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No Laughing Matter

One belief I've held for a long time is that an essential quality about being elected president -- and serving successfully as president -- is a sense of humor. I wrote about that extensively in 2004 -- I believe that a person's sense of humor is a key to their personality, and reflects how they see the world and cope with it. In that last election, we were given the choice between George W. Bush's self-effacing jabs at himself versus John "I have great hair" Kerry.

Well, as has almost always been the case, the candidate who was perceived as being generally more humorous won in 2004. The American people tend to put more trust and faith in a president who can laugh at himself, who can tell a joke, who can express himself in a genial and good-natured way. The only times that rule didn't apply was when both candidates came across as overly humorous -- 1964 through 1976 was a particularly grim era, and I don't think it's any coincidence that Presidents Johnson, Nixon, and Carter are consistently ranked among our worst presidents.

So, on that standard, how do the two presumptive nominees stand up?

John McCain has no problems laughing, and laughing at himself. He's appeared on Saturday Night Live a couple of times, poking fun at himself. Hell, I still laugh over his "McCain Sings Streisand" -- for ME to call someone a bad singer is a hell of a thing. And last week, he showed up on Conan O'Brien and played along with the "John McCain is really, really old" theme, even pretending to fall asleep on the couch.

On the other hand, we have Barack Obama. What does he find funny?

Beats the hell out of me.

I can't recall ever laughing with Senator Obama. Oh, sure, we've all laughed AT him, but never WITH him.

And it's not like he hasn't had opportunities. He also did Saturday Night Live, where he showed up at a costume party -- as himself. But for the vast majority of his appearances, he's come across as earnest and stiff and formal and serious. I might have heard him chuckle once or twice, but it's always come across as a deflection, a stall, a verbal tic to buy himself time to compose just the right answer.

Even Hillary Clinton came across as funnier than Obama. When she showed up at the Daily Show, they set it up with Stewart having some technical problems. Hillary walked on stage and immediately started fixing everything in sight, barking out orders like a tech guru and instantly putting everything shipshape. I couldn't help but laugh.

So, I find myself wondering: just what does Barack Obama find funny? What makes him laugh? What does he say or do when he wants other people to laugh?

On the surface, it's an incredibly shallow question. It shouldn't be the sole determining factor in choosing our next president. But as I said, I think it speaks volumes about the essential character of a person. It shows us a little of how their mind works, of how they think and feel, of their outlook on life in general.

And that, I believe, is essential to making an informed decision when we cast our ballots next November.


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Comments (20)

He is unable TO joke becaus... (Below threshold)

He is unable TO joke because his candidacy IS a joke. I can't believe people are falling for this guys schtick. ww

He's too seriouly introspec... (Below threshold)

He's too seriouly introspective to find anything funny about himself. He's also worried because he's bright enough to have figured out he's shallow and that's no laughing matter.

What does he say or d... (Below threshold)

What does he say or do when he wants other people to laugh?

He tells them to laugh.

Political Correctness and M... (Below threshold)

Political Correctness and Moral Equivalence remove the option for almost all forms of humor for Obama since most humor disparages someone somewhere.

Of course, rednecks clinging to their bibles and guns are acceptable targets for the occassional 'hoot' for the proper audience, which next time won't include anyone with a tape recorder.

*waiting for the Trolls to ... (Below threshold)

*waiting for the Trolls to swing into the "But Bush is a clown" song and dance*

Obama's interview with Acce... (Below threshold)
Boyd Author Profile Page:

Obama's interview with Access Hollywood portrayed him as an "everyman" to a great extent. Sitting there with his wife and daughters (and putting aside the political nature of why anyone would be interested in him), he looked like a fairly normal guy, with his wife poking a few (several) jabs his way. He apparently is hard on his shoes and leaves clothes hanging on various doors around the bedroom. Even his daughters got in on that act to some extent.

I don't recall anything specifically humorous that he said in the interview (and since AH splits up interviews into many disconnected segments, it's hard to keep continuity straight), but that was a rare example of BO being presented in a fairly normal, regular-guy light.

