And Now For Something Totally Different

At the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner

It was a refreshing things to see: John McCain in white tie and tails, getting big laughs at his own and Barack Obama’s expense at the Alfred E. Smith Foundation Memorial Dinner. The dinner, which is traditionally held a few weeks before a presidential election, honors former New York Governor Alfred E. Smith, the first Catholic to be nominated for president of a major political party. The event, which raises money for charity (this year $3.9 million to help underprivileged children), has but one requirement of its speakers: that they be funny, both both Senators delivered with self-deprecating humor as well as jabs at other politicos, including Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Rudy Giuliani, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Senator John McCain Get Big Laughs

McCain spoke first, and actually, I think that his delivery may have been better than Obama’s. After all, he’s had more practice on the late night circuit, and he knows how to time his punch lines better. One of my favorite lines from McCain’s 15 minutes:

McCain joked that because he and Obama are friends, he has a nickname for him: “I just call him ‘that one,'” a reference to an awkward moment in the second debate, but McCain went on by saying that Senator Obama has a pet name for him as well: “He calls me George Bush.”

Senator Obama and Alfred E. Neuman’s Ears

I particularly liked Obama’s opening line: “I feel right at home here because it’s often been said that I share the politics of Alfred E. Smith and the ears of Alfred E. Newman.” If you don’t know who Alfred E. Newman is, you are too young to be reading this blog.

Obama is one of those people who likes to tee hee at his own jokes. It’s an endearing quality, but it makes him less effective than McCain as far as the deadpan delivery. I did, however, love this line: “I got my middle name Hussein from somebody who obviously didn’t think I’d ever run for president.” And then he quipped that his middle name was actually Steve.

The Guy in the Third Row

Did anyone notice the guy behind the speakers who just kept eating throughout the whole thing, seemingly oblivious to the cameras? No one was going to keep him from his chocolate torte? Now there’s a man after my own heart. Candidates? What? This is damned good chocolate. Cardinal Egan, are you going to eat yours?

Wish I’d Been There

Political humor done well is truly an art form. Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert are just two of the more skilled pundits who deliver on this kind of lampooning in the media today. Rachel Maddow is particularly skilled at political wit and repartee (which she more than proved in her face off with half wit David Frum), and Keith Olbermann has an acutely ascerbic bite to his commentaries of which I am probably overly fawning. So to watch these two adversaries put aside their campaigns for one evening and come together on one stage to trade quips for the evening at a white-tie, charitable affair was more than worth the interruption of the Rachell Maddow Show, and actually more interesting than Debate #3. As a matter of fact, this half an hour of television would probably have drawn more viewers and done the McCain campaign more good than the debate.

Never mind.