Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sarah Palin's Comedy Debut Is No Joke

Last night Sarah Palin made her comedic debut on "The Tonight Show" with typically great fanfare, delivering a monologue that New York Magazine says "needs to be seen to be believed."  We asked one of our Gotham Jokewriters, author and stand-up comic Jeff Kreisler, to review Palin's appearance, both in terms of her material and her delivery.  Here is his report.
I've got to put a few things aside to analyze her comedy: 
1. My political opinion of her
2. My comedy opinion of Jay Leno
3. The fact that her first time performing... was on The (expletive deleted) Tonight Show.  I'm a stand-up comic.  I wouldn't say I'm "bitter" or "jealous."  More like, "re-evaluating" and "crying."

That done (be brave, Kreisler), strictly from a comedy perspective, I gotta admit, she did pretty well.  She's definitely comfortable in front of an audience, being the center of attention, and handling pressure.  Those are characteristics of a comedian (and politician) that are difficult to teach.  She's a natural.

Constructive criticism time!

On the material:
  • I think the material fit her very well.  It was safe, simple, and straightforward.  It wasn't edgy or super original or unexpected... but that's why it worked for her.  The material sounded like her.  It was in harmony with her voice, her opinion, her character... her (shudder) brand.  That's what you need to do when you write for someone else — make it sound like the person. 
  • Personally, I wasn't in love with the jokes — the only one with any spark was the Tina Fey line — but I'm not being asked to perform 'em or pay to see 'em. 
  • There were three joke topics:  Alaska, politics, and Sarah Palin, superstar.  I would've lumped the jokes about each topic together, rather than spreading them out haphazardly.  There didn't seem to be any real arch or reasoned order to the bits.
On her performance:
  • Biggest criticism: Wait for the laughs to start fading.  She began each new joke as the reaction was reaching its peak, raising her voice to speak over the noise, rather than letting the laughter and applause at least begin to fade before moving on.  She cut off her own energy, instead of letting the momentum build. 
  • She swallowed some punchlines.  Could've emphasized the endings of jokes more. 
  • While in general her presence was good, and she certainly wasn't monotone, her physicality on the one NRA joke was off.  The key part of that bit was her six-shooting "or else" moment, and she didn't deliver, it just got lost in the general adulation from the crowd. 
  • Again, she clearly likes talking in front of people, and she's good at it.


bondwooley said...

Time to send Palin off to Canada so that the rest of us can stop threatening to move there:

The Last Straw


Kim said...

hey bondwooley, their is nothing stopping you

Anonymous said...

Moving to Canada is apparently like talking about the weather...

Anonymous said...

er, no bondwooley.

it's time for you to actually move to canada so that the rest of us no longer will be forced to listen to liberals' incessant, whining, empty threats.

bondwooley said...

Well, maybe it all comes back to all of us trying to get along. Just seems tough at times.

Brian said...

Sarah Palin is just another corrupt Republican that hates women, gays, and minorities. Look at all the money she is making. I am sure the usual GOP cronies are subsiding her cross-country travels and buying her way on the Tonight Show.

Lincoln said...

Good evaluation.

Does any other major national politician do stand up comedy better?

Anonymous said...

"Does any other major national politician do stand up comedy better?"

I either laugh or cry when I hear Pelosi talk. Depends on my mood. But I don't think that is her intent so it may not count.

FantasyFreddy said...

i still have that vomit taste in my mouth!!

Mitch H. said...

Talking through the laugh is something politicians do - if you're seriously engaging an audience, you have to do it or else you end up wrecking your campaign schedule. She did the same thing on the road during the '08 campaign. Forward momentum is a virtue in political speech; if you don't have it, you turn into a parody of the Clinton keynote address at the '88 Democratic National Convention.