A Guide to 'Fiscal Cliffmas' Humor

Niraj Chokshi
December 22, 2012
Merry Taxmas!
Merry Taxmas!

The fiscal cliff is no joke. It’s fodder for them.

At more than $500 billion, the effect of the fiscal cliff is huge, but its content—the estate tax, Alternative Minimum Tax, capital gains, partial expensing of investment property, etc.—is about as boring as D.C. gets. Despite the wonkery, politicians, journalists and comedians have been able to find a funny silver lining. Here’s a review of some of the best (and worst) of fiscal cliff comedy:


  • Stepen Colbert celebrated "Fiscal Cliffmas" early on his show. "I'll admit it, I don’t want to talk about the fiscal cliff and you don't want to hear about it," he said in an early-December broadcast. "But for the next 20 days all pundits are contractually obligated to talk budgetary policy and you the viewer are obligated to listen. Check your cable contract. It's right below the part where Comcast gets your kidneys." Watch the full clip here: 
  • What would an end-of-year crisis be without related holiday cards? California Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez joked about the cliff in her holiday cards this year, and the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity set up a website from which you can send digital greeting cards to loved ones to wish them a “Merry Taxmas.” The cards come with witty captions, such as "Grandma got run over by a reindeer, and the death tax took half."
  • In December, Saturday Night Live made light of the difficulty House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has faced in corralling his caucus. In a joint press conference, Obama (played by Jay Pharaoh) announced a total capitulation to Boehner (played by Bill Hader) on taxes. Why? He felt bad for the Speaker, whose fellow Republicans threw out his milk and put a rubber snake in his desk: 
  • Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel sent a staff member out to ask people on the street whether they feared the fiscal cliff and then to describe what it was. “It could make a difference in life. It all depends on how you look at it,” said one man who it turns out didn’t really know why. 
  • For cliff humor, look no further than the two men who early on became synonymous with a solution: Wyoming’s former Republican Senator Alan Simpson and former Clinton Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles. At a late-November breakfast with reporters, Simpson unleashed several of the one-liners he’s known for.

    Compromise is a dirty word today, he said: "Some of the folks in my party, they're as rigid as a fireplace poker, but without the occasional warmth." And why is the report Simpson-Bowles? “The reason it’s not Bowles-Simpson is that the acronym for that isn’t appropriate.”

    Simpson even joined in on the latest (emphasis on late) craze recently. To encourage young Americans to take a stand on the fiscal cliff, he performed a watered-down version of the dance from “Gangnam Style,” the South Korean song that took the world by storm this fall.
  • The cliff has even inspired its own poetry, some of it lame, and some of it (hopefully) not so lame. A few weeks ago, National Journal’s own Elahe Izadi started a fiscal cliff poetry trend on Twitter: #FiscalCliffHaikus. Here's one example:

    The ducks, they teeter/ Off the long-awaited cliff / Lame! it's just a hill. #FiscalCliffHaikus

    — Annie-Rose Strasser (@ARStrasser) December 11, 2012
  • If you prefer your jokes on the rocks, Communications Consultant Ron Bonjean has you covered. At his early-December holiday party, he served a special “Fiscal Cliff” cocktail, which he told FishbowlDC is like the real thing: “It starts out smooth and then you get smashed.” 
  • Simpsons aristocrat Montgomery Burns created a helpful PSA to explain the cliff: 



  • The holidays are often a time to dust off old board games, but why not try something new this year? FamousDC created a new game to play when you’re stuck indoors waiting for Congress to compromise.
    • Finally, here’s a clip reel from early-December of late-night hosts taking on the fiscal cliff. Don’t miss Major Garrett, who moved to CBS News from National Journal, as he describes the progress of negotiations, starting at 2:13.