When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid retorted, “That’s a clown question, bro,” during a news conference on immigration Tuesday, well, you figured then it was totally done, right? But, days later, the 19-year-old slugger made it clear he thinks it still has legs, announcing that Under Armour, with whom he has an endorsement deal, will start selling T-shirts with his magic phrase. (**UPDATE 11 a.m.: More fresh evidence that ‘clown question, bro’ lives on, from D.C. Sports Bog)
Indeed, turns out that Harper’s people filed an application to trademark “That’s a clown question, bro” just a day after he uttered it, on June 12, our colleague Sarah Kogod discovered. According to the filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, he wants to reserve the right to use the nascent slogan on a variety of apparel, such as jackets, pants, hats, gloves, etc.
Good for him. We who work with words appreciate the freshness and wit of the phrase. But can we also give credit to the man who made it all possible? The guy who asked that clown question in the first place.
The identity of the reporter for Toronto’s TheScore.com is unknown; he lurks just off-camera in the video (more than 652,000 views and 1,100 comments as of Sunday) while asking whether Harper would pop open “a celebratory Canadian beer” post-game, and if so, what kind. The journalist has been widely mocked for asking that question to a Mormon who is underage (although not in Canada).
Sure, it was a clown question. But being a reporter is not about exchanging suave cocktail banter with your subjects. It’s a challenge getting an interesting answer from a public figure who’s been interviewed a million times before, and the questions that work are often clumsy, naive or borderline rude. This guy didn’t get the answer he was looking for — but he got a catchy one.
A rep for the Web site said the reporter declined to talk with us. Too bad: We had so many clown questions for him.
Read earlier: Bryce Harper, catchphrase genius, 6/13/12
Also in The Reliable Source: