Mike Kueber's Blog

October 19, 2012

The Al Smith Dinner – 2012

Filed under: People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 4:46 am
Tags: , ,

As I prepared to listen to Obama and Romney at tonight’s Al Smith Dinner, my major concern was whether Romney could tell a joke.  He seems so serious, and I couldn’t recall him effectively telling jokes. 

Then I listened to his speech and was shocked by how good he was.  The material was perfect – some self-deprecating and some hilarious needles pointed toward the president.  Obama was good, too, with a heavier does of self-deprecating jokes, but his jokes weren’t as funny and he didn’t seem as into them.  Sort of like Debate #1.

Then came the post-game analysis from the pundits.  According to Sean Hannity’s conservative and liberal guests, Mitt Romney outperformed Barack Obama at this year’s Al Smith Dinner – better jokes, better delivery.  But Laurence O’Donnell’s liberal guests were upset because they believed Romney did too little self-deprecating and too much needling of Obama.  In fact, MSNBC counted eight Romney zingers against Obama while Obama lobbed only three toward Romney.

I don’t trust MSNBC, so I decided to verify and found the following:

  • During Romney’ 10-minute speech, he delivered five self-deprecating jokes and nine zingers toward Obama, plus two toward Biden and three toward the press.
  • During Obama’s 9-minute speech, he delivered nine self-deprecating jokes (five of them about Debate #1) and three zingers toward Romney, plus one toward Paul Ryan and another toward Clint Eastwood.

Thus, MSNBC’s numbers were pretty accurate, and it is fair to say that Romney’s speech was mostly zingers while Obama’s was mostly self-deprecating, although he did manage a little bragging, too – 7.8% unemployment and killing Osama. 

Ultimately, I can understand why liberals believe that Romney took unfair advantage of the situation.  If the numbers were reversed, I would probably feel the same way.  If I had some spare time, I would check the You Tube archives to see whether the tradition is for more self-deprecating humor vs. zingers toward the opponent. 

But the bottom line is that Romney proved he can deliver a monologue every bit as funny as Letterman or Leno. 

p.s., Rachel Maddow pointed out that there has been only one known case where a candidate’s self-deprecating joke was held against him.  In 2004, George W. Bush joked about hanging around with rich people, and John Kerry included a clip of the joke in a campaign ad.  That is shocking.

p.s.s., one pundit noted that several of the jokes tonight come from the candidates’ stump speeches.

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