We need a funny president

But which comedian would serve us best? asks English teacher GREGORY WITTIG

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As I was driving to work the other day, I heard a news reporter pose a question about the GOP presidential candidates I would have never thought to ask: "What does a candidate's sense of humor tell us about the kind of president he would be?"

I have given up getting much more than this from headline news. So, instead of being disgusted, annoyed, or cynical like I typically am at such smokescreens, I decided to consider it an authentic question, something that might help me when I go to the polls. I decided to entertain the thought in a deeper way. What comedian or comedienne would make the best president and which candidate most resembles him or her? So let's crunch the numbers.

I have always been a fan of storytelling comedians like Bill Cosby. There is something about a person who can spin a story, take you away from the everyday by putting you back in the every day with new eyes. A comedian who can show you your life in all of its pettiness, tragedy, irony, tenderness and difficulty while making you laugh hysterically at the same time. Imagine a leader who was deeply empathetic to the common man. Now that's a people's president. I think Sarah Palin was trying to be this. But let's face it. She's not funny. Neither is Michele Bachmann.

Then there is Jerry Seinfeld, a comedic genius with few rivals. He is like the Albert Einstein of comedy. A Nobel laureate of comedy if you will. He can see humor in the smallest of details: a word, a gesture, a noise. He takes comedy to the subatomic level. A president like this would see the nuance in negotiation, the importance of saying just the right thing, the dizzying logic that would stymie world leaders. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad might be convinced to dismantle his nuclear program by clever wordplay. Perhaps Newt Gingrich is the closest to Mr. Seinfeld in the field. Unfortunately, like the character Seinfeld, Newt is self-absorbed, manic and can't commit.

Is there a comedian out there who makes more biting commentary than Chris Rock? Isn't this what we are looking for? Someone who is willing to point out hard truths? A president who is willing to go against the establishment, a true outsider? A president who is not swayed by lobbyists and special interests and who will make the unpopular decision even if it means alienating others. A maverick. Mr. Rock's tough-on-crime law which would make bullets insanely expensive might please both gun control advocates and adversaries. This is a Ron Paul kind of comedian. Tick off everyone. If only Ron Paul was as smart.

Lisa Lampanelli: crude, offensive, in your face, unapologetic. A president like this isn't backing down from terrorists, rogue states or wimpy liberal protesters. Ms. Lampanelli takes on gays, African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims, Italians and Irish. You name the constituency. Just like Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann. Maybe if there was a Santorum/Bachmann ticket we would be laughing until we cried. Think about it. Or is it cried until we laughed?

Louie Anderson was a comedian. Remember? He hosted Family Feud, too. How about Jon Huntsman? Remember him?

Finally, how could I talk about comedians without paying homage to the king of comedy, Jerry Lewis. I remember laughing at his movies when I was a kid. Something about winding spaghetti up his arm as he talked to a girl, unaware of how he looked. That's kind of funny, right? Looking like a fool and not seeing it. But that's all I remember. I couldn't tell you the name of one of his movies off the top of my head, no disrespect to a truly great humanitarian. But what were his jokes again? There was Dean Martin. I remember him. Martin and Lewis, Lewis and Martin. Perhaps Mitt Romney needs a Dean Martin as a running mate if he wants to win. Or maybe Mitt Romney is a Dean Martin? Wait, I remember the name of one movie, "Money from Home."

After careful consideration of each comedian, weighing their considerable talents, my GOP candidate is Sarah Palin. I'm a sucker for someone who feels my pain. I know she hasn't announced her candidacy yet, but she will some day. I'd write her in if I wasn't a Democrat. I'd like to match her up against my president, Jon Stewart-Obama. He looks good in a suit, that's for sure.

Gregory Wittig is a middle-school English teacher and administrator who lives in Swisshelm Park ( gvigs@aol.com ).


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