Message: I Joke

A campaign blog.
Nov. 2 2008 12:24 AM

Message: I Joke

Political comedy is hard. On-message political comedy is damn near impossible.

But John McCain managed to pull it off on last night’s Saturday Night Live , where, with the help of Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin, he poked fun of Barack Obama’s much-viewed half-hour special. McCain would have bought time on all major networks for his own infomercial. "We, however, can only afford QVC."

Advertisement

So McCain and "Palin" proceeded to unveil various on-message infomercial products, including a collection of plates to commemorate McCain and Obama’s 10 town-hall meetings, all of which are blank ("He wouldn’t agree to those debates," McCain helpfully explained. "Too bad!");   a series of "Joe" action figures, including Joe the Plumber and Joe Biden ("Pull his string, and he speaks for 45 minutes."); and a set of knives especially designed for cutting out pork.

It wasn’t all on-message. At one point, Palin pulls the viewer aside to tout her "Palin 2012" T-shirts. McCain asks what she’s doing. "Just talkin’ about taxes," she says. She later quips, "Either I’m runnin’ in four years or I’m gonna be a white Oprah." There’s always back-and-forth between campaigns and the show as to which jokes get in and which ones don’t. (Watch Seth Meyers explain here .) So props to McCain for letting some of the touchier jokes fly.

Why pick the last weekend before Election Day to make fun of yourself? Free publicity never hurts. (Not that McCain needs it—he’s outspending Obama on advertising in the final week.) But it also opens the door for McCain to go out on a high note. One of the toughest narratives for a losing campaign to fight is the bleak Final Days storyline. But there’s no better way to do it than a little self-deprecation.

Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.

TODAY IN SLATE

Technology

Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

Where Ebola Lives Between Outbreaks

Gunman Killed Inside Canadian Parliament; Soldier Shot at National Monument Dies

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

The Simpsons World App Is Here, and Nearly Perfect

Science

“I’m Not a Scientist” Is No Excuse

Politicians brag about their ignorance while making ignorant decisions.

Politics

The Right to Run

If you can vote, you should be able to run for public office—any office.

In Praise of 13th Grade: Why a Fifth Year of High School Is a Great Idea 

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 22 2014 2:05 PM Paul Farmer Says Up to Ninety Percent of Those Infected Should Survive Ebola. Is He Right?
  Business
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
  Life
Education
Oct. 22 2014 4:45 PM Welcome to 13th Grade! Several Oregon high schools are offering a fifth year of high school. Every district should consider it.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 22 2014 4:10 PM Skinny Mark Wahlberg Goes for an Oscar: The First Trailer for The Gambler
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.