Coming on the heels of a full week of hand-wringing over who Lorne Michaels would pick to play Barack Obama on Saturday Night Live (and the debate was not just confined to the web –– I overheard two hipsters arguing about candidates for “Fauxbama” in a Brooklyn bar the other night), it’s perhaps not much of a surprise that Fred Armisen’s interpretation of the presidential candidate was something of a disappointment. Sure, in tasteful blackface, he looked like Barack Obama, but something about the vocal impression seemed really, really off.
I think the best Obama impression I’ve seen so far comes from Freddy Lockhart, who has taken on the character several times for his SuperDeluxe series, Freddy Lockhart’s Mixed Media. Self-described as “the ultimate mash-up of sketch comedy,” the show grafts a far-reaching, culture-jamming aesthetic onto well-worn subjects for YouTube parody. One recurring sketch has a frat boy auditioning to replace John Brockman as the anthropomorphized PC in a new run of Apple ads taunting his hipster audition partner for being a “fag”; another imagines George W. Bush’s voice coming out of Ralph Wiggum’s mouth.
But if the topics aren’t necessarily novel, the approach almost always is. Lockhart and director Rome Viharo’s favorite mode of address seems to be the faux-documentary/newsreel. In episode three, “War Scenarios“, a period pitch-perfect newsreel introduces us to the ’40s-era comedian who invented the knock-knock joke while critiquing the inherent racism and commercialism of “the war effort.”
And Lockhart rocks his Obama impersonation to greatest effect in a faux-70s documentary called The Scholastic Negro, which you can watch on its own embedded above, or as part of the Mixed Media episode, “Racial Scenarios.” Lockhart inserts himself, Forrest Gump-style, as a young Obama sitting in on a domino game with Occidental College’s Panther-esque “negro intelligentsia.” The key topic of discussion? How controlling the World Bank is essential to procuring free reefer.
The Scholastic Negro is so seamlessly produced that when the clip first premiered on YouTube last month, outside of the context of Mixed Media, some viewers/commenters were convinced that it was the real thing. Others, like PoliticoMark, were appalled that any comedian would dare attempt to tarnish Obama’s reputation in such a fashion: “Nothing funny about this ‘little’ Karl Rove. Just another sock puppet trying to tear down American democracy.” We’ll let BARACKin74, Lockhart’s YouTube alter ego, have the last word on such allegations: “You white boys are crazy.”