Ask most people what they v... (Below threshold)

Ask most people what they value in a potential mate (I know we aren't marrying him, but the President is an influential figure) and a sense of humor comes up near the top every time. Higher at times than income, looks, and many other attributes. Sense of humor is, as JT says an important measure of character.
After having his children and wife make light of some of his idiosyncrasies on the public stage, we now learn the children will not be seen again for campaign purposes (which I believe should have been the case from the beginning) and the wife has announced that she will be spending more time at home.

On the other hand... KERRY ... (Below threshold)

On the other hand... KERRY made me laugh.. A LOT!..

No body has noticed that he... (Below threshold)

No body has noticed that he's NOT FREAKEN HUMAN?

He's Vulcan

"So, I find myself wonderin... (Below threshold)

"So, I find myself wondering: just what does Barack Obama find funny?"

I bet he got a good laugh at this McCain zinger!:

"A woman is taken to the ER after being attacked on the street by a gorilla, beaten senseless, raped repeatedly and left to die. When she finally regains consciousness and tries to speak, her doctor leans over to hear her sigh contently and to feebly ask, "Where is that marvelous ape?"


Or how about this one?

""Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno."

(he apologized profusely for that one)

I suppose that for someone who thinks calling Ted Kennedy a "wetback" is hilarious, this kind of stuff is on the level.

Spite may well be your natu... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

Spite may well be your natural condition, jp2, but it does not help you produce a compelling argument.

If JP2 is this wierd, imagi... (Below threshold)

If JP2 is this wierd, imagine what JP1 is like!

Let's take a look at McCain... (Below threshold)

Let's take a look at McCains greatest hits.

What a card! He's a regular Bob Dole! I love the one about Chelsea Clinton. Especially the fact that she was 18 at the time. Hey, comedy is not pretty. And neither is Chelsea! Oh, snap!

And thanks DJ, for adding absolutely nothing to the conversation.

So Max and JP1 & 2 are sayi... (Below threshold)

So Max and JP1 & 2 are saying Osama has humor?

I forgot about the "Bomb, b... (Below threshold)

I forgot about the "Bomb, bomb Iran" joke. Nothing funnier than bombings! Except maybe when Bush joked about possibly finding WMDs in the oval office. (You know, the WMDs he sent thousands to die for)

Here's some Obama humor for you:


Pretty chill.

That's cute Ran56. Does you... (Below threshold)

That's cute Ran56. Does your mommy know you're using the computer? Go ask her to teach you the difference between the letter b and the letter s.

Poor little bugger doesn't have two brain cells to rub together.

Yeah, jp2, that WMD joke was hil-freakin'-larious. I wonder if they have the same joke writer or if they come up with this stuff on their own.

Poor little bugger doesn't ... (Below threshold)

Poor little bugger doesn't have two brain cells to rub together.... Do too, you and JP2..*S*

That rape joke was t... (Below threshold)

That rape joke was totally off the hook, not just because the woman was raped, but because she was beaten senseless, raped repeatedly, and left to die. And the punchline?: she loved it!!! LOLOLOLOLOLOL

(The point: better to present oneself as a somewhat stiff dignified statesman, than as a sexist asshole who tells the most offensive sort of rape joke.)

There's a quote I read once... (Below threshold)

There's a quote I read once in college. I believe it was Adlai Stevenson who said (and I'm paraphrasing), "First they pick a president, then for four years they pick on him."

Should Obama be elected, he's in for a rude surprise. If he thinks the American people are gonna be rough on him, just wait until he does something Europe doesn't like.

If being able to laugh at y... (Below threshold)

If being able to laugh at yourself indicates the ability to admit you're occasionally wrong then I think it's hugely important and Obama doesn't get it. I'm not talking about laughing at others but self deprecation to show respect for other people. Obama's recent comment that nobody knows what would have happened if, rather than the surge, he had asked the Iraqis to play nice is ludicrous. He backed himself into a corner because of his pride.






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