The Daily Show: Last Comic Commanding

From the April 26, 2012 edition

With Mitt Romney locking up the Republican nomination, the race for the presidency can begin in earnest. Finally, we can get out the broader conversation about the differences between the two candidates — their ideas, goals and respective philosophies about the role of government.

“Who is funnier, you or President Obama?” Diane Sawyer asked Romney during an interview recently.

Seriously, that’s the question you ask? Hey, let’s face it, it doesn’t matter who we elect, because the country is screwed so we might as well all hitch a ride on the chuckle bus. What does Romney say about the president’s sense of humor?

“I have no idea how funny he is in real life,” said Romney.

Well, I can actually help him out with that. See, Sawyer’s colleague at ABC, Barbara Walters got to that months ago.

“I’m a funny guy. [Michelle] is funnier. I think we all agree on that,” Obama told Walters while being interviewed with his wife.

ABC News, America’s most trusted source of whether or not people think they’re funny.

But on the question of who’s funnier, what’s needed is the insight of an objective observer, a comedy professional — a Fozzie T. Bear or Andrew D. Clay. Or failing that, me — star of several comedy films available in a Rite Aid discount bin near you and one-time guest star on “The Nanny.”

Let’s start with the stipulation that Romney and Obama are at different points in their comedy careers. These days Obama is working the big rooms where it’s easy to get the big response.

“As some of you heard, the state of Hawaii released my official long-from birth certificate … tonight for the first time, I’m releasing my official birth video,” said Obama at the White House Correspondents Dinner .

Boom! He’s killing! Literally actually, as that speech was taking place, Seal Team Six was taking out Osama bin Laden.

Meanwhile Romney is working the smaller venues, slugging it out and dealing with small crowds like his appearance before a group of out-of-work voters.

“Well, I should also tell my story. I’m also unemployed,” said Romney.

As a seasoned comedian, I can tell you not to heckle your audience. Don’t start with, “Hey I don’t come down to where you don’t work and knock the paycheck that you don’t have out of your …”

But to be fair to Romney, his influences aren’t from the realm of verbal comedy.

“I used to watch Laurel & Hardy, ‘The Three Stooges’ even the Keystone Cops,” said Romney.

The Keystone Cops? How old are you? I guess Romney just loves his slapstick and clearly that influence shows in his work.

“Watch here as Romney pretends a waitress has just grabbed his backside at a New Hampshire diner,” said MSNBC’s Chris Matthews.

That move by Romney while he was campaigning last June is actually a solid bit. It’s Grade A uncle humor, but still well deployed.

And it was much better than when Vice President Biden tried that with a visiting pack of cub scouts.