Division of Cautionary Tales, Humor Department

A preview of the Correspondents Dinner in Slate last week reminded us of “perhaps the greatest flop in recent memory”—an attempt to be funny, by then-House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt at the 1995 event at the Gridiron Club in Washington:

Gephardt came out wearing a Boy Scout uniform—he was an Eagle Scout—and pledged to “clean up the image of Congress.” The response: silence. “Nobody got it,” remembers Eli Attie, who was then a speechwriter for Gephardt. “Then he was just standing there in a Boy Scout uniform for the rest of the speech … and you’re looking at his pale, overexposed kneecaps. Which was funny on one level, but not the level we wanted.”

The written jokes bombed, too. The next day’s Washington Post described the performance as “rife with wooden, slightly nasty attacks on Republicans” that “raised more eyebrows than smiles.” “Dick’s just not funny—everybody knows that,” Gephardt’s wife was quoted saying. “I enjoyed your remarks, Dick,” Bill Clinton said at the dinner. “But you and I are in the minority.”

In the rest of the article, more cautionary tales abound, if you can bear to read them.

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