My nine-year-old stood next to me at the post office today. She had one monkey-head eraser on each pencil she was holding. She was balancing a joke book on her chest. She pushed it forward to quickly read the joke and then tell it to me, or a version of it. “One morning I photographed an elephant in my pajamas,” one monkey said. “An elephant?!” Said the other monkey. “Yeah. How he got into my pajamas I’ll never know.” It was a version of the famous Groucho Marx joke delivered pretty well for a kid. That’s when it hit me. Politicians now have to add being funny to the long list of things they already have to be. We won’t even give them the standard allowance, “That’s pretty funny for a politician.” They have to be funny funny.
This is almost solely to do with Jon Stewart being the ultimate test for the savvy voter. In the past, candidates didn’t have to be smart and funny. They could get away with being goofy and dumb while facing off such people as Jay Leno, David Letterman, or even Regis and Kelly. But Mr. Stewart raises the game several hard-earned notches. And unfortunately, everyone wants to go on his show. Or do they?
The Daily Show is a Democrat’s best shot at wooing his/her core group of voters. If you do well face-to-face with Stewart, it will spread like wildfire to the blogs where it will then trickle down to all of the activist Liberals out there who are trying so hard to oust the current regime. It isn’t enough to have a squeaky clean record, a robust marriage, an obvious attraction to the opposite sex, a camera-friendly face, and a full head of hair – now a hearty sense of humor is probably the single most important trait a frontrunner must possess.
Hey, don’t shoot the messenger. I don’t know how we ended up, en masse, to be such a shallow, superficial people. If we were all coming from a more level playing field, maybe we could agree on what matters most in a president. As it is, there are rich ones, poor ones, young ones, old ones – and that’s not even getting into the controversial groupings.
The Daily Show has become the must-stop stopping place of all of the candidates; even those who haven’t an ice cube’s chance in hell are going on if Jon Stewart will have them. Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have their senses of humor well intact. John Edwards should have a sense of humor, but he seems too upset by the state of things to pull it out of his hat when need be. Doesn’t he know this is one big audition? One big focus group to Americans who are used to being given exactly the kind of character they want? Someone cute and funny!
So far this year, The Daily Show has hosted Barack Obama, Joe Biden, John McCain (he’s still running, isn’t he?), Bill Richardson, and Al Gore (wait, he isn’t running). Expect more candidates to be coming out of the woodwork. Noticeably missing from the party are all the president’s men. Perhaps the daily pummeling they get on the show is enough to keep them away.
The problem with appearing on The Daily Show for many of the dolts in politics is that Stewart tends to speak rather quickly, and if you can’t keep up you’re just going to look confused. In fact, even real comedians have gone on his show and ended up looking confused. Do they teach a course on How to Be Funny in Front of Millions of People at colleges these days? No wonder actors make such a seamless leap to politics now; they know how to woo a crowd. It’s like Groucho Marx once opined, “Those are my principles. If you don’t like them I have others.”