It’s settled: No comedian is going to get a gig introducing a presidential candidate again. Ever.
It’s a bit of hyperbole, yes, but Bernie Mac’s comments on Friday before introducing Obama at a Chicago fund-raiser drew a sharp