President Barack Obama talks with Jay Leno during a commercial break during the taping of his appearance on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
by David Bauder
AP Television Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — President Barack Obama, the joke’s on you.
A study of gags by late-night comics during the first half of the year found an abrupt change from 2012. Now Obama and Democrats are providing the lion’s share of punchlines.
Obama was the target of 288 monologue jokes made by Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jimmy Fallon, Craig Ferguson and Jimmy Kimmel, according to an analysis released Monday by the Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University.
The next most joked-about individual was New York City Democratic mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner, at 120. His numbers are likely to jump fast, since the study period was before the second round of Weiner’s sexting scandal.
In 2012, Mitt Romney was the butt of more than twice as many jokes as Obama, and Republicans were similarly the target of more than double the jokes that were made on Democrats.
The findings don’t illustrate any political change of heart among late-night comics, said Robert Lichter, the center’s president. The jokes follow the news, and with Republicans receding after an election campaign, Obama presented more opportunities, he said.
“They’re going after the most visible and powerful people that they can,” Lichter said.
Even Letterman, who is generally harder on Republicans, couldn’t resist joining in this time.
“People always say to me, they say, ‘Hey, Letterman,’ they say. ‘Why don’t you make jokes about Obama?’ And I say, ‘All right, I’ll tell you why. I don’t make jokes about him because I don’t want the FBI tapping my phone,’” he said.
Leno tapped into the same idea with a different story: “I was going to start off tonight with an Obama joke, but I don’t want to get audited by the IRS, so forget that.”
Obama made his own appearance on Leno’s “Tonight” show on Tuesday.
Democrats were the target of 713 jokes between January and June 2013, compared to 417 gags about Republicans, the study said. The only Republicans among the top 10 joke targets were former President George W. Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the CMPA said.
Fallon was the toughest comic on Democrats, targeting them 240 times compared to 76 for Republicans. Letterman had 139 jokes about Republicans and 102 about Democrats, the CMPA found.