Friday, October 17, 2008

Vote for humor

This country has always had its share of laughter at the expense of its politicians. Office holders and incumbents have made great targets for comedians and sharp-tongued critics since before we broke free from the yoke of colonialism. It was important for Revolutionary era writers like Benjamin Franklin to capture the public's attention by deflating self-important figures and corrupt officials with a humorous jab rather than risk arrest and possible incarceration by leveling charges in print. In "Poor Richard's Almanac," he wrote many humorous passages such as "A countryman between two lawyers is like a fish between two cats." Well over a hundred years later it was just as important that Will Rogers, whose daily column was read by millions of adoring fans, was also able to poke fun at Washington politicos in a way that made Americans proud. "I don't belong to any organized political party," he would explain. "I'm a Democrat!" Growing up, I recall the antics of Bob Hope and Johnny Carson as they would take politicians to task in a variety of ways with Hope starting in the golden days of radio and Carson brilliantly slicing up political figures in his daily monologue on The Tonight Show. TV's "Saturday Night Live" with Chevy Chase, the late Phil Hartman, and others made the nation laugh at presidents, senators and mayors in a way that both humbled and endeared them. More recently, the country has enjoyed a comedic break from the heated political battles for the presidency with comedienne Tina Fey's brilliant depiction of Republican vice-presidential candidate Governor Sarah Palin. Fey has taken the opportunity to carry the portrayal from "Saturday Night Live" to her own award-winning "30 Rock." All of this, of course, leads us to consider the comic performances at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation dinner held last night in New York where candidates Obama and McCain took a break from their campaigns and playfully roasted each other to the delight of the crowd (including former First Lady Hillary Clinton) and for the benefit of Catholic charities. It was nice to see both senators using less rhetoric and posturing and taking time out for levity. How wonderful it would be if the race for the White House could be decided by the candidate who leveled the best one-liners or who had the best comic timing. Instead of trusted advisors and spinners, the campaign could be decided by the best comedy writers and humorists. Oh, well, I can dream, can't I?

1 comment:

ellebrown said...

Hi Alan
I liked when Obama said he was accused of fathering two african american children in wedlock. Good column as usual.