In the midst of re-creating the controversial New Yorker cover illustration of Barack and Michelle Obama for the cover photo that graces this week's print edition of Entertainment Weekly, Jon Stewart stops briefly to pose a taste question. As he stands by the catering table in ''secret Muslim'' garb, he ponders, ''Would it be weird to be dressed like this and have a bagel, salmon, and a schmear?'' Pseudo-blowhard Stephen Colbert has his own worries. Striking his best Michelle-as-Black-Panther pose, he glances at the original cartoon and realizes that he's ''hippier'' than the potential First Lady. Gesturing at his own waist, he moans, ''I could drop a baby like a peasant.''
Other than that, though, their worries are few. Both of their Comedy Central shows just received an Emmy (The Daily Show won best Variety, Music, or Comedy Series, while The Colbert Report took home a best writing trophy), and they have five more weeks of an election battle starring three men and an Alaskan moose-skinner that has given the satirists more fodder than an infinite number of Dick Cheneys shooting an infinite number of friends in the face. We sat down with the comedians for a provocative talk about the political landscape, the way they (and other, more traditional media outlets) cover it, and whether or not we'll ever see the alleged ''change'' we've been promised by every candidate. ''Do you mean change we need, or change we can believe in?'' asks Stewart. ''Any change is as good as a vacation at this point,'' says Colbert, who set his conservative TV pundit character aside for the chat. ''I don't know if you've paid much attention to the past eight years, but it has been a s---burger supreme. If somebody gives me an empty burger, it's better than eating s---.''
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Forget the two presidential candidates: The most prominent person in this election right now is Sarah Palin. With the attention she's getting, you'd think she was running for president.
JON STEWART: Everyone likes new and shiny. We're bored. What's great about that is [Democratic VP candidate Joe] Biden is an absolutely eccentric character. That's how powerful Palin's story is it has cast the first African-American presidential nominee, the oldest [non-incumbent] presidential nominee, and a really wild cork vice presidential candidate completely out of the picture. The press is 6-year-olds playing soccer; nobody has a position, it's just ''Where's the ball? Where's the ball? Sarah Palin has the ball!'' [Mimes a mob running after her.] Because they can only cover one thing.
Why do you think some people embraced her as a folk hero?
STEWART: I keep hearing that she's ''like us.'' There's this idea that people who hunt and have ''good'' values are somehow this mythological American; I don't know who ''this'' person is, I've never met them. She is no more typical ''us'' than I am, than Obama is, than McCain is, than Mr. T is. If there is something quintessentially or authentically American about her, I sort of feel like, you know what? You ''good values people'' have had the country for eight years, and done an unbelievably s---ty job. Let's find some bad values people and give them a shot, maybe they'll have a better take on it.
NEXT PAGE: ''Within the American political system now, authenticity and apparently mediocrity are the manna that the populace feeds upon. To set somebody up as if they're above us, and elitist...my God, you couldn't do anything worse.''