Roger L. Simon

"Funny is money" - McCain scores big at Al Smith Dinner

There’s an old Hollywood expression:  Funny is money… meaning (obviously) that comedy rules at the box office.  There’s good reason for that.  Those of us who have tried to write comic scripts know that it is often harder to do than a melodrama. No wonder many of the highest paid stars…. Eddie Murphy, Ben Stiller, etc…. are the ones who can make us laugh.

Ditto for politics.  Ronald Reagan is said to have turned an election during a debate with a joke about his age.  Last night John McCain scored big with his very humorous and self-deprecatory speech at the Al Smith Dinner in New York.  He was a lot funnier than his opponent and, odd as this may seem, this may constitute a turning point in the campaign.

Americans, like almost all humans, like someone who can poke fun at himself.  And they like someone who does it well even better.  It also helps to have a kernel of truth in your jokes, for humor, as most of us know, hinges on the (usually embarrassing) revelation of  uncomfortable reality. Last night McC hit home a number of times, as when he announced Joe the Plumber was taking all the high positions in his campaign, but simultaneously was able to lay a graceful wreath at the feet of Obama.  Well played.

The Illinois Senator did not do that badly himself.  But he did not have the twinkle in his eye that McCain did and you could see that Barack was punching a time clock.  The polls are tightening now.  My guess is, in these grim times, that if the Arizonan keeps telling jokes, he may have a shot.

[For those who missed the event, replayed endlessly on TV last night, videos are here and here.]