Here now is the next installment of our new regular series — the Joke Reality Check — in which we put jokes told on the campaign trail or in the media or in the general political discussion through a VIP check-up and washing. We check whether jokes are stolen, poorly-premised, or poorly written or delivered. And we offer strategic advice to improve the attempt.
Going back to CNN’s YouTube Republican presidential candidate debate debacle, there were several jokes — and we don’t mean the questioners.
Let’s explore part of the early heated exchange between Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney over immigration.
GIULIANI: It’s unfortunate, but Mitt generally criticizes people in a situation in which he’s had far the — worst record.
For example, in his case, there were six sanctuary cities. He did nothing about them.
There was even a sanctuary mansion. At his own home, illegal immigrants were being employed, not being turned into anybody or by anyone. And then when he deputized the police, he did it two weeks before he was going to leave office, and they never even seemed to catch the illegal immigrants that were working at his mansion. So I would say he had sanctuary mansion, not just sanctuary city.
“Sanctuary mansion” — good one. But Giuliani completely mangles the delivery, stepping on and telegraphing his line. A classic case of violating the classic rule: put the punchline last.
Let’s help out Hizzoner by suggesting this easy fix:
At his own home, illegal immigrants were being employed, not being turned into anybody or by anyone. And then when he deputized the police, he did it two weeks before he was going to leave office, and they never even seemed to catch the illegal immigrants that were working at his mansion. That’s not merely a sanctuary city. That’s a sanctuary mansion!
(Giuliani could have concluded with a rousing exclamatory “Hey, now” — but it might have cut into his time.)
Here’s an easy way to remember this easy rule. I call it the Godfather rule of comedy.
Funny: Of course I know everything about the Godfather movies. I’ve seen them all. Godfather I. Godfather II. And Godfather III — the good one.
Not funny: Of course I know everything about the Godfather movies. I really liked Godfather III. It was good. I also saw Godfather I and II. But yes, Mitt, Godfather III was good. I think you have the DVD of it in your sanctuary mansion, right?
By the way, inadvertently this was the funniest moment of the debate:
ANDERSON COOPER: Congressman Hunter?
DUNCAN HUNTER: Yes. Cooper, a great debate.
“Cooper” of course is the last name. Talk about getting your punchlines out of order. Might we next help out Hunter Duncan?