Ann Romney had a cute story to tell Jay Leno the other night. After the 2008 campaign, she said, she told her husband, “Sweetheart, I’m never doing this again!” And Mitt responded, “You know, Ann, you say that after every pregnancy!”
Funny line, huh? Big laughs from the audience Tuesday night because it was probably the first time they’d heard the joke. But not the first time she’d told it: She did the same bit two weeks ago on “Kelly and Michael,” at the Tampa convention and at a campaign stop this spring.
Like stand-up comics, politicians and their spouses use jokes and one-liners to warm up an audience, and then recycle the best ones into campaign appearances. Staffers can recite them by heart, but crowds eat them up.
A few go-to favorites:
●President Obama loves this story so much he tells it almost every day — including Thursday in Virginia Beach.
“I was talking to my campaign manager. He was meeting with a young couple — they had a 4-year-old son with them, Sammy. . . . They saw a picture of me on the wall and they said, ‘Sammy, Sammy, who’s that?’ And the 4-year-old says, ‘That’s Barack Obama.’ And then they said, ‘And what does Barack Obama do?’ And Sammy thought about it for a second, and then he said, ‘He approves this message.’ ”
Obama’s other crowd pleaser: “I’m not a perfect man. Ask Michelle.”
●Mitt Romney may not be a naturally funny guy, but he has one line guaranteed to get laughs. When he’s touting his business experience and private-sector bona fides, he makes a point of saying how little time he logged on the public payroll: “I only spent four years as a governor. I didn’t inhale.”
Romney dropped the line into a Republican primary debate a year ago and used it at the Conservative Political Action Conference (where the poke at Bill Clinton was a big hit) and other whistle-stops this year.
●Paul Ryan is new to the national stage but has a funny take on his lack of foreign policy experience. He’s told several versions of the joke on TV and the stump: In New Hampshire last month, he assured the crowd that he can “almost see” Canada from Wisconsin. And overseas? “Where I come from, means Lake Superior.”
Surprisingly, Joe Biden hardly ever uses the same one-liners twice. Instead of saying funny things, he says things funny. “Folks, I can tell you I’ve known eight presidents, three of them intimately,” he told a Detroit audience in August. And no, that wasn’t supposed to be a joke.
Ditto for first lady Michelle Obama, who rarely cracks jokes or strays from her prepared remarks. Her funniest turn this year was on David Letterman’s Top 10 “Fun Facts” about gardening. Her No. 1 tip: “With enough care and effort you can grow your own Barack-oli.” And then she held up a giant green stalk with the president’s face.
Hey, no one ever said comedy was easy.
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