That cheering sound you may have heard Tuesday night was from comedians across America applauding the return of Sarah Palin. She is truly a job creator, at least in the world of comedy, where Palin has launched thousands of jokes and a boutique industry of Palin-inspired comedy items such as T-shirts and pins featuring jokes at her expense.
In fact, Palin’s speech endorsing Donald Trump sparked comedy even before she uttered a word. As Daily Show co-creator/comedian Lizz Winstead tweeted: “Sarah Palin would endorse Flint water if it would mean getting herself back in the news cycle.”
SiriusXM radio host and comedian Pete Dominick commented shortly before the speech: “Nothing has ever made more sense in politics than Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Donald Trump,” adding, “They have a lot in common, including the fact they can both talk for hours without saying anything at all.”
Then there was comedian Patton Oswalt, who launched this tweet upon hearing the news that Palin was endorsing Trump: “BREAKING: Who-Gives-A-Shit Alaskan Grifter Endorses Won't-Win Turd Clown For President”
And Palin’s speech praising Trump didn’t disappoint in providing even more comedy. For example, this Palin line should win an award for the most cliché expressions in one sentence: “I am here because like you I know that it is now or never. I’m in it to win it because we believe in America, and we love our freedom.”
But as comedy writer and satirical columnist for The New Yorker Andy Borowitz told me, “How can you ‘be in it to win it’ when you are not even running?!”
Other comedy gems that made us laugh, and perhaps made Jesus cry, included: “How about the rest of us? Right-winging, bitter-clinging, proud clingers of our guns, our God, and our religion, and our Constitution.”
And maybe the most quoted line from the speech: “No more pussyfootin’ around!” It’s not often a politician comes out that strongly against pussyfooting, but Palin prides herself on going “rogue”—which I think is like going commando.
During Palin’s speech I kept waiting for her to scream out: “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!” Tina Fey has probably received non-stop texts and emails from friends urging her to get the Palin glasses out of storage because Saturday Night Live needs her. Twitter certainly was begging Fey to return with people like actor Zach Braff tweeting: “Tina Fey is def on SNL this weekend.”
But what surprised me was that by Wednesday, when I reached out to various comedy writers and comedians, their enthusiasm for Palin’s return was more muted than I expected. Miles Kahn, former Daily Show producer and now executive producer of TBS’s new show, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, shrugged it off, noting that Palin is “a punchline to a punchline at this point.”
Political comedian and longtime Daily Show correspondent Lewis Black was also far from jumping for joy over Palin’s return. Rather, he was more philosophical, telling me, “With news like this, if one can call this news, every day it becomes clearer that we are living at the intersection of reality and satire.”
Borowitz, who called Trump and Palin “rapture ready reality show stars,” noted that even if comedians are excited about Palin, the reality is she is a “quitter” and could bail at any moment. Borowitz correctly noted that Palin didn’t even show up for her first Trump rally scheduled for Wednesday morning.
And a few other comedians I approached didn’t even want to discuss Palin because they were over her years ago. This is a far cry from 2008 when we first met Palin. With George W. Bush’s presidency coming to an end, comedians were frantically looking for a political figure who could replace him in terms of generating material. (In reality, no one ever will.) Many of us then looked to Palin, who was like Bush but with lipstick.
But the reality now is that except for a small percentage of Republicans, Palin is truly yesterday’s news. After all, she was dumped from Fox News as a contributor last year. And a 2015 poll found Palin only had about a 27 percent favorability rating among Republicans. (Among all Americans her favorable ratings is underwater at negative 24 points.)
I doubt many people are actually going to support a candidate just because Palin endorses him or her. But I will say if you were waiting for Palin to tell you who to vote for, you should never be allowed to vote again. I’m opposed to voter ID laws, but I now favor voter IQ laws.
Of course, Trump's own internal calculations have led him to conclude that Palin adds something to his campaign by being on stage with him. (Maybe it makes him feel like a genius.) The big question is: Will Palin help Trump in the long run? Maybe, maybe not.
But while many comedians may have celebrated Palin’s return to the national stage with jokes on Tuesday night, it appeared by Wednesday things had changed. Palin’s name was no longer trending on social media as it had on Tuesday. It had been quickly replaced by the comments of Fox News’ current contributor Stacey Dash, who wants to end Black History Month and abolish BET because she thought it would lead to segregation. And now it was Dash, not Palin, who was the focus of comedians’ jibes.
It seems that eight years after we first met Palin, not only are most Americans, including Fox News, no longer interested in Palin, she has even lost the interest of her last constituency: the comedians.