Study: Obama Is Late Night's Biggest Joke

Iowa GOP winners very low on Leno's, Fallon's, Letterman's joke list.


Republicans were joked about by a margin of 3 to 1 over Democrats on late-night talk shows last year, but the biggest joke for Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon was President Obama, according to a new George Mason University study provided to Whispers.

Republicans took the top title because so many of them were speared by Fallon, Leno, and David Letterman, according to Robert Lichter, president of the school's Center for Media and Public Affairs.

[Obama Not Left Out In Iowa]

But when it came to the top target of the 2011, Obama and shamed former New York Rep. Anthony Weiner came in first and second. Obama was gored by 342 jokes, Weiner 220. Third was former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain, followed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry at 186 and Osama bin Laden at 172.

Lichter noted that far down on the list were the winners of Tuesday's Iowa GOP caucuses, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul. "This shows," he says, "that it's hard to vote for somebody while you're laughing at them."

But, he adds, it's probably not an ominous sign for the president that he's late night's biggest joke target. Lichter tells Whispers that his totals are far below the 500-plus that used to slam former Presidents Clinton and Bush every year. "Obama is substantially lower than any other president," said Lichter.

That, he says, could be bad for the presidential campaign, especially if Romney gets the GOP nod. Explaining that both give little for comics to work with, Lichter said that a Romney-Obama fight could "be boring." [See pictures of the 2012 GOP candidates.]

While Obama was the top late-night joke target, the comics treated him differently. Leno was hardest on the president, telling 156 Obama jokes last year. Fallon was second, with 107 Obama jokes. Letterman told only 77, and unlike Fallon and Leno, Obama was the talk show host's fourth-most-popular target behind Weiner, with 85 jokes about his sexting, Muammar Qadhafi with 82, Perry with 81, and bin Laden with 79.

Lichter's list and some sample jokes are below.

For all three comedians combined, joke totals for the top twenty targets of late night political humor were:

1. Barack Obama – 342

2. Anthony Weiner – 220

3. Herman Cain – 191

4. Rick Perry – 186

5. Osama bin Laden 172

6. Arnold Schwarzenegger – 142

7. Michele Bachmann – 128

8. Donald Trump – 122

9. Muammar Gaddafi – 121

10. Newt Gingrich – 110

11. Sarah Palin – 109

12. Joe Biden – 82

13. Mitt Romney – 79

14. Chris Christie – 71

15. John Boehner – 69

16. Dick Cheney – 66

17. George W. Bush – 36

18. Rupert Murdoch – 30

19. Rod Blagojevich – 24

20. Tie – Michael Bloomberg and Hosni Mubarek – 22

Sample Jokes -- GOP Candidates:

"Disney World is the perfect fit for these candidates. Mitt Romney is Prince Charming, Ron Paul is grumpy, Rick Perry is dopey, and Michele Bachmann thinks she's Snow White." – Leno

"Mitt Romney is so worried, he's sweating like Rick Perry on Jeopardy." – Leno

"Rick Perry and Mitt Romney squared off at a big Republican debate. They only agreed on one thing – wash, rinse, repeat." - Leno

"The economy is so bad, God is now calling Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann collect." – Leno

"Newt Gingrich met with Donald Trump yesterday. That's two guys, six wives, zero chance of either of them becoming president." – Leno

Sample Jokes -- Barack Obama:

"President Obama is more popular overseas than he is here. But then again, he's created more jobs over there." – Leno

"Did you know Rick Perry used to be a Democrat? But then again, Barack Obama used to be a Democrat." – Leno

"Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton are more mature than President Obama and John Boehner." – Fallon

  • Check out political cartoons about the 2012 GOP race.
  • See photos of the GOP candidates on the campaign trail.
  • Vote Now: Will Obama be a one-term president?