Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Notes on Politics: I Wish Presidential Candidates Would Stop Going on Comedy Shows
It's supposed to humanize them, make the voters see that they're more than starched shirts and talking points.
But what then-Governor Bill Clinton made popular by jamming on the saxophone while wearing shades on Arsenio Hall's show -- and giving a substantive interview afterward -- has gotten a little old. It's no longer fresh and novel. Presidential candidates are already so overexposed in the media that watching them attempt to be humorous on late night comedy shows, when they seem like they're going through the motions, is like watching them check off a must-do on their campaign list like eat rubbery pancakes in a New Hampshire diner or wax poetic about butter at an Iowa fair.
The life has been sucked out of these appearances because the sticky fingerprints of the campaign advisers are all over them. When I watch presidential candidates on these shows nowadays as they attempt to be "regular" people, they smack of inauthenticity because it's blatantly obvious that they're trying too hard to be real. And when you have to try to be real, you aren't.
Take President Obama on Jimmy Fallon the other night and "Slow Jamming" the news. Obama was trying to be wry and down with the humor, but his appearance felt flat. Sure, he used the news about the potential doubling of interest rates on college loans as his jumping off point (a serious issue), but with Fallon (whom I love) rapping about the "Preezie of the United Steezie" and the "Barackness Monster," trivializes the issue and muddles Obama's message. What's next, Mitt Romney "Slow Jamming" the news and talking about the income tax rates? He's kind of got to "Slow Jam" the news now, doesn't he? God help us.
When Romney went on David Letterman (twice!) and did the Top 10 List (twice!), it was like watching a second grader who'd been compelled to read a poem he didn't quite understand on Poetry Day in front of an audience of his classmates' parents: Stiff, artificial and clearly just following orders. "What's up gangstas?" coming from Romney's lips is just ridiculous. We're not voting for comedian-in-chief.
While I like seeing famous people being themselves as much as anyone, the late night shows no longer seem like the right venue for presidential candidates to do that with all those awful, pre-scripted jokes. With a dour economy, high gas prices, escalating violence in Afghanistan and a potentially nuclear Iran, I am quite content to take a pass on a presidential candidate taking a pass on "Slow Jamming" and focus on how to deal with the fact that 65 percent of Americans believe our country is headed in the wrong direction.