BOSTON -- Kerry's fitness for his potential future role of Commander in Chief, the question of how the junior senator from Massachusetts would rate as a stand-up comedian has fallen by the wayside. Or it had until an enterprising Associated Press reporter filed a recent wire story on the vitality and health of John Kerry's funny bone.
"Not only is the sometimes aloof senator from Massachusetts dropping an occasional laugh-line into his stump speech, his audiences are chuckling," the AP reports. "Even while speaking on the very serious topic of Iraq last week at New York University, Kerry made the audience laugh six times at President Bush's expense."
Wow. Six times?! In the course of a typical Kerry speech, what does that translate to? A laugh every half-hour or so? It takes a gifted man to find a treasure trove of comedy in Iraq today.
Once again, the AP is ahead of the pack with this scoop. Kerry has kept his sense of humor hidden well from the prying eyes of the public and the media. His debate performance last week was not funny, especially if George W. Bush's facial expressions are reliable indicators. Personally, after covering dozens of Kerry speeches, I cannot relay anything he said or did that was (intentionally) funny. I suppose, like Dan Rather with those faulty memos, I must be guilty of not asking the right questions.
ACCORDING TO THIS HARD-HITTING report by America's premier news service, Kerry is able to tease out the most "guffaws" when he mocks Bush administration positions "in a tone" that suggests they are "the height of ridiculousness." Take, for example, this funny -- but clearly erudite and prescient -- criticism of Bush's economic policies that the AP reports had folks rolling in the aisles:
"You're going to hear all this talk, 'Oh, we've turned the corner, we're doing better, blah, blah.'" Kerry said. "You know, blah and blah and blah."
"Kerry used an idiom likely to be heard among teenagers in a shopping mall, but not on the Senate floor," the AP gushed.
I'll pause for a moment while readers at home and work catch their breath. I know how presidential candidates using teenage idioms can reduce even the most stoic among us to teary-eyed, giggling lumps on the floor. Ready for more?
Later Kerry had the audience in stitches, according to the AP, when he sarcastically asked of President Bush's contention that invading Iraq was the right thing to do, "How can he be serious?"
"Kerry isn't just using the lingo of the younger generation," the AP reports. "He's thrown in a couple of old-fashioned folksy phrases, too. 'Heavens to Betsy,' he said earlier this month when remarking on Republicans' failure to reinstate the assault weapons ban. 'You bet your boots I know what I'm talking about,' Kerry said when promising to be more fiscally responsible than Bush."
Kerry also cracked up Wisconsin voters by suggesting that "they shouldn't be wary of changing horses midstream when the horse is drowning." What is the deal with this guy and dying animals? Every time his poll numbers fall he's out there with a shotgun blasting at some poor creature or another, as if shooting quail proves his boast that as president he "will hunt down and kill the terrorists, wherever they are." His daughters tell that bizarre story about the time Kerry performed chest compressions on their hamster after it fell in the lake to bring it back to life, but his record seems to suggest something more nefarious was going on. I certainly wouldn't send my gerbils to spend the weekend at a Heinz mansion.
The punch line to the "drowning horse" bit gave a nod to Kerry's five-inch height advantage over Bush.
"May I also suggest that we need a taller horse?" he said. "You can get through deeper waters that way."
My five-foot-one-inch wife has confirmed my suspicion that this was an overtly sizeist remark. Without an immediate apology to my newly formed PAC, "Wee People for Big People Rights," Kerry may lose yet another of the crucial women's vote. Bigotry isn't funny, Senator.
WITH ALL THIS JOKING you might be tempted to think the man who Democrats hope will be our next Stand-Up in Chief might be satisfied, and turn to, say, domestic affairs or foreign policy. But apparently he's been bitten by that old performer's bug, and the AP continues to document every riveting moment.
"He drew guffaws" -- okay, maybe I'm being too critical here, but is it at all possible the AP is engaging in some guffaw inflation? Just how often do people guffaw? And isn't that a terrible word only used in the first place to allow the vanguard of the revolution (e.g. John Kerry, AP reporters) feel superior to ordinary folks who say "laughed hard" instead? Anyway, back to your regularly schedule program:
"He drew guffaws at Temple University last Friday when he criticized Bush for dragging his feet before appearing before the September 11 commission 'but only with Vice President Cheney at his side,'" the AP reports. "And he told late-night host David Letterman last week that Bush only agreed to debate if he could sit on Cheney's lap."
Perhaps this kind of petty sniping from a candidate is better than John Edwards' contention that "if you live in the United States of America and you vote for George Bush, you've lost your mind," but only marginally so. Is this the new paradigm of American politics? If so, I suppose we could add a fourth presidential debate where the candidates just diss one another and tell "yo momma" jokes for points. Eminem's got a new record coming out. Maybe he'd be willing to moderate. After all, Jim Lehrer didn't give either Kerry or Bush a chance to tell a knock-knock joke, or use a limerick. (Perhaps Kerry is opposed to limericks now that he's no longer Irish.)
At any rate, we should all salute the Associated Press for bringing humor issues to the fore. Up until I came across this story yesterday, I thought Fox News' Carl Cameron was the only reporter who appreciated a good ribbing.
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