September 19, 2017

Poll results for "Does Trump have a sense of humor?"



I put this poll up yesterday in a post inspired by the NYT op-ed "Is Nothing Funny, Mr. President?" (which stated that Trump completely lacked a sense of humor). My personal opinion is that Trump has a strong sense of humor and frequently uses humor. He uses it like a professional comedian, not like a traditional politician.

The NYT writer (a former Obama speechwriter) talked about the "bipartisan Oval Office tradition" of "safe, well-placed quips that crowds are well primed to laugh at," which are the "presidential equivalent of dad jokes."

Yeah, that's not what Trump does. He's not about warming us all up and signaling that he's a good guy (which, by the way, is something a complete villain would do!). He's actually into comedy and may even do comedy for the sake of comedy and not necessarily as a means to an end (though he seems to believe that he's lucky and things work out for him if he does it his way).

The NYT writer observed Trump's tendency not to laugh at humor. But many professional comedians keep a straight face. I see that as a more advanced level of comedian. Laughing at your own jokes is "dad joke" style, and laughing at other people's jokes is kind of beta. Why do people laugh at the jokes of others? Sometimes, because it's really that funny, you laugh the way you'd laugh if you were alone hearing the joke on the radio. But mostly you laugh at other people's jokes to ingratiate yourself and display that you're a nice person who cares about feelings.

And if you are like that, you're probably not a high-quality comedian yourself, though I'm sure in front of a well-primed audience, you could deliver a scripted dad joke.

24 comments:

Ralph L said...

This summer, I watched his performance at last year's Al Smith dinner. He was very funny yet pointed until the last part of it, which was serious and mean-spirited and didn't go over well. Whose idea was that, his or a writer's?

MaxedOutMama said...

That matches my assessment. But Trump also is adept at using humor to induce the audience to match their mental maps to his desires. I think the golf ball gif was genuinely funny on several levels. In a way it mocks Trump's golfing ability (pranging an observer with your drive is not a testament to one's golfing skills), but it also hints that even when he messes up, it can be dangerous for his opponents because they're not very steady on their feet. I think the reason Trump retweeted it was because it matched an image that he wants us to retain - that Hillary is so bad she even was felled by his amateurish politicking. And of course, the classic sore loser thing - which is really his rebuttal to Hillary's "What Happened?" tour.

The "Rocketman" designation is funny, but it is also a way for Trump to convey that he is not intimidated and that we shouldn't be either, and to signal to us that we should not expect immediate trouble. Trump communicates in a different style than the traditional politician, but he has had decades to fine-tune these tricks and they are probably much more effective due to their unusual nature. Trump could have given a very pompous news conference on the subject of North Korea without getting across what he did convey with the one tweet.

Trump is also using his domestic political opponents' wrath as a loudspeaker. He tweets - the media's protests over his tweets are what gets the message to the broader public.

The tactics Trump is now using are rather interesting. Rather than trying to fight the media effort to depict him as all things negative, Trump is focusing on conveying a message to the public about the opponents. He'll play nice with you if you'll deal with him, and give you good press (see the recent buddying up with Schumer, etc), but if you won't play reasonably, he will hold you up to public ridicule. It's effective.

This of course is why the Democrats have tried every arrow in their media quiver to get Trump to stop tweeting. Obviously he's not dumb enough to do it.

tim in vermont said...

Damn internet has broken the memory hole!

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/05/obama-meyer-roasts-trump-whca-dinner/350184/

Lloyd W. Robertson said...

Trump was hilarious when he was running for the Republican nomination. I don't find "Rocket Man" all that funny, although there is a bluegrass version of the Elton John song that might make it funny in a tweet. I still think Trump vaporized Jeb Bush with two quips: the famous "low energy," and then, in response to Jeb bringing up his admirable mother, "maybe she should be running."
Our host is correct that the very suggestion that typical politicians' jokes are funny is itself laughable. Speeches are usually written by a committee of people with identical college educations, trying to save the leader from gaffes. It is depressing to sit through them, and they are not memorable. Trump has been a refreshing change.
When I worked for a cabinet minister in Canada, he was always clamoring for more and better jokes to use in his speeches. My portfolio was science and tech, and I proposed an old joke about the post office. A new sorting machine wrongly sent some mail back to the sender; sent some mail to the wrong address; damaged some envelopes so that they were unreadable; and somehow made some mail completely disappear. A manager said: amazing! a machine that can do the work of four humans! My boss said: I can't use that, I'd offend postal workers.

rhhardin said...

