Skip to comments.2008 candidates hit the humor circuit
Posted on 02/01/2007 9:36:14 PM PST by NormsRevenge
WASHINGTON - It's the standard post-Super Bowl question, with a twist.
"Hey, Joe Biden, you just got off to an inauspicious start to your presidential campaign with some poor choice of words. What are you going to do now?" Answer: He's going on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."
Candidates subjecting themselves to the biting wit and ribbing of faux newsmen and comedians seems like a modern-day version of cruel and unusual punishment and an oddity when much of politics has become heavily scripted.
Yet, politicians have beaten a path to the unconventional forums of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," and David Letterman's "The Late Show" on CBS, as well as early morning radio jocks and daytime gabfests.
The appeal is millions of viewers, a younger, hipper demographic than the wonky Washington news shows get and a chance for a candidate to laugh off mistakes and show a fun-loving side.
On Wednesday night, Biden parried with Stewart over his controversial description of Democratic rival Sen. Barack Obama (news, bio, voting record) as "clean" and said he had called the senator to explain.
"I bet you did," Stewart quipped.
"I also spoke to Jesse (Jackson) and Al Sharpton," Biden said.
"And Michael Jordan and anybody you could get your hands on. The Jackson Five," Stewart said, interrupting.
"Michael didn't call me," Biden said. "Look, what I was attempting to be, but not very artfully, is complimentary. This is an incredible guy. This is a phenomenon."
Other presidential candidates who have shown up recently on Stewart's show are Republican Mike Huckabee and Democrats Tom Vilsack and John Edwards. Obama joked with Leno late last year about making his presidential announcement on the Food Network.
Putting Edwards on what he calls "The Seat of Heat," Stewart demanded the former Democratic runningmate answer the question: "If you had been fortunate enough to be elected vice president in 2004, who would you have accidentally shot in the face?"
"Um, Dick Cheney," said Edwards, drawing loud applause from Stewart's largely liberal audience.
Vilsack brought a stuffed duck pinned with a " 1 Vilsack Fan" button with him to the "Daily Show." Stewart had been using an animated duck to poke fun at the similarity between Vilsack's name and "Aflac," the insurance company that uses a loudmouthed duck as a pitchman.
The experience is sometimes unpleasant. When Democrat Howard Dean of the Iowa scream showed up on Stewart's show, one of the first questions he faced was: "Are you crazy?
Dean's answer was only if he gave $5,000 to the Republicans.
Robert Lichter, president of the Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., calls the phenomenon the "pinata circuit" candidates have to show they can take a bashing without bursting.
"You've got to show you can take being the butt of a joke," Lichter said. "Being good-humored about yourself is considered a positive quality. But more important is that people watch these things."
The "Daily Show" is averaging 1.6 million viewers this season, according to Nielsen Media Research. About 1 million are aged 18-49, with the median age of 39. A Pew Research Center for the People & the Press survey found 13 percent of "Gen Nexters" 18- to 25-year-olds report watching the show regularly.
Leno averages 5.9 million viewers a night and Letterman has 4.2 million, according Nielsen. Audiences for both tend to be older.
"We live in a culture of entertainment and we live in society where younger voters matter," said Hank Sheinkopf, a media adviser to Bill Clinton's 1996 re-election campaign. "If you want to set yourself apart from the other candidates, you have to do something very unusual."
Presidential candidates have been using appearances on humorous television shows to soften their image and deflect voter concerns that they might take themselves too seriously dating to Richard Nixon's "Sock-it to me?" one-liner on "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" during the 1968 campaign.
Clinton further expanded the use of the entertainment media as a political tool in the 1992 campaign when he played the saxophone on Arsenio Hall's talk show and made an appearance on MTV.
Edwards went a step farther in 2004 when announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination on the "Daily Show."
The "Daily Show" reaches "a very desirable audience," said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
"Part of this is the search for the non-news audience," Jamieson said. "You have to take politics to a place you can find voters."
AP Television Writer David Bauder in New York contributed to this report.
... the search for the non-news audience," Jamieson said. "You have to take politics to a place you can find voters."
No matter how clueless, ill-informed, stoned or smashed that they may be..
This image from video provided by Comedy Central shows Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del, interviewed by 'The Daily Show' host Jon Stewart, right, in New York City Wednesday night, Jan. 31, 2007. Biden parried with Stewart over his controversial description of Democratic rival Sen. Barack Obama as 'clean' and said he had called the senator to explain. 'I bet you did,' Stewart quipped. 'I also spoke to Jesse (Jackson) and Al Sharpton,' Biden said. 'And Michael Jordan and anybody you could get your hands on. The Jackson Five,' Stewart said, interrupting. (AP Photo/Comedy Central)
Democratic presidential hopefuls, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., left, and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., talk on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2007 during the committee's hearing on Iraq. Later Wednesday night Biden parried with Comedy Central's 'The Daily Show' host Jon Stewart over his controversial description of Democratic rival Sen. Barack Obama as 'clean' and said he had called the senator to explain. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Rev. Al Sharpton is shown in this August file photo in Indianapolis. Sharpton on Thursday took Sen. Joe Biden to task for calling Democratic rival Sen. Barack Obama 'articulate' and 'clean,' questioning how the description reflects on other blacks. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, FILE)
The new Edwards estate, which sits on 102 acres in Orange County south of Chapel Hill, includes the main living quarters at left -- five bedrooms, 6.5 baths -- and 'The Barn' at right -- which includes a lounge and offices and is 70 percent complete. The buildings are connected by a heated enclosed walkway.
Former Sen. John Edwards speaks during a news conference at the George Watts Hill Alumni Center in Chapel Hill, N.C. in this March 23, 2006 file photo. Edwards has won praise for his progressive outlook and his fight against poverty. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)
Edwards' nest is grist for critics
Advocate for poor lives in $6 million mansion
So? Chester Lott did that after his Strom Thurmond comment. We haven't heard a word about since, and he hasn't had to apologize since. No one brings up or even remembers what he said. /s
As someone who is very interested in American history, particularly the Presidency - this makes me sick at heart: an office that should be couched in dignity is being drowned in buffoonery.
Looking at the media lies and phony polls, it may be drowned in knavery.