Where's the funny in Barack Obama? That question, which dogged TV humorists throughout the presidential race, has gained new urgency now that Obama is headed for the White House. His recent victory signaled imminent hardship for comics who lampoon political leaders for a living. The laugh-a-minute 2008 campaign is history, and soon there'll be no President Bush to kick around in comedy sketches or talk-show monologues. Adding to the jesters' plight: Obama will soon be sworn in as the next Punch-Line-in-Chief. Here is a man who inspires admiration, excitement or, maybe, suspicion. What he doesn't inspire (in any measurable quantity, so far) are cheap laughs. "A dignified, thoughtful, charismatic, smart man who doesn't run at the mouth," summed up Craig Ferguson, host of CBS's Late Late Show, in the aftermath of eight go-go Bush years for comics. "Is it a challenge to our creative juices to find something funny about Obama? God, yes!" Right after the election, some TV wags were even waxing nostalgic on the air, however tongue-in-cheek. On Comedy Central's The Daily Show, Jon Stewart said he was already missing the Bush administration - and his own George W. Bush impression, which had served him so well at the anchor desk. "As a comedian," NBC's Jay Leno echoed to his Tonight Show audience, "I'm going to miss President Bush. Barack Obama is not easy to do jokes about. He doesn't give you a lot to go on. See, this is why God gave us (Vice President-elect) Joe Biden. When one door closes, another one opens up." True, as a six-term US senator and lately as Obama's running mate, Biden has cemented his reputation for blurting out remarks before they're vetted by his brain. (Item: Biden declared that "Franklin D. Roosevelt got on the television" to address the nation when the stock market crashed in October 1929 - even though Herbert Hoover was president then and TV was barely invented.) "He's a little more gregarious, runs around and slaps people on the back, he's cheery looking," said Ferguson, who agreed that Biden is the comics' consolation prize. "You can at least put him in a sketch." The host of HBO's Real Time, comic Bill Maher, describes himself as "a policy guy who tries to stick more to what politicians do than who they are." But that doesn't mean he's immune to the problem Obama represents. "It's always better if the president is stupid, or fat, or cheating on his wife, or angry, or a phony. This guy is none of those things. And that," said Maher with a laugh, "is really unfair. But, c'mon, on balance, aren't we all happier that we have somebody who isn't such an easy target? I mean, comedians have had it really easy for the last eight years." Humor often relies on stereotypes and caricature, but comics haven't yet sussed out how to caricature Obama, and so far he has defied any categorical stereotypes - even that of a black man. Magician-comedian Penn Jillette recalled how "There have been jokes about Bush that had nothing to do with him being stupid or wrong - just about his being from Texas, since he has a slight Texas accent. But if you wanted to do black jokes about Obama, none of them are applicable. It's as if he were from Texas, but without the Texas accent." Jillette ventured an idea for putting Obama in the comic cross-hairs: Crack wise about his notion that "government can solve a lot of the problems that were previously left to the individual. I would be talking about the audacity of government giving people that kind of hope." Ferguson proposed poking fun at Obama's "deification" by his more fervent supporters. It's no long-term solution for comedians, but it might buy them some time. Obama's do-no-wrong aura is sure to be short lived, as Americans observe him no longer full tilt on the campaign trail but instead slogging through each presidential workday. And humor springs from increased familiarity with the target of the jokes. In time, that will happen," said Saturday Night Live cast member Fred Armisen, who last February scored the show's plum role impersonating Obama - "in time, not just with me, as we see more and more of him." And as comedians search for Obama's laughs-generating sweet spot, they should fight the urge to go easy on him out of misconceived racial sensitivity, said D.L. Hughley. "If you call yourself a comic, you can't excuse the most powerful man in the world," said Hughley, who is black and host of D.L. Hughley Breaks the News on CNN. "He is the most powerful man on the face of the planet. He is The Man!" And many changes await in an Obama presidency that will serve the cause of humor. Meanwhile, much about the comedy landscape will be the same, as Hughley was reminded as he headed home on election night. "I had watched it in Harlem," he said. "I was elated, smiling from ear to ear, excited that the country I love now decided that they love people like me back, and in a major way. And I flagged a cab. And that cab drove right by me. Then I tried to flag another one, and it drove right by." Recalling the experience, he couldn't help laughing that a black man couldn't get a cab to stop in Obama's America. Until comics find the key to the funny in Obama, they'll have plenty else to make jokes about.