Sunday, August 31, 2008

John McCain needs a new humor advisor

I'm going to risk jumping into the sea of politics here, but I heard something recently that I think is worth mentioning here. It's an example of John McCain attempting to tell a joke and failing in a way which I think is instructive. It's been in the news a bit because he just picked Sarah Palin to be his running mate, and so people are replaying this quote of his from his 2000 where he ruminates on the purpose of the vice president:

"The vice president has two duties: One is to inquire daily as to the health of the president, and the other -- and the other is to go to the funerals of third world dictators."

(read it on CNN, if you doubt me! it's in there if you scroll down enough)

This joke is terrible. Can you spot the flaws in the humor? I'll give you a chance to think about it...

(cue jeopardy music...)

Did you get it?

The problem is that he is telling the punchline first. Everyone knows that Vice Presidents go to funerals, the joke is that they want the president to die so they can become president. So it totally ruins the rhythm of the thing to have the funny answer first and the real answer later.

Also, he would be much better off if his list of duties had three, not two, items. I'm not going to get into why I generally am a strong believer in the rule of three, but I am, and given that McCain left off his list the one actual, Constitutional duty of the Vice President I think it is only logical to lengthen the list. So here is how he should say it from now on:

"There are only three things the Vice President needs to do. One is break ties in the Senate. The other is to attend state funerals. And the last is to inquire daily as to the health and well being of the president."

There should be a sly pause before the last item on the list, and it should be said with utter sincerity and concern. It may still be unfunny, but it'll be a lot better.

In any case, it's better than Sarah Palin's answer as to what the Vice President does:

(and if you are wondering, no, I did not just learn how to embed videos. I just only recently thought to actually do it.)

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