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When Politicians Try To Be Funny

Yes, that is tumbleweed

When Politicians Try To Be Funny
27 January 2012

Politicians, as a rule, are not a funny species. Oh, they do lots of inept things that make us, the ordinary Joes and Joannas of this world, laugh at them, but it’s rare when they crack a joke that makes us chortle along with them.

Take Labour party leader Ed Miliband. This week he aimed for the world's easiest target, David Cameron, and still managed to make a total non-funny as a result.

So, in honour of all those unfunny MPs, we give you some of the worst examples of the not-so-noble art.

Miliband attempts to horse around

At a Labour youth conference, Miliband gets caught up in the jovial atmosphere and decided to make light of a horse's death by making a swipe at his rival. Check out that delivery. Or total lack thereof.

Barack's Milky Way With Words

You want the joke to work, and it kind of does – farmers, spilled milk, crying over spilled milk etc – but the manner in which its crowbarred into Obama’s oration is too hackneyed, too contrived. The best one-liners should appear natural and spontaneous. This doesn’t, and the crowd knows it.

Fishing For Gags

And yet, the commander-in-chief of the United States has form in the jokes category. In his 2011 State of the Union address, President Obama made a wisecrack about salmon jurisdictions. Is it funny? Yes, it is, but again it's too self-conscious.

Gideon and the Self-Abusers

The best comedians know the value of self-deprecation – inflict your pot shot, before anyone else can. And this is the tactic chancellor of the exchequer George Osbourne employed at last year’s GQ Awards. In receiving the Politician of the Year gong, Osbourne likened politicians to self-abusing teenage boys leering over lads’ mags. Unfortunately, the smutty joke – while funny – was a bit jumbled. Osbourne obviously got GQ mixed up with FHM, and he did tend to stumble over his words. Nice sentiment though.

No Jacket Required

Politicians will do anything to avoid answering a direct question, so it was no surprise that David Cameron was evasive when quizzed about police cuts by Labour MP Robert Flellom last summer. Unfortunately Flello provided the prime minister with the perfect method to dodge the query. He was not wearing a jacket, hence Cameron’s quip about security in the Houses of Parliament. The problem for Cameron was it came immediately after the riots, so it appeared as though he was trivialising the question, and it made him look like something of a bully.

Bottom of the Class

Trying to appear one of the people is key for a politician. It is, however, harder than it looks. Especially when you’re an upper class, middle-aged, white businessman. Just ask US Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Last year, during a photo opportunity on the campaign trail, he made out a waitress had pinched his derriere. But it was all a lark, see, he does have a sense of humour. Yes, a slightly sexist one it would appear.

The Cat's Whiskers

Even though all concerned try to instil some razzmatazz, party conferences, from the outside at least, are generally drab affairs . Last year’s Tory conference was an exception, especially once home secretary Teresa May got into an erroneous tizz about human rights and how a cat had allowed an illegal immigrant to stay in the UK. Rather than ignore her error, Conservative co-chairman Sayeeda Warsi compounded it by drawing attention to it in a droll, pun-heavy speech. Me-OW indeed. See, it’s not that simple, Baroness.

At the End of Her Teather

Sarah Teather’s attempts at bringing the house down by attacking various politicians at last year’s Liberal Democrat party conference were a disaster. Firstly, her party is in bed with the Tories so chiding George Osbourne seemed a little rich. However, the worst aspect was how bloodcurdlingly unfunny she was. Like your parents trying to be hip. Dollops of cringe layered upon a big mountain of awkwardness on a bed of shame.

Thatcher, Thatcher, Joke Snatcher

Margaret Thatcher. Monty Python. The Dead Parrot sketch. Do you really need any other information?

(Image: Rex Features, Getty)