The Wit and Wisdom of Barack Obama

Despite the temptation of today's date, I'm not going to try to be funny. I'm not particularly good at it and prefer to lean back and enjoy the news parodies at sites like Iowahawk and the Onion. But even these adepts are being outshined by supposedly serious journalists and politicians who pretend to be oblivious to their own humor.

For sheer goofiness, it's hard to top this recent gem from the Philadelphia Enquirer:

He merits comparison with Mother Teresa and Gandhi. But Charlie Sheen's unblemished public image may be in danger.

Since the author did not reply to my query for clarification, and since no rational human being could say it seriously, I assume that this jaw-dropper was meant to be an Onion-style spoof. In the same vein, we should charitably assume that Chris Matthew's famous "I felt this thrill going up my leg" was intended as a satire on Obama's hysterical fans and that Matthews was simply too subtle (and prudent) to own up to it.

But journalistic humorists cannot compete with politicians, who, like comedians, must be crowd pleasers. Although Nancy Pelosi may have been guilty of a few linguistic and theological vagaries, we must assume that the innate wisdom of the American voting public would not allow a lunatic or idiot to attain high public office. Therefore, a line like "we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it" cannot be the raving of a manic and  must have been a deliberate and puckish Irish bull. All these years, that sly-puss Nancy has been pulling our leg!

Similarly, we may have underestimated Joe Biden. When he said "Chuck, stand up, let the people see you," to wheelchair-ridden State Senator Chuck Graham, it was probably an attempt at the shock-and-insult humor of Don Rickles. But seeing that it flopped with his audience, he skillfully pretended that it was an accidental gaffe.

The star humorists in DC have often been presidents. Lincoln's use of back-country jokes, to the point of alienating associates and exposing himself to public ridicule, was evidently his way of relieving stress. Coolidge's laconic half-liners were the deliberate affectation of a highly articulate man. (He once explained, "I think the American public wants a solemn ass as a President, and I think I'll go along with them.") Reagan's humor, even in critical moments, was always in character. "Honey, I forgot to duck" could have been a line from one of his movies.

It is therefore appropriate that our present POTUS should try his hand at stand-up comedy. As has been noted elsewhere, he does have a natural talent for it. However, as is common for neophyte comics, he initially had difficulty finding his true style and tended to imitate the styles of others. The wonderful wild-eyed mania in his 2008 address to House members -- "This is the moment ... that the world is waiting for ... I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions" -- or his rant about "the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal" reminds one of Jim Carrey, while his bizarrely casual reference to the catastrophe in Japan -- in the middle of a discourse on basketball -- is reminiscent of early Bob Newhart routines. And his portrayal  of an embarrassed ignoramus, commenting on classical music in inane non sequiturs, harks back to Robert Benchley.

Sometimes his efforts fall flat. His stammering country-bumpkin routines savor of old-time dialect comedy and should be discontinued. On the other hand, his 2008 I-can-see dead-people gem:

On this Memorial Day, as our nation honors its unbroken line of fallen heroes -- and I see many of them in the audience here today -- our sense of patriotism is particularly strong...

was a triumph of mindless pomposity and showed that he'd finally hit his stride. (Note the delightful inanity of "unbroken line.")

Much of his more recent material is based on parodying bureaucratic circumlocution, such as the bland euphemisms in his Al-Arabiya interview:

Now, the Iranian people are a great people, and Persian civilization is a great civilization [but] Iran has acted in ways that's not conducive to peace and prosperity in the region: their threats against Israel; their pursuit of a nuclear weapon which could potentially set off an arms race in the region that would make everybody less safe; their support of terrorist organizations in the past -- none of these things have been helpful.

Perhaps the test of a distinctive comic style is the ability of others to imitate it. In this regard, consider Iowahawk's version of an Obama speech to a crowd of "imaginary persons" -- the thousands of nonexistent people on the Democratic voters' rolls in all of "our 57 states":

I want to thank everyone in the Imaginary community for turning out for this great cause,... For too long, the Census Bureau has discriminated against people on the basis of their existential status, or perceived lack of appearance. That must stop. I promise you that under my administration, Imaginary-Americans everywhere will enjoy the same rights that they do in my home town of Chicago.

It sounds like the real Obama, which shows that Obama has finally developed his own characteristic style.

Unfortunately, several of his best efforts have unaccountably disappeared from their original websites and, if not retrieved and collected, may be forgotten by the public. Therefore, in an effort to help our POTUS achieve his true métier and graduate next year to a more appropriate and better paying job*, I propose that someone should publish a collection of The Wit and Wisdom of Barack Obama. To start the ball rolling, I urge American Thinker readers to compile a public database of Obama's juiciest comic quotes by submitting them (with links or references, please) as comments to this article. If such a book is published by next spring, it might remind the public of our POTUS's comic gifts and perhaps even have an effect on the election. And today is certainly an appropriate date for launching such an effort.

* For example, he'd be a perfect replacement for the departing Steve Carell in "The Office."