Yeah, that's not what Trump does. He's not about warming us all up and signaling that he's a good guy (which, by the way, is something a complete villain would do!). He's actually into comedy and may even do comedy for the sake of comedy and not necessarily as a means to an end (though he seems to believe that he's lucky and things work out for him if he does it his way).

Parentheses produce two authors' voices, which reads strangely where it's really one.

Ralph L said...

I take them as asides, rhhardin.

Lem said...

I know a guy who tells funny analogies, jokes and anecdotes when speaking. The problem is he is first to laugh so quickly after telling one, he doesn't seem to even draw a breath. It's a little perplexing.

Quayle said...

"Is nothing funny, Mr. President?"

Absolutely hilarious!

And he does it to them every time.

Quayle said...

They're all Frank Burns to Hawkeye Trump.

William said...

I only saw parts of it, but from what I saw of Nancy Pelosi yesterday, she did not have a single, identifiable human emotion during the disruption of her speech. Maybe it was the Botox, but there was no irritation, annoyance, or bemusement observable on her face, just a studied attempt to appear polite. The wish to appear to have grace under pressure is not the same thing as grace under pressure.......Trump, by contrast, in a similar situation would not even try to be statesmanlike and his humor, if employed, would be crude and straightforward. You would not have to guess at his level of annoyance. There are a lot of things wrong with Trump, but he's not a phony. His humor isn't subtle and, sometimes, it has cruel edge, but you know where's he's coming from.

MaxedOutMama said...

rhhardin - I thought that was a competent use of parentheses. Maybe it's my own illiteracy, but it indicated an aside that was not part of/somewhat contradicted the main thought. Most of us have more than two voices in our heads, and certainly do entertain multiple hypotheses at times.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Trump's humor falls into the evil clown department. Perhaps that's the basis of Trump derangement syndrome, fear of clowns.

tcrosse said...

As I've commented before, Trump is Bart Simpson to a world full of Lucy van Pelts.

Lem said...

Rocket man is comedy gold.

Henry said...

Trump's humor falls into the evil clown department. Perhaps that's the basis of Trump derangement syndrome, fear of clowns.

That's a good take.

Though I think Trump's humor falls into the John Blutarsky or Ralph Kramden category.

Darrell said...

Trump's humor falls into the evil clown department.

Nonsense. At last year's dinner to raise money for the Archdiocese of New York City., Trump said he started off as a humble carpenter working with his father. And then talked about he double standard in the MSM--Michelle Obama gave a sppech and she was universally praised--and then Melania gave the very same speech. . .

JAORE said...

The question should be:
Does the left have a sense of humor?

A: No.

tcrosse said...

Does the left have a sense of humor?

A: No.


That's not funny

Birkel said...

The easiest answer to the question is, no, Hitler Literally did not have a sense of humor.

Will said...

Just a reminder: This man did participate in a Comedy Central roast. Humorless robots do that all of the time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bbuSN0SyHw

Big Mike said...

Conclusion: 38 poll voters are nuts.

fivewheels said...

Seinfeld is not my favorite comedian, but I love listening to him talk about the craft of comedy. He once said that comedians, as a group, do not laugh. If you say something funny to a comedian, the best you can expect back is a deadpan statement like, "That was funny," or "that's a good joke." Not because they're morose, but just because they're so fluent in the form.

rhhardin said...

The trouble is that the aside is in the in the same authorial voice, so belongs in the original sentence. Set it off with commas or em-dashes.

The parenthesis starts a new voice.

Here's Lautreamont as story-teller in a new voice prompting the reader

He has resolved not to close his eyes, that he may await his enemy resolutely. But does he not make the same resolution each time, and is it not always destroyed by the inexplicable image of his fatal promise? He says nothing more, and sorrowfully resigns himself; for to him the oath is sacred. He wraps himself majestically in the folds of the silk, disdains to fasten his curtains' golden tassels, and, laying the wavy locks of his long black hair along the fringes of the velvet cushion, fingers the large neck-wound--in which the tarantula has acquired the habit of dwelling as in a second nest--while his face indicates satisfaction. He hopes that this very night (hope with him!) will see the last performance of this immense suction; for his only prayer would be for the torturer to have done with his life: death--and he will be content.

- Maldoror

The referents are tangled in Maldoror because usually the protagonist is the reader in various disguises. So Lautreamont is addressing both the reader-reader and the reader in the parentheses.

rhhardin said...

And what's happening to the reader/protagonist is what Lautreamont is doing to him by writing about it.