Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Obama is Naturally Funny

One thing I have noticed over the last few months is that Barack Obama seems to have a very good and well developed sense of humour. Some senior politicians can be amusing (although it is usually the ones who will never get near real power who are the funniest, e.g. Dennis Skinner). It is unusual for senior politicians to be genuinely funny.

Margaret Thatcher famously did not really understand humour even though her speechwriters would insert topical gags which she would repeat. Tony Blair and William Hague are examples of recent front-line UK politicians who seem to be naturally funny and understand how to interweave humour with debate. Vince Cable is also in this category as I saw first hand at the weekend.

I think Obama is clearly one of the best at this. During an event in the Waldorf Astoria in New York he commented:

“I do love the Waldorf-Astoria, though. You know, I hear that from the doorstep you can see all the way to the Russian Tea Room.”

This instantly showed his ability to gently chide his opponents (it was a reference to Sarah Palin's comments about being able to see Russia from Alaska). But it was also subtle and made the audience think briefly as it was not on a plate. Most polticians bash you over the head with their "jokes" as they want to be sure you get it. Obama is clearly comfortable crediting his audience with some intelligence.

There was another example yesterday where after he did his "swearing in" for a second time he made a couple of quips:

"We decided it was so much fun...." before adding: "We're going to do it very slowly."

And at the end he joked to the press that the bad news is "there will be 12 more balls!".

Genuinely funny and self-deprecating. I am very much looking forward to following his presidency.

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