Humor in Politics

Posted: May 11, 2009 in Humor
Tags: , , ,

Politics is serious business, especially if you are in power. You get serious politicians all the time. What’s more, they often bore you to death with serious monologues which nobody understands and frankly nobody cares about. A classic case is our own PM Dr. Manmohan Singh. Not only is he an uninspiring leader, his gift of gab is zilch! He often breaks into long boring speeches especially when the BJP needle him by calling him weak.

Barack Obama on the other hand is a tremendous orator. He swept to office on a message of change, unity and hope which got popular support. He also took office at a time when the US was going through one of its worst depressions. Large corporations had been filing for bankruptcy each week and unemployment was at its all-time high. Obama had inherited a bad economy from George Bush along with two unfinished wars which was draining US resources. Obama realized the huge challenge ahead of him and has been hard at work to set things right since he took office. He has arguably the toughest job on the planet at the moment.

However, when Obama won the US presidency, there was complete panic in the comedy circles. Late night stand-up comedians had been spoilt by eight “glorious” years of George Bush which had produced tremendous comic material. Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel, David Stern and many more, became hugely popular cracking Bush jokes. These jokes were a huge hit in the internet too. But Obama was no George Bush. He was a well-educated decent African-American who came to office with a message of hope and change. You can’t make fun of him. Where were these comedians going to go for their material now? In fact many of them still use their old Bush material on a consistent basis.

Well, Obama took the lead last week at the white house correspondents’ dinner, delivering a really funny speech which was much funnier than most stand-up gigs. In fact, I must admit, I have never seen such a speech from a politician before. There have been those who specialized in the occasional mild, self-depreciating one-liners. In India, we have the rustic humor of Laloo Yadav or Narendra Modi or the sarcastic humor of M Karunanidhi during election campaigning. You get the occasional good-natured banter on television debates. You also sometimes get the humor of the unintentional variety specialized by the likes of Venkaiah Naidu. But Obama surprised one and all with his tremendous wit.

Obama’s speech is nothing but gags, one after another, punctuated by a broad, mischievous grin. It’s a grin that radiates Obama’s certainty that he can say whatever he likes. There’s something dizzying about seeing presidential power used to such impertinent effect. Obama did not hold back and pulled all the punches. There were expected wisecracks about Dick Cheney, George Bush and his vice-president Joe Biden. But what took the cake was his quip about Hillary Clinton trying to infect him with swine flu.

Now that Obama himself has broken the ice by taking the lead, US stand-up comedians can breathe easy and make fun of their President like before. Indian politicians can also learn from Obama. The occasional humor is always welcome!!!

  1. Beetle says:

    No need for Indian politicians to start using humour. Everything they do it pretty funny already.

    • Aravind Krishnan says:

      @Beetle : Like I said the humor is generally of the unintentional variety. We can do with some classy humor for a change. Especially from politicians in power…

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