Like most people I didn’t expect a lot from the President during his oval office speech. What I got was a whole new look at the Candidate in Chief.
The first thing I noticed during the speech: I had never seen such an empty desk before., It was so clear, you could see all the dents in the desk, from where the previous presidents actually did some work.
Much has been made about how President Obama didn’t really seem comfortable in the speech, that he looked more like a visiting college student who got to sit in the big chair for a couple minutes. It could explain why his poll numbers have dropped faster than a bowling ball out a campaign bus window.
It was also only a one tele-prompter speech. Usually he has a two tele-prompter setup so his head moves back and forth, like he’s watching a beer pong game.
It was highly uncomfortable to watch. His eyes were locked on the teleprompter, and his hands never stopped moving. You weren’t even sure the guy reading, was the same guy who was moving the hands. It was almost like watching the cookie monster give an oval office address.
I look at it a different way: from a comedian’s perspective. I've played some fairly hostile crowds during my years on the road. But the one kind of crowd I cannot tolerate is a small one. I think most comics will agree that one of the most terrifying places you can perform is to an empty room. (Of course since I’ve become big and famous, that rarely happens to me anymore.)
Every comic needs an audience. Those few minutes we’re on stage are the highlight of our week. It is the only time we feel alive, the only time we’re not consumed with self-doubt. Comics are narcissists. Comedy is much less a talent than a personality disorder. You wouldn’t see a lot of comics performing if there were a way that you could get self -worth out of a bottle—oh wait a minute, I think there is; and a lot of us do that as well.
The problem with the President’s speech, was that he doesn’t have any idea how to work without an audience. With no audience response, the timing of is left up to speculation. It’s why a lot of comics who destroy an audience, aren’t so good in acting the movies. Tuesday Night, we were watching President Dane Cook.
Had you inserted the applause lines into his speech, it would have made a lot more sense. For instance, the confusing line from the speech: “...Even if we’re unsure exactly what that looks like. Even if we don’t yet know precisely how to get there. We know we’ll get there."
Should have gone: “...Even if we’re unsure exactly what that looks like. (applause) Even if we don’t yet know precisely how to get there. (applause) We know we’ll get there (big applause)
Even if we don’t know how we’ll get there? Yeah, that’s a great idea, let’s go to the Grand Canyon this summer, kids. I hope we’re driving in the right direction...” But with the applause added in, nobody would have noticed how silly it sounded.
The need for applause is not a really good quality in an administrator. It's the difference between a strong leader and a tyrant. A leader will make rational choices, a guy working for applause is just the head of a mob. It’s one thing when that mob is just out for a good laugh and a cocktail, it’s another when they want Tony Hayward’s head on the end of a pitch fork..
And here’s the biggest problem with performers: We also cannot stand heckling. Most hecklers will be escorted out of the room. The performers expect that.
And right now, I’m heckling big time.