Saturday, October 18, 2008

Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner

John McCain and Barack Obama roasted themselves and each other at the memorial dinner, and it was John McCain who went first:

Barack Obama was pretty funny as well:

I'm incredibly partisan; but I have to admit that although I think Barack Obama had the best line of the night, that being "And I got my middle name from somebody who obviously didn't think I'd ever run for president", I thought John McCain's speech hit many more funny moments. He had an easier time of it; he could be self-deprecating in a way it would be difficult for Barack Obama to be, because McCain's campaign has eff'd up so often in the past weeks and months. The reason why John McCain's speech worked better was because at times, I really was frightened he was going to do something crazy instead of funny. Like when he started off talking about this being "as good a place as any to make a major announcement"; when he switched it up to the ridiculous, it just further highlighted how potentially true that moment could have been, and how good it is that - even if only for pretend - McCain acknowledges it. I also found his roasts of Bill and Hillary Clinton hilarious. I'm a fan of both of the Clintons, but the best humor comes with a hint of truth and I don't think anyone can deny that it bothered Bill greatly that Hillary lost. It probably bothered Hillary greatly as well, but she seemed to move on more quickly. McCain's humor - "strict constructionists", driving away "anti-Clinton conservatives" - did well there. It had an edge to it without actually crossing the line into meanness. So too did his Keith Olbermann comments. I like Keith. Not as much as some, but I find him to be a fun guy to watch and he's got some of the best suit and tie combinations I've ever seen. But I laughed hysterically when McCain mentioned Keith Olbermann being in a padded room if McCain managed to pull this off, with his "Mission Accomplished" banner. Rachel Maddow was less than pleased with McCain's roast of Olbermann, but I loved the amount of issues crisscrossing that one section. Obviously, McCain is not a fan of Olbermann - a condition possibly exacerbated because Olbermann stepped in when McCain blew off Letterman, and being on hand to step in again in the even of a McCain no show - and Olbermann is not a fan of McCain's. And honestly, I don't think Keith Olbermann can last four more years of a Republican White House without going (more) bonkers. The Mission Accomplished banner in preparation for Obama's win was a sweet burn, even for this liberal, because it played off of Olbermann's final words every night of his broadcast (no, not his Edward R. Murrow riff but the count of how many days it has been since we declared "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq). Rachel Maddow may have felt McCain crossed the line, but I thought he was merely dancing around it.

Obama didn't have as easy a time of it. Sure, he could have roasted on John McCain more; but McCain did a pretty thorough job of that himself. Obama also seems less likely to go for caustic humor than John McCain. His speech was at times self-deprecating; but it was never incendiary. He gently poked at Sarah Palin with the "Russian Tea Room". But he never got so far into jokes that he couldn't get out of them. McCain delved into the very depth of the issues he was facing and made them funny. But Obama is the one riding high; there is less about him to riff off of; and to make it about something else, to make it about actual issues and complaints he had about the campaign, would have had the potential to backfire. One thing I did like about Obama was his tendency to look around after telling a joke, with a "That was pretty good, right" enjoyment. He laughed at his own jokes, and it was a good thing to see. I also think that was something McCain had going for him that Obama did not. McCain had Obama as an audience, and Obama laughed hard. At times, I'm sure I laughed because Obama (or Hillary Clinton, during the Bill segment of McCain's roast) was laughing, with that great smile of his. Obama had McCain had his primary audience. And although McCain found a few things funny, overall, the guy didn't seem to be as prone to rapturous guffaws as Obama was. Overall, an enjoyable twenty or so minutes spent watching these two attempt to rack up the yucks.

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