The Art Of The Joke: A Childhood Lesson For Trump

Tell the world how you feel! .
VOTE NOW! Is this Funny or Offensive?
  • Funny
  • Offensive

Taking the Stage

By Melissa Jordan

August 22nd, 2016 – When I sat down at a theatre last weekend to see my friend dance with her company, I was reminded of a couple timeless lessons. To begin with, I decided that a timeless lesson would be that you shouldn’t call a friend’s artistic performance a “recital” if they’re past the age of 13. The second lesson was possibly the greatest one I learned as a kid during my own ballet recital. When I would goofily poke my head around the curtains off the wing of the stage (hoping to catch my dad attempting to operate the RCA camcorder he had borrowed), my teacher would recite one thing. “If you can see them, they can see you.”

I’m sure wrangling hyperactive 8-year-olds to enter stage whichever on the correct beat would have been victory enough, but I think she wanted us to see the bigger picture. She wanted us to realize that all eyes were on us. She wanted us to realize that when eyes are on us, we need to only be doing the thing they expect from us.

So when Donald Trump fell back on the defense of sarcasm a few days after making the comment that Obama and Clinton were the founders of ISIS, I fell back on that lesson I learned at an early age: “If you can see them, they can see you.” Trump doesn’t understand the responsibility of performing at a higher standard when you know without a doubt that eyes are on you. In theory, sure, you should be able to make any type of joke you want. In theory, sure, you should be able to wear anything you want. The truth is, though, if I want to be the principal of an elementary school, I can’t wear fishnet stockings and a see-through shirt. If I want to be the President of the United States, I can’t make jokes about a sitting President being involved with a terrorist organization.

In the days following the heavy coverage of the gaffe (if that’s how we’re labeling it), there were a number of talking points I thought I would focus on while explaining my takeaway of how he responded. The fact that conservative radio host, Hugh Hewitt, gave the candidate multiple attempts to clarify that he was only implying that Obama and Clinton had a hand in creating what has happened, and Trump chose instead to double down, could show that he really believes what he said. He believes it or he just isn’t willing to diffuse the situation that is causing damage to his party/campaign and to the call for unity and strength in our country.
It could also be worth noting that when he did decide to clarify, his explanation was that he was simply being sarcastic. He tweeted that “ratings challenged CNN” was reporting the incident so seriously and questioned if they have ever heard of sarcasm. It’s interesting, though, because you could actually question Trump on if he understands the definition of sarcasm. Implementing it correctly would allow someone to use words to mean the opposite of what they are wanting to say. Even if he doesn’t understand the definition, he’s fallen back on the joking excuse far too many times and in defense of jokes that were made in serious contexts. Make a joke about Hillary trying to appeal to young people at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Don’t make a joke asking the Russians to hack a politician during a news conference as you make your case to be the leader of the free world.
It could also be worth noting that during another speech at a rally in Erie, Pennsylvania, Trump again clarified that he was being sarcastic when he deemed his targets as “co-founders.” He took a beat and followed that up with “but not that sarcastic to be honest with you.” As John Oliver put it: “he walked his walk back back.” I can’t help but wonder how we’d be responding if another politician flip-flopped on whether or not they were “just kidding.” And how can an excuse that rarely got you out of trouble as a child allow a 70-year-old man to earn the presidency?
I would love to dive into a deeper discussion of Jason P. Steed’s tweet-a-thon response to Trump where he basically sent out his PhD dissertation on the social function of humor and how we’re never “just joking.” The thing is, I know that maybe…maybe three people would click on that link. And I’ve come to realize that my biggest problem with Trump is that I don’t even think he believes or cares about most of the outlandish things he says; he says them because he knows that labeling them as jokes leaves him escape routes and that his followers will eat them up.
At this point in the game, I don’t think there’s great merit in participating in back-and-forth or in crafting epic creative takedowns of the candidate you so despise. We’ve become so polarized in our backing of beliefs and candidates that expending huge efforts in a giant overhaul seems pretty futile. I guess it’s pretty ironic that I spent so many paragraphs breaking down Trump’s explanations, huh? Irony…let me look that up.
I know that when a staunchly conservative friend posts a link to Tomi Lahren’s latest segment, I won’t watch it. Or if I do, I’ll be the living, breathing version of the eye roll emoji. And I absolutely know the same would be true of them after I post a link from Samantha Bee. Having said that, if any of the Full Frontal team is reading this, I can send you some samples.
I think what matters right now is hoping that we can all come back to and agree on a simpler idea. If you can see them, they can see you. If the eyes of the country and the world are on you, act accordingly. If you’re to be seen as the ultimate leader of everyone, speak in a way that shows you understand that responsibility. If you’re taking the stage and truly want to have an impact by doing so, say things that matter and leave the joking theatrics to someone in a different profession. That’s not to say I don’t understand why Trump relied on edgy, off-the-cuff one-liners at the beginning of this race. I understand that it was a clever move to help him stand out in a crowd of 17 candidates. But when you’re now one of two people having great impact on the nation and its people, a joke shouldn’t be your locked and loaded fail-safe.

When comedians become political, occasionally positive change happens. When politicians become comical, rarely does any result aside from talking heads earning their paychecks happen. So I hope that we can take a sharp turn in the remaining months of this election season. I hope politicians can understand the presumed obvious fact that people are watching. I hope they can speak with opinionated restraint and realize that every word matters. I hope real action comes from thoughtful words instead of merely an explosion of opinions as to what “jokes” could have meant.

Melissa Jordan is a writer for Is It Funny or Offensive and for other projects that she hopes will live somewhere besides a document titled “Melissa Orig Ideas” on her desktop. She’s dabbled in project management and improv but is happiest to be known as Murder, She Wrote’s biggest fan under the age of 70. She lives in Los Angeles with her dog…nephew being only a 15 minute drive away when the 101 isn’t too bad. You can follow her on Twitter @mjjordan7.
<---Next Post

Customer Writes 'We Only Tip Citizens' On Receipt To Latina Server

Prev Post-->

Princeton Bans the Word "Man"

Leave a Reply