GOP’s Finest in Fierce Battle to Become 2012 Jester-in-Chief

perry clownWhen Tea Partiers warned the Feds to stay away from their Medicare, little did we know they were foreshadowing the all-out battle now raging among Republicans for the role of Jester-In-Chief.

Donald Trump, who’s made a career out of being unintentionally funny, took the initial lead, pushing the notion that President Obama was an alien from another planet, I mean country. The Donald trumped the rest of the birther pack by deftly letting us in on the fact that the “investigators” he “sent to Hawaii” came up with damning information that was “unbelievable.” But Trump lost his luster when we took his claim of unbelievability literally.

Trump became the first faux candidate ever to drop out of a race he wasn’t running. His reason — that there was more money to be made in reality TV — was commendable. Michele Bachmann stepped into the breach with absurdities about double-walled fences and history, American and her own. The high point for the Minnesota congresswoman came when she assured us that her claim that hurricane Irene was a message from Washington was “obviously a joke.” (Speaking of hurricanes, Righty nutcase Pat Robertson, who once said his prayers diverted a hurricane away from the nation’s capital, expressed dismay that this crop of candidates threatened his own crazy.)

Next, Rick Perry strode manfully onto the scene, and in one stroke took commanding control of the Jester-thon. He even won praise from Stephen Colbert, a serious comedian playing an unintentionally funny conservative talk show host. Though Perry’s star has since burned into a black hole, he managed to put a few comedy points on the board this week when he revived the birther issue, then explained that he was “just having some fun with Donald Trump.” To be fair, Perry has a lot to live up to, swaggering-Texan-wise. The legend of George W. Bush — the reigning champion of accidental humor, whose list of classics includes, “Fool me once, shame on… shame on you. Fool me… you can’t get fooled again” — looms large.

Mitt Romney, who suffers from HHD (humor deficit disorder) made us chortle without meaning to in 2008 when, discussing his gun bona fides, he admitted, “I’ve always been a rodent and rabbit hunter. Small varmints, if you will.” (We won’t.) The Mittster’s attempts at intentional humor tend to arise when he tries to bond with ordinary folks, e.g. his “I’m unemployed, too” gambit in front of a group of jobless Floridians. This week, Romney raised titters when he executed a double flip on a ballot measure in Ohio.

Bit players Rick Santorum, Ron Paul and John Huntsman have enjoyed brief moments in the unintended comedy sun. But when Huntsman tried to be purposely funny with this reference to grunge hero Kurt Cobain, he fell flatter than a busted tire on his motorcycle.

Newt Gingrich, of course, is the King of laughable (not in a good way) one-liners. But it was his campaign manager Rick Tyler — perhaps ghosted by Newtie — who produced this mind-blowing masterwork. I challenge anyone — regardless of political stripe — not to be stirred by the closing line, “But out of the billowing smoke and dust of Tweets and trivia emerged Gingrich, once again ready to lead those who won’t be intimated by the political elite and are ready to take on the challenges America faces.”

Herman Cain is just about the only candidate who can be genuinely funny, but his biggest laughs come when he tries to simultaneously have his cake and eat it. When Cain’s blatant contradictions are challenged — e.g. the electric fence, abortion, negotiating with terrorists — he trots out the “it’s just a joke” defense, only to repeat the original nonsense, without irony, immediately thereafter, as in this exchange with Fox’s John Stossel. This week, the Cain campaign produced the most inspired piece of comedic virtuosity to date, a veritable “smoking gun” of Jesterism.

michael sigmanAnd what do these folks do when they’re called out? Blame the audience, natch. Rick Perry told a reporter that we need to “lighten up” on the whole birther thing. But here again, Cain lapped the field. Finding fault with our entire nation, he declared, “America needs to get a sense of humor.”

Michael Sigman

Republished with the author’s permission from Huffington Post.

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