PRESIDENTS occasionally tell jokes but, more often, they are the butt of jokes.
As the highest official of the land, a President has huge advantage over any other speaker who cracks a joke: his audience never fails to laugh. Out of politeness to an exalted guest or the culture to make the leader interacting with his people feel welcomed and admired.
When their President is on the receiving end, people also laugh, privately if not publicly, depending upon the occasion or setting and whether it is seemly or safe to do so.
In the US, they roar and cheer as live audience in recorded late-night shows or laugh and snicker as video viewers via TV, cable, computer or mobile gadget. We don’t have the equivalent of stand-up comedians, a pity that we only imagine how Filipino leaders will react to criticism laced with scathing humor in a comedy show.
Trump and Duterte
Two eruptions of laughter over presidential statements made in the past few days:
n President Trump tweeted “I have no racist bone in my body.” He was criticized for an earlier tweet prodding four Democratic congresswomen of color to go home and fix the problems in their country of origin.
n President Duterte made fun of Iceland and its people for leading a resolution of the UN human rights body calling for an investigation into illegal killings in the Philippines. He said, “What is the problem of Iceland? It’s just ice. That’s your problem. You have too much ice and there is no clear day or night there. So you can understand why there is no crime, no policeman either and they just go about eating ice.”
‘Body’ in an idiom
Late-night show hosts seized Trump’s idiomatic reference to his body to slash, and poke fun at, the American president:
n Stephen Colbert on “Late Show”: “We’ve seen your body. I’m not sure there are any bones, just mascarpone cheese pumped into a suit.”
n Trevor Noah on the “Daily Show”: “Well, to be fair I’ve seen his body and I don’t think he has any bones. He’s sort of like that Stranger Things creature.” Besides, some other body part may be the racist; how about the spleen, he asked.
n Jimmy Kimmel on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” confirmed that Trump had no bones in his body. “He’s like a human McRib... We’re not worried about your bones being racist, we’re worried about your brain and your mouth being racist.”
That was where most of the jokes dwelt but all the comedians also zeroed in on “inaccuracy” (three of the House members were born in the US to immigrant parents; the fourth arrived in the country at age 12) and Trump’s serial racist statements. The jokes were also packed with verified facts.
In Duterte’s case, the President was the one cracking the joke at the expense of Iceland and its people. Washington Post, amused by the ice-eating remark, showed some mirth in its headline of the story: “Iceland criticized Duterte’s drug war, so he accused its people of eating ice.”
Sen. Bato de la Rosa, the former PNP chief, responded to the UNCHR resolution, dripping not with humor but with blood from the gory condition to his challenge: “You can come down and cut my head if (the killings are) state-sponsored.”
A July 17 Inquirer.net editorial said Iceland and other countries have refused to “trade their accusations for (de la Rosa’s) head.” If in Bato’s mind it would prove his argument, the editorial said, “then perhaps it would only be that those countries are loathe to end up with the problem of what to do with such a useless object afterward.”
Swish, as in guillotine sound. Bloody not funny.