The 2008 election has been a boon for political comedy, from a recharged Saturday Night Live led by Tina Fey’s eerily on-the-nose impersonation of Sarah Palin to the consistently cutting satire of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
But for D.L. Hughley and other African-American comedians like Chris Rock and David Alan Grier, Barack Obama’s historic candidacy has offered a rich, often personal source of political humor.
Hughley, whose late-night comedy program, D.L. Hughley Breaks the News, launches Oct. 25 on CNN, characterized the contest between Obama and his 72-year-old Republican opponent, John McCain, as “a simple choice between a guy who is half black and a guy who is half dead.”
Hughley’s made his choice.
“Clearly, Barack is a bright guy,” he says. “He’s earned my vote. Now he has to earn my trust.”
Obama, of course, is still working to earn the votes of critical swing voters in white working-class enclaves of Ohio, Florida and Virginia. And while he is ahead in most national polls, many Democrats are wringing their hands over the specter of the Bradley Effect, named for Tom Bradley, the African American who lost the 1982 California governor’s race despite being ahead in the polls. The theory goes that voters are less than forthcoming about their racial prejudices when talking to pollsters.
“I lived through the Bradley Effect,” says Hugely, who grew up in the tough South Central neighborhood of Los Angeles. “I remember my father going to bed so proud because we were going to have a black governor. I remember it because it was one of the five times I saw him happy. And when I woke up in the morning my father had tears in his eyes.”
A new foray into late-night comedy for the cable news network, Hughley’s new show will feature taped segments and newsmaker interviews and will be filmed in front a studio audience at CNN’s New York headquarters. Next week, he’ll head to North Carolina to tape a segment with “a political person” he would not name.
(Doesn’t John Edwards have a home in North Carolina?)
Like his comic peers, Hughley has approached the 2008 campaign with a healthy dose of skepticism.
“I think all politicians lie,” he said. “They lie to us because we want them to. The truth about the sate of America would sound like this: We’re f---. I approve this message. No one’s going to say that.”