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Political Landscape Podcast / PODCAST

Colbert, Cocaine, Clinton and the History of Politicians on Comedy Programs

photo of Cory Bennett
November 3, 2012

Welcome to The Political Landscape, a weekly conversation with National Journal writers, editors and other experts on the news of the day. 

In recent weeks, President Obama has been making the late-night show rounds, making stops on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. It’s nothing new for Obama, who has slow jammed the news with Jimmy Fallon, revealed multiple NCAA March Madness bracket on ESPN, and made a Saturday Night Live appearance during his 2008 campaign.

 

Obama’s facility with these types of casual, comedic appearances speak to his personality and the demographic he wants to to reach. But it also points to our evolving expectations of our presidents and politicians.

The barriers are breaking down between the public and politicians. And Obama is by no means the first president, or presidential candidate, to be a part of this trend.

For this week’s show, we’ll examine that trend and what it says about our culture.

We talked to former Democratic Rep. Robert Wexler of Florida, who has been on the Colbert Report twice and the Daily Show once. He is best known for playing along with Colbert in a segment by jokingly admitting to doing drugs. He’ll bring us that story.

Then we’ll go behind the scenes. What’s it like to get these politicians on the show? How do these programs convince them it’s a good idea? 

We talked to two producers of the National Public Radio comedic news quiz show Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. They’ll share the story of how they got Bill Clinton on the phone and then couldn’t get him off.

Then finally, we’ll put these experiences in context. Most people date the start of this trend to then-candidate Richard Nixon appearing on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In, a late-60s sketch comedy show. We’ll trace the history from there and what it’s meant for politicians.

Check out last week's episode on the foreign policy lessons on the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

Check out all episodes of The Political Landscape.

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