Watching SNL last night, I was struck again by just how well some candidates can joke around, and how poorly others perform. We’ve seen McCain, Obama, Biden, and Palin on such venues as SNL, the Daily Show, the Al Smith Dinner 2008, and various news appearances, where each has delivered jokes or responded to them. Here’s my ranking of the four in terms of their comic abilities:
- McCain: John McCain is clearly the best at humor. He’s as comfortable delivering self-effacing lines as jabs at his opponents, and he knows how to deliver a kidding smile, all while his political undertone remains on target.
- Obama: Barack Obama is a little more wooden than McCain, and his political agenda comes across less subtly, but his jabs come across smoothly, without seeming mean, and he’s fully capable of self-effacing humor.
- Biden: Joe Biden often seems a little “cheesy” in his humor, but again, the fact that he can laugh at jokes pointed his way keeps him human.
- Palin: Sarah Palin’s initial SNL appearances were nothing short of wooden. (I was reminded of Nixon’s, “Sock it to me” on Laugh In.) That each skit worked around her, as if she were a prop, added to that sense of humorlessness. To see her on last night’s pre-election special was even more uncomfortable. Her threat as VP to shut down NBC if they didn’t stop poking fun at her didn’t come across as a joke, even with the follow-up line of “Who would notice?” And the concluding, “In Alaska we play for keeps” just sealed the deal. McCain could have delivered these lines hilariously, but Palin was just scary.
Of course, this has little or nothing to do with the election we’re facing today. Just some observations.