Writing jokes for President Obama sounds like a little bit of a high pressure gig. You have to deliver lines that would be plausible coming out of the mouth of the leader of the free world, not make too many people too angry, and your boss is literally Barack Obama. Oh, and also be funny. Thanks, that's all.
It's a testament to Obama's delivery and the talent behind him that his performances at the White House Correspondents Dinner were legendary. David Litt told Vulture exactly what it was like writing jokes for Obama during an appearance on the Good One podcast.
Apparently, the job was pretty stressful.
"It never felt normal to me," Litt said. "Maybe some people were like, 'Ah yeah, this is no big deal.' I never crossed that threshold. The thing that is very, very different about writing jokes for a president is that, the next day, that person is still the president. So if you say something that breaks some taboo or offends somebody, you’re still on the hook for that. Generally speaking, joke writers are not the type to self-censor constantly, but you have to be thinking in that way to write jokes for a president. Or at least to write jokes for President Obama, who cared about that sort of stuff."
He also said that levity was important in dealing with the numerous conspiracy theories Obama faced in office.
"Well, it wasn’t like we had a bingo card, but I do think it was a moment to be like, Really? This is happening? One of [fellow speechwriter] Jon Lovett’s jokes in 2012 was, 'This job has aged me. I look in the mirror and I think, I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist I used to be.' Lines like that, where you can joke about it rather than vent about it, was a nice sort of release valve."
That's how we got amazing moments like Keegan Michael Key appearing as Obama's anger translator. Watch that appearance below.
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