News & Politics

Jon Lovett Won’t Have to Look Far for Story Ideas for “1600 Penn”

Though the new show follows a fictional First Family, inspiration is ripe in the real life versions.

Jon Lovett plans to satirize life in the White House. Photograph by Marvin Joseph/Washington Post

In September, Jon Lovett, a Barack Obama speechwriter for the last three years, left the White House to pursue a writing career in Hollywood. It didn’t take Lovett long to make an impact. His first pilot, 1600 Penn, has been ordered by NBC.

Lovett has comedic chops: He won a celebrity competition at the DC Improv last December and wrote some of Obama’s jokes for this year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner. 1600 Penn will follow a dysfunctional—and fictional—First Family. But if history is any guide, some events affecting residents of the White House’s private quarters over the past few years seem like plots right out of the hit sitcom Modern Family. Here are some ideas Lovett could adapt for the tube.

Family bonding. In March 2009, the Obamas had a secret meeting—to determine whether a Portuguese water dog named Bo would get along with the family. Bo made the cut. But just a year later, Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan said Bo was poorly trained. Maybe too much gnawing on the Oval Office carpet?

Slapstick comedy. Those pretzels were making George W. Bush thirsty in January 2002, when he choked on one, fainted, and tumbled over a couch—cutting his face in the process. Bush was fine, later joking: “My mother always said when you’re eating pretzels, chew before you swallow.” A few years after that, a lame-duck Bush had another mishap when an Iraqi journalist hurled two shoes at his head. He expertly dodged them.

Marital strife. We all know what happened with Bill Clinton and the intern. Clinton spent much of 1998 trying to save his presidency—and his marriage. Nothing like a little drama and emotional vulnerability to make you care about sitcom characters.

Pathetic displays of athleticism. When it comes to comedy, terrible sports performances are classic. Obama may be a great basketball player, but his bowling score of 37 during a 2008 campaign stop and his terrible first pitch at the 2010 Nats home opener made some think he should stick to hoops.

Live-in in-laws. Marian Robinson, mother of Michelle Obama, is the first live-in White House grandmother since Dwight D. Eisenhower was President. Surely the First Granny sometimes gets in the way.

This article appears in the December 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.