Jon Sanders

"Knock, knock."
"Who's there?"
"Barack Obama."
"That's not funny." 

According to the New York Times, which rumor has it is a newspaper of some repute in New York City, professional comedians can find very little to joke about concerning Sen. Barack Obama.

Who are they kidding? Look, I know it's fashionable to pretend the little one-term senator from Illinois is the messiah, and Lord knows you just don't joke about the Hope and Savior of the World and All the Fullness Thereof, but if what the Times reports is true, then the nation's top humorists have a real big "Lighten up, Francis" coming their way.

Comedians perform a crucial civic service. They help us to laugh at politicians and ourselves. In doing so, they keep us all aware of our humanity. This is of prime importance in a government of the people, by the people, for the people. To be human is to be laughable sometimes; to know that is to have humility. As Mr. Bennett puts it in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, "For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?"

Late-night comics especially are known for their irreverence, but what is left when that fails them? Reverence? Perish the thought. Tyrannies outlaw humor to preserve the illusion that the Glorious Leader is glorious. What are we to do in a free nation when the comics get caught up in the quasi-religious ecstasy of a campaign and abandon their craft voluntarily?

We ease them back, that's what. Understand it's too soon for them to crack wise about Obama's "57 states." Or the whisper heard 'round the world, when Rev. Jesse Jackson introduced the concept of Obama's nuts — the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers jokes aren't writing themselves, not even the obvious ones about ACORN. And a riff on the candidate of change suddenly changing key positions faster than you can say "Hey, Hillary, wait a second"? Far too soon for that.

No, our comedians need to start with the basics. Try these. Do it for the country.

How many Barack Obamas does it take to change a light bulb? Just one. He holds the bulb, thinks the world revolves around him, and calls it change you can believe in.

Why did Barack Obama cross the road? To tax the other side.

A rabbi, a priest, and Barack Obama walked into a bar. The rabbi and priest both said "Ouch." Obama said nothing. See, messiahs don't get hurt walking smack into a bar.

Jon Sanders

Jon Sanders is associate director of research at the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, N.C.