay Leno told the most “Hillary” jokes (204) and the most Bush jokes (208).

The most frequent McCain jokes dealt with his age and his putatively lackluster campaign; Obama jokes tended to portrayed him as pretentious or the beneficiary of fawning media coverage; the most recent Hillary Clinton jokes concerned her alleged unwillingness to admit defeat.

Sample Jokes:

John McCain
McCain was asked how he’s going to conserve energy. He said by taking three naps a day. – Leno

McCain said Iraq and Afghanistan have a common border. No wonder they can’t find Osama bin Laden. We’ve been searching an imaginary border. – Letterman

The only way McCain could get less coverage is if he got a primetime show on NBC. – Leno

It’s time the media started trumpeting McCain’s exciting story: He’s old and no one likes him. Colbert

Barack Obama
The big story is Obama’s world tour. Today he made history by being the first man to travel around the world in a plane propelled by the media’s flash photography. – Colbert

The tour may strike some as presumptuous. In fact I joked that Obama would be stopping in Bethlehem to visit the manger where he was born. – Stewart

Obama rejects public financing – so he’s not only a secret Muslim, he’s a secret hypocrite – Colbert

Obama said he’ll visit Iraq and Afghanistan because he wants to see an area overrun by violent extremists. So it sounds like he already misses his old church. — Leno

Hillary Clinton
Brett Favre says he has reconsidered his decision to retire and he wants to get back in the game. Today Hillary Clinton said, “You can do that?” – Letterman

It’s not looking good for Hillary. Today even Yogi Berra said, “It’s over.” – Leno

Only in America could a woman who’s married to a man from Hope go to a town called Unity and fake something called Sincerity. – Leno

Note: wording of jokes may be altered slightly for brevity

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