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October 19th, 2012
05:24 PM ET

Letters to the President #1369: 'Funny Business'

Reporter's Note: President Obama and Mitt Romney both spoke at a big, comedy-themed fundraising dinner last night. I was not invited. Not sure why. You know I write a lot of letters to the president. You’d think I might be on the guest list…

Dear Mr. President,

This morning I listened to your comments at the big dinner last night; Governor Romney’s too, and I must say that you were both pretty funny. Frankly, I found it much more entertaining than any of the debates so far.

What I was most impressed by was that each of you did a good job delivering comedic lines. That’s not a small trick. I know that each of you had teams of writers to develop your material, but heck, so do David Letterman and Jay Leno. Even if you have great material on paper, making it funny on the fly is a different matter.

Many people like to say, “I just can’t remember jokes,” but honestly, even if they could, they would not be able to tell them. Telling a joke well requires a certain type of intelligence, empathy, a sense of drama, a wonderful grasp of the fundamentals of writing, and ultimately…as always noted…timing, timing, timing.

I love jokes. I know far more than anyone should. I know so many that friends ask for them; “Tell me one of those Boudreaux jokes,” or “I need a joke to start a speech. What do you have?” And I have come to believe the ability to tell a joke reflects well on leadership skills. When you crack a joke, you are leading an audience into a certain premise, a chain of events, and a payoff.

So congratulations to both you and the governor. You both passed the joke test with flying colors. Now, if you can just inject a little of that levity into your debates…well, then you’ll really have something!

Give me a call if you have a few minutes. I’m around all day. Feeling a little under the weather, but happy to talk.

Regards,
Tom

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