Politicians: We’re Funny, Too! (Sort Of)

When Obama decided to “slow jam” the news he knew he was not going to be able to get away with pulling this campaign stunt without backlash from his critics. He took a risk by appearing on a late-night talk show, aware that his opponents would not shy away from the fight.

It is easy to criticize the President for making an appearance on television when his time could be spent doing what his constituents would generally view as being productive. It is his potentially final term as, how Jimmy Fallon likes to call him the “Preezy of the United Steezy.” As demonstrated by unprecedented comedic relief at the White House correspondent’s dinner, he had not run out of material from his appearance on Fallon. His clever and well-crafted puns and one-liners at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner were not necessarily well-received by all to say the least, whether it was jabbing at Romney’s snobbery for having two Harvard degrees or being criticized for blaming “too many problems on [my] predecessor,” while still reminding his audience to “not forget that this practice was initiated by George W. Bush.”

The White Correspondents’ Dinner provided the perfect environment for both the anticipated controversy that followed his appearance on Fallon and evidently a grand opportunity to poke fun at what has been headlining the political news sphere.

However, Obama’s sense of humor did not stop him from becoming the butt of the jokes of comedians and critics alike, which is where Kimmel starts to shake things up so to speak. Kimmel is renowned for his boldness and quick wit directed at issues of the day and anything else that fall under the realm of pop culture. Therefore, when Obama stepped out of his comfort zone to jeer at his opponents and critics, he walked right into a duel of wits with no other than Jimmy Kimmel who warned Obama to “cover [your] ears if that’s physically possible.”

Despite Kimmel’s jokes at Obama’s expense ranging from the “hilarity” of when his campaign slogan rallied people for a better tomorrow to how Obama can only be described in one term, he did not leave Obama’s opponents unscathed from being amusingly satirized. Kimmel went on to chide at Newt Gingrich and his wife’s attendance at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner must have meant that the “check cleared.”    Furthermore, he was not afraid to address Rick Santorum’s dropping out of the Presidential campaign, Kimmel by blatantly stating that it simply was not “Rick’s year … Rick’s year was 1954. It’s one thing to oppose gay marriage. It’s another thing to do it in a sweater vest.”

Nevertheless, Obama did not use these punch lines in vain; he was well aware that not everyone would approve of his witty banter. He was mindful that he was being criticized for not changing as much as he promised with his 2008 campaign and cracked a joke at Congress for “taking a break form not passing any laws.”

I think Obama has decided that although he may lose face from being funnier than formalities would normally allow, in return he gains a laugh and potentially a vote from an American who has a sense of humor.

While the cynical, including Kimmel will characterize the White House Correspondents’ Dinner to be nothing but a testimony to “everything that is wrong with America,” I think that there is a silver lining to the media coverage of this overly hyped event: it’s nice to know that the man in the oval office is still human.

There is a statistic that shows that the candidate who wins the election is usually the one that Americans would vote that they would want to share a beer with. I cannot say that I would mind sharing a cold one with Obama after the sidesplitting spectacle at this year’s White House Correspondents’ dinner.


Tracy Ratledge is a first-year literary journalism major. She can be reached at tratledg@uci.edu.