No Front-Runner So Far In the Contest for Laughs

By Rachel Dry
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 1, 2007

On the "Late Show With David Letterman" last night, actor Seth Rogen peddled his new movie, "Superbad," the story of two teenage friends on an obscenity-laden journey toward adulthood. Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) was also there, pitching a different kind of journey: the one he hopes to make to the White House. He warmed up the seat for Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), who is set to join Dave on Aug. 30.

Officially, the junior senator from New York will be helping celebrate the 14th anniversary of the broadcast, but she'll also be flexing her comedic muscles in front of Letterman's estimated 4 million viewers. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) joined Letterman in April; Rudy Giuliani, Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Sen. Chris Dodd have all made appearances; and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) announced his candidacy on the show set back in February.

Between campaign-produced YouTube videos, late-night television appearances and off-the-cuff sartorial critique, all the candidates are cracking wise while courting votes. Below, in the first installment of an occasional look at comedy on the campaign trail, we asked some experts how well the candidates are doing pitching both policies and punch lines:

ยท Landon Parvin,

Republican speechwriter, who's helped add humor to speeches for Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush:

My favorite piece so far is Fred Thompson on YouTube answering Michael Moore's challenge to a debate on health care. It's not coming out with the humor guns blazing, but it shows his personality.

Sen. Clinton has a hard time doing humor, and she's the one who probably needs it most. She needs to be doing gentle, self-deprecating humor that would soften her edges. It would say: "I am not a power-hungry striver. I have a warmer, gentler, funnier side."

Mitt Romney uses a lot of one-liners, which I don't think is good. I saw a C-SPAN speech of his in South Carolina -- six to eight months ago, I think -- but he's got just one-liner after one-liner at the front.

John Edwards has no sense of humor that I can see.

Barack Obama has a wonderful manner for humor, especially self-deprecating humor. If I were one of his advisers, I would urge him to use that as much as he can.

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