The Comedian and the Straight Man
Posted on October 23, 2012
It was the final battle between the comedian and the straight man.
The contrasting styles of the two candidates was on full display last night.
The President was sarcastic. He filled the night with sharp one-liners, cheap-shots, cutting comments.
The Challenger was earnest, optimistic, slightly goofy.
Mr. Obama is a child of sixties; Mr. Romney a child of the fifties.
Obama has a comedian’s sensibility. When he appears on the Daily Show or Late Night with David Letterman, he is a kindred spirit. He sees the world in the same wry way. It is a dark humor.
The President likes to coin cutting phrases about his opponent. Romnesia is a good example. He likes to belittle the challenger. He cuts him down.
The New York Times had a story over the weekend about Romney’s use of archaic language. He is a throwback to an earlier age. He says things like golly, shucks and H-E-double chopsticks. He doesn’t swear and doesn’t like people who do.
You can imagine Obama using some salty language on occasion. His former Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, won the world championship in the use of the F-word.
Obama is better a delivering his one-liners. He is actually pretty funny. But his humor is not the self-deprecating kind. He is the kind of guy who makes fun of his classmates, but can’t stand it when people make fun of him.
Romney can’t tell jokes, at least not in public. He is a straight man. He is funny when he makes fun of himself. I liked the joke at the Al Smith Dinner when he said that when he is invited to these types of events, he is usually the designated driver.
Obama is at heart a cynic. And he is speaking to a generation of cynics, a group that was raised in the Watergate era. They don’t trust big institutions. They tend not to be very religious. They usually don’t trust big government, either, but they have seen where it can be useful for their own purposes. They hate Corporate America.
As a child of the 50’s, Romney is more trusting by nature. He has deep religious faith, and his faith, Mormonism, tends to skew more Donnie Osmond and Andy Williams than the cool jazz of the Obamas. He doesn’t share Obama’s distrust of Big Business. He is not cynical about big government, but he doesn’t think it comports with the America he grew up with.
America laughs at comedians, but it tends to hire straight-men to be President.