Last year on these pages I praised President Barack Obama’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner speech as clever, topical and funny. This year, not so much.
The Washington Hilton ballroom talk last night began with a supposedly open mike in the president’s bathroom. There, we hear Obama asking an aide why he’s opening for Jimmy Kimmel when he’s the one holding “the nuclear codes;” what Kim Kardashian is famous for; whether he could use a little “Just for Men” on his graying hair; how he’ll speak without a teleprompter, and that he could “really use a cigarette” right now. This setup ends with a loud toilet flush before Obama enters the stage for his “real” remarks. Eeewww!
Maybe it’s just me, as they say, but I find it more than a little crude that the President of the United States would use a loud toilet flush to set the stage for anything! And think it funny.
His remarks continued on the uncouth side when he contrasted four years ago to today, saying “Four years ago, I was locked in a brutal primary battle for the White House with Hillary Clinton. Today, she can’t stop drunk-texting me from Cartegena.” Really?
Obama moves from bathroom humor to dog jokes in light of recent “accusations” the president ate dog meat as a child growing up in Indonesia. He begins with this: “Even Sarah Palin is getting back into the game, guest hosting on The Today Show—which reminds me of an old saying: What’s the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? A pit bull is delicious. (pause) A little soy sauce.” Ugh.
He continues, “Of course, I know everybody is predicting a nasty election, and thankfully, we’ve all agreed that families are off limits. Dogs, however, are apparently fair game.” To illustrate, up pops a video showing the differences between Obama’s treatment of his dog and Romney’s of his. It ends with a view of Romney as president standing on the steps of Air Force One, his dog carrier strapped to the roof of the plane. Please, control your laughter.
Obama ends the segment this way, “That’s pretty rough but I can take it because my stepfather always told me, it’s a boy-eat-dog world out there.” I’ll give him that one.
Continuing in the bad taste department, though, he sought to top his dog jokes with this: “In my first term, we repealed the policy known as ‘don’t ask, don’t tell;’ in my second term, we will replace it with a policy known as, ‘it’s raining men.’” Yuk-yuk? Or just plain yuk?
Not everything was cringe-worthy. I laughed when Obama showed pix of himself as he was four years ago—cheery with dark hair; today, solemn with more gray hair and, finally, “This is what I’ll look like in four more years”—a picture of a haggard Morgan Freeman. I also thought this was funny, “Take Mitt Romney—he and I actually have a lot in common. We both think of our wives as our better halves, and polls show, to an alarmingly insulting extent, the American people agree. We also both have degrees from Harvard; I have one, he has two. What a snob.”
But listening to the inappropriateness and un-funniness of many of Obama’s “jokes,” put me in mind of what we all know so well about writing for executives—no off-color jokes, no ethnic/racial jokes, no jokes that might be offensive. I suppose when you’re president of the United States you can ignore the rules, but I think last night’s remarks suggest you do so at your own peril.
I would suggest that like President Obama’s focus and messages of late, his humor may also be out of sync with that of many regular Americans.