When Tim Pawlenty took the podium as a featured speaker at the Republican National Convention last night in Tampa, no one could have predicted the ensuing comedy routine. With regard to cadence and content, it was as if the former Minnesota governor was at Keynesian-hating open mic. Eschewing politics entirely, here's a review of T-Paw the comic.
"Thank you. Thank you very much. Good evening everyone, and welcome to Barack Obama’s retirement party!"
Boom! Like tossing a bloody steak to a Rottweiler, Pawlenty wins audience favor right off the bat with an Obama dig. Is it an especially creative barb? No, but it's tone-setting and serviceable. (Basic suspension of disbelief reassures us that we're not literally at Obama's retirement party; we're still at the RNC).
"Ah, the Obama White House, one bad decision follows another. Hard to say exactly just what his worst mistake has been. There’s so many to choose from: The stimulus. His energy policy. Obamacare. Taxes. Joe Biden."
There was a time when Joe Biden was a gaffe machine, sure. But the Onion helped transform him into a free-wheelin', bad-ass folk hero. Lame jabs like this are on par with "Rahm Emanuel has a potty-mouth!" jokes. The collective understanding makes people feel like they're "in," but it's so tired.
"I hear Joe’s particularly interested in tonight’s proceedings. He even thought about coming here to Tampa. And he’s taking notes because when Paul Ryan speaks, Joe will finally get to hear what a real vice president sounds like!”
Not even trying.
“But you know, President Obama isn’t as bad as people say, he’s actually worse. The president takes more vacations than that guy on the Bizarre Foods show.”
Baffling logic aside (he's working to produce a TV show, not vacationing), the only thing this joke accomplished was pissing off Andrew Zimmern, local dude and host of the Travel Channel's "Bizarre Foods"
“And I’ll give Barack Obama credit for creating jobs these last four years for golf caddies.”
Golf one-liners are where comedy goes to die.
“Actually, Barack Obama is the first president to create more excuses than jobs! In his view, it’s George’s fault. It’s the bank’s fault. It’s Europe’s fault. It’s the weather’s fault. It’s Congress’ fault. Mr. President, if you want to find fault, I suggest you look in the mirror!”
Remember when you were in third grade and said "When YOU look up 'stupid head' in the dictionary, ya know what you find? A mirror!'" Tim Pawlenty, 51, effectively just made that joke.
“I’ve come to realize that Barack Obama is the tattoo president. Like a big tattoo, it seemed cool when you were young. But later on, that decision doesn’t look so good, and you wonder: what was I thinking? But the worst part is you’re still going to have to explain it to your kids.”
Props where they're due: I bet T-Paw (or a speech writer, whatever) spent loads of time on this joke and gleaned a lot of self-satisfaction from it when it was finished. So he tried. The real takeaway, however, is that Pawlenty is the exact type of guy who would be afraid of tattoos (and cable TV, young people, motorcycles ... you get the idea).
Pawlenty then goes into some earnest biography/talking about issues/Romney-championing here. The transcript, if you're interested.
And finally, we get the closing zinger ...
“And with any luck, in a few months, Barack Obama will at last get some experience in the private sector.”
OK. It comes full circle from the 'retirement party' intro. It builds on the perceived "You didn't build it!" disconnect. Still, is a died-in-the-wool, radical socialist really gonna apply for private sector jobs should he lose an election? You're giving Obama too much credit as a capitalist.
In all, Tim Pawlenty is a truly awful comedian. It's like watching a lame, strangely self-assured uncle stumble upon an international audience. When considering the "Can Conservatives be Funny?" question, watching T-Paw do stand-up makes a loud and compelling argument for "No."