Saturday, March 29, 2008

Politics Is Easy - Comedy Is Hard

If it's an election year, there will be... JOKES. Bad jokes. Really bad jokes. And Bill Friday leaves no headstone unturned in his pursuit of a political punch-line.

In a 2004 interview, Mark Katz, official joke writer for the Clinton White House, was asked what the best one-liner he ever wrote that wasn't used was.

"Al Gore rejected this joke in 2000. 'It's true I got C's and D's my sophomore year at Harvard but in my own defense, that was also the year I invented the bong'."

If only candidate Gore had used that joke, maybe his political career wouldn't have reached a tipping point later that year in Florida.

Just last month another candidate, Republican John McCain, proved that comedy should be left to the professionals when he told this "joke" at the expense of former Texas Senator Phil Gramm and current South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham.

"After this meeting, if you'd like to talk to [the] senator, either senator Graham, we will provide translators for any of you that need to, find them hard to understand. I find them hard to... anyway."


In America 2008, the idea that to become President you just have to be lucky enough to be born black, marry a future President, or spend five-and-a-half years as a prisoner of war, is more than just a bad joke. Just as long as you hit the right punch line.

Who can forget Hillary Clinton's attempt at comedy.

"[Mahatma Gandhi] ran a gas station down in St. Louis."

(Confused Crickets).

The funny thing with politicians doing stand-up is politicians continuing to do stand-up. In a business where the risk/reward index dictates every word that comes out of a candidate's mouth, why do seemingly intelligent, college educated adults continue to try to gain popularity as if they were guest MCing open mic night at a dive bar in Hermosa Beach?

Even Barack Obama tells a joke. Once.

"Well, I think Bill Clinton did have an enormous affinity with the African-American community, and still does. . . . I would have to, you know, investigate more of Bill's dancing abilities, you know, and some of this other stuff before I accurately judge whether he was in fact a brother."

(Dead Crickets).

It's official. Everyone's a comedian.

Hey, if it's an election year, let's leave the jokes to the professionals - the professional magicians, that is. Former "Dancing with the Stars" contestant and sometime illusionist Penn Gillette told one, almost accidentally, to a crowd during a recent performance, and retells it on YouTube. Maybe now that his dancing career appears to have ended, he can pick up where Mark Katz left off.

Copyright © 2008 Bill Friday