The Washington Post

Every face Boehner and Biden made at the State of the Union last night

Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio listen as President Barack Obama gives his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday Jan. 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Sure, President Obama had the unenviable job of delivering a 7,000-word speech to a room of semi-hostile listeners. But where State of the Union scrutiny is concerned, it’s Vice President Biden and Senator Boehner who have the really uncomfortable job.

For the entirety of the president’s hour-plus speech, Biden and Boehner had to maintain unfalteringly polite, attentive smiles while millions of people grabbed screenshots  of every sigh or eye roll for posterity. But Biden skipped “polite attentiveness” and went straight for manic enthusiasm, as he’s wont to do. Boehner, meanwhile, cycled through a series of understated grimaces that lit up Twitter and Tumblr Tuesday night.

Which politician looked more ridiculous probably depends on your politics. Here’s Boehner:

The above photo, we should note, was not taken at this year’s speech — though the comparison still stands. Here’s Biden:

Funny as this all may be, Biden and Boehner’s reactions are — in some circles — actually considered pretty important, just like when and how much the audience applauds. Hill-watchers analyze and overanalyze these things for hints on how well the president’s policies will be received. Over at The Fix, Jaime Fuller has a fascinating history of when all that started and how well it works. Maybe not that well, it turns out.

“I have trouble engaging in such evaluations, being constantly distracted by the … mime-like facial contortions, to which we will be treated by the Vice President and the Speaker of the House,” Ed Kilgore wrote at Washington Monthly.

We have no complaints about said mime-like contortions. It makes SOTU screenshots all the better for Photoshopping.

Caitlin Dewey is The Post’s digital culture critic. Follow her on Twitter @caitlindewey or subscribe to her daily newsletter on all things Internet. (



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Maura Judkis · January 29, 2014

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