President Barack Obama has embraced his role as comedian-in-chief. Whether in the well of Congress or at the lectern of the White House correspondents’ dinner, he can flash scathing wit followed by a slow-burn stare into the middle distance.
And because most humor is rooted in the truth of pain, and because self-deprecating humor is often the most truthful of all, it is not surprising that Obama can appreciate the power of “Peanuts.”
In a new archival edition of “The Complete Peanuts” (1999-2000; Volume 25) from Fantagraphics that hits shelves next week, Obama provides the foreword. And in a mere five paragraphs, it’s clear that the president’s sense of humor – even beneath that sometime professional air of aloof detachment – beats with the deeply human identification with Charlie Brown and the gang.
Yes, even the powerful leader of the free world can relate to the world’s worst baseball player.
“I grew up with ‘Peanuts,’ ” Obama writes. “But I never outgrew it.”
Creator Charles Schulz, the president continues, “treated childhood with all the poignant and tender complexity it deserves. He gave voice to all its joys and anxieties.”
Obama touches on the emotions that Schulz plumbed so brilliantly for a half-decade in his iconic strip: “Hope. Doubt. The exquisite pain of unrequited love. The self-exploration of what it means to be different.”
It’s reassuring to see these emotions acknowledged, however briefly, by any world leader. No matter how high one’s ambition, we must share our humanity or be lost.
Obama, like millions of fans worldwide, recognizes why “Peanuts” is comics’ most truthfully human of security blankets.
Writer/artist/visual storyteller Michael Cavna is creator of the “Comic Riffs” column and graphic-novel reviewer for The Washington Post’s Book World. He relishes sharp-eyed satire in most any form.