Comedy Writing at the NY Times

There are some days I wonder whether the editorial page of the New York Times is really just a training ground for deadpan comedy writers. Surely Leslie Nielsen and Lloyd Bridges at their faux-serious best in Airplane! can’t match the ironic hilarity of the Times editorial endorsements yesterday of Hillary Clinton and John Kasich.

Of Hillary Clinton, for example, the Times tells us:

Democratic primary voters, on the other hand, after a substantive debate over real issues, have the chance to nominate one of the most broadly and deeply qualified presidential candidates in modern history. . .

A “substantive debate over real issues”?? Comedy 101, as any standup comic like our own Ammo Grrrl will tell you, depends on setting up “runners,” that is, themes that will recur again and again and produce easy laughs by their growing familiarity with the audience. That appears to be what the Times is up to, but I’m not sure the Times endorsement of Hillary is quite ready for the Improv yet.

Mr. Sanders has scored some rhetorical points against Mrs. Clinton for her longstanding ties to Wall Street, but she has responded well. . .

By all accounts, Hillary wrapping herself in 9/11 to deflect Sanders’ attack is reckoned as one of her worst moments in the debates that seem to have been scheduled to go head to head against infomercials. This next joke setup requires bracketed comments:

Mrs. Clinton is keenly aware of the wage gap for women [perhaps because she paid women in her Senate office so much less than men?], especially for women of color. It’s not just that she’s done her homework — Mrs. Clinton has done her homework on pretty much any subject you’d care to name. [Like how to evade government protocols on email?]

And this graph requires no comment, and doesn’t need a laugh track:

As secretary of state, Mrs. Clinton worked tirelessly, and with important successes, for the nation’s benefit. She was the secretary President Obama needed and wanted: someone who knew leaders around the world, who brought star power as well as expertise to the table. The combination of a new president who talked about inclusiveness and a chief diplomat who had been his rival but shared his vision allowed the United States to repair relations around the world that had been completely trashed by the previous administration.

Let’s just end with this fragment of a sentence near the end:

Mrs. Clinton has honed a steeliness that will serve her well . . .

Not clear that it will serve her well, but the first part of that sentence is accurate.

Meanwhile, the Times has decided to kill off John Kasich by endorsing him (after all, how well would it work for Kasich to campaign with the tag line, “Endorsed by the New York Times!”), which suggests perhaps that of all the Republican field, Kasich is the candidate they fear the most? Talk about being in a bubble:

Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, though a distinct underdog, is the only plausible choice for Republicans tired of the extremism and inexperience on display in this race. And Mr. Kasich is no moderate. As governor, he’s gone after public-sector unions, fought to limit abortion rights and opposed same-sex marriage.

Talk about damning with faint praise. So, apparently moderation in defense of extremism is no vice? Or something. Cue Zucker, Zucker, and Abrahams for a new genre of droll comedy: Airplane! meets Front Page.


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