Politico: You Know, This Obama Guy Has A Tough Time Making Fun Of Himself
SO, apparently, it’s not just late night and other comedians that have trouble goofing on Obama: Obama himself has an issue
President Barack Obama is very smart (as he could tell you). He is also very funny (and the first to laugh at his own jokes). He is a master of comic timing, has an appealing sense of the absurdities of his chosen profession and an unerring ear for the withering one-liner.
As long as the subject is someone else.
When it comes to the sine qua non of political humor – devastating self-deprecation – Obama is less skilled or at least less willing to play an A game, as this weekend’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner is once again likely to show.
Sure, Obama makes fun of himself: for his big ears, his graying hair, his sagging approval ratings, even his bad bowling (though he stepped on a joke about the last subject with Jay Leno in 2009 by adding an ill-considered ad lib about his Special Olympics-level skill, for which he was forced to apologize). And the president has proved himself a good sport, enduring Zach Galifianakis’ absurdist insults on “Between Two Ferns,” where he went to promote his health care plan.
But Obama is much more likely to reserve his sharpest flashes of wit for his adversaries, antagonists and even (in a kind of throwback Henny Youngmanesque style) for the wife he invariably portrays as hectoring.
Politico also notes that the delivery is somewhat disembodies, like a guy observing his own performance. And the notion of really making fun of others, but not himself, is meshed throughout the article
But those jokes are in fact about others – Obama’s most fervent, starry-eyed supporters, or the virulent “birthers” who questioned his American citizenship – and not really about himself. The most lethal example of Obama’s ripostes to such critics came at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2011, with his extended riff on Donald Trump, who was in the room and decidedly not amused.
George Bush and John Kerry really loosened up at the dinner, and made fun of themselves quite a bit. Bush’s 2007 was hilarious.
The essential ingredient of such exercises, Parvin said, “is to be good-natured and likable.”
“That is really the great benefit of these dinners, for the audience, whether in the room or watching at home, is to see a different side of you, where you let your hair down a bit more, and you can say some things with humor that you couldn’t say seriously. You can say to people, ‘I can make fun of these things, so you don’t need to worry about it, because I have the perspective that even I can make fun of it.’ So it allows you to express a certain insight that you can’t say seriously.”
I don’t want to over-sell this meme, Obama just isn’t that warm, and the humor is quite often over-barbed. Here are a few of Obama’s top 10 lines per Politico’s Katie Gluek
- “These days, House Republicans are actually giving John Boehner a harder time than they’re giving me, which means orange really is the new black.” (not bad)
- On 2016: “Let’s face it, Fox…it’ll be harder to convince the American people that Hillary was born in Kenya.” (Dude, that is like 2 years ago)
- On his last year: “At one point, things got so bad, the 47 percent called Mitt Romney to apologize.” (an unneeded shot at Romney)
- “I did notice, [daughter] Sasha needed a speaker at Career Day. She invited Bill Clinton. I was a little hurt by that.” (that was a good line)
- “I haven’t seen somebody pull a 180 that fast [as an Olympic snowboarder] since Rand Paul dis-invited that Nevada rancher [Cliven Bundy] from this dinner.” (eh)
- “Gridlock [in D.C.] has gotten so bad, you’ve got to wonder, what did we do to piss off [Gov.] Chris Christie so bad?” (eh)
- On his recent trip to Malaysia: “The lengths we have to go to get CNN coverage these days [because of the network’s heavy coverage of missing flight MH370]. I think they’re still searching for their table.” (eh)
- “If you want to get paid while not working you should have to run for Congress just like everyone else.” (more campaigning)
- “MSNBC’s here, they’re a little overwhelmed. They’ve never seen an audience this big before.” (We may not care for MSNBC, but that was perhaps a shot a bit too far. It was really more nasty than good natured)
- On Healthcare.gov: “In 2008, my slogan was ‘Yes, we can.’ In 2013 my slogan was ‘control-alt-delete.’” (eh)
But, then, Obama has never really been too into being humble or self-deprecating. Nor about being anything but hardcore on his enemies, or, as other presidents would term them, opponents.