Saturday, November 8, 2008

Obama the Comedian: Rahm Emanuel's Roast plus Obama's Dating Advice

President-elect Barack Obama's comedic timing is pretty good. I watched Obama's stand-up routine in this clip at a 2005 roast of U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.). Obama recently selected Emanuel to be White House chief of staff, and the congressman accepted. The Chicago Sun Times gives more details about the 2005 fundraiser:
... an event sponsored by Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy, a charity run by the wife of Obama strategist David Axelrod. Besides Obama, the roast honoring Emanuel's work for the group was attended by a who's-who of Democratic politics, including Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Commerce Secretary WIlliam Daley, brother of Mayor Daley. (CST)


Obama's joke about Emanuel losing part of his middle finger and so rendered practically mute is a laugh out loud moment, but he has more good jokes as he makes Emanuel sound like a holy terror. According to The Huffington Post, CSPAN recently rebroadcasted the video.

While I enjoyed the video, I already knew Obama has a wicked sense of humor, despite his unfortunate joke yesterday about former First Lady Nancy Reagan. He's also a good sport. Last month I heard a rerun of NPR's amusing Wait, Wait ... Don't Tell Me hosted by Peter Segal that featured audio of a 2006 phone call Obama made to Nick Lovelady, a young reporter. Lovelady wrote a column in the Henry Daily Herald of McDonough, Ga., complaining that Obama had ruined his chances to impress a certain young woman. The column is no longer online, but thanks to Mother Jones, we have this excerpt of Lovelady's complaint:
I had the looks, I had the charm and I had my eye on this pretty young thing who was doing an internship for a competing paper.

It took me nearly two months of running into each other at various news events before I worked up the nerve to begin talking to her.

And then Obama shows up.

The senator made his way to SIUE one day to introduce some legislation that would increase grants for students. Prior to that, me and the girl became really cool as I let her in on a few tricks of the trade.

The day Obama came, there was a huge press conference at the university’s student center with about 100 people inside the conference room and hundreds more viewing the conference on a big screen in the lobby.

Obama did his thing, and at the end there was segment for questions by the media.

After about five questions from different television and newspaper reporters, I stood up to ask mine.

“Wait a minute son, this is for professional media only,” Obama said to me.

“What do you mean? I work for the local paper,” I said with a crackling nervous voice.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you were a college student. You have such a baby face,” he said with an unremorseful grin.

At that point everyone in the room turned to look at me and laugh. The 800 people in the lobby laughed as my face was projected on the big screen. (Lovelady as quoted at Mother Jones)
Sadly for Lovelady, the young lady laughed also, and that was the last he saw of her, which is why the reporter said in his 2006 column that he would not vote for Obama. So, Obama called him and apologized, and here's the audio clip with a little dating advice from Obama:


Listen here or download the clip from NPR.

That clip is included in a 2006 All Things Considered story as well, Obama Still on the Rise, in which NPR covered admirers' attempts to draft Obama as a presidential candidate and early fascination with him, including a humorous song written about his wonderfulness when he was a senator. NPR says Obama's "savvy" aides sent the Lovelady apology clip to them.

Obama also joined Wait, Wait ... Don't Tell Me for a "Not My Job" segment in 2005, and two years later, the show aired a memory of the Lovelady/Obama apology in Round 3 of its October 27, 2007 show. After hearing his apology, the audience laughed, mostly at Obama's use of the phrase "messing up your game." Segal was proud of "breaking the story" about the phone call.

And here's an NYT feature article on Wait, Wait ... at this link, just in case you want to know more.

Another matter completely, comedians wonder whether Obama will make enough gaffes to be joke-worthy. They lament that it's hard to make fun of the President-elect.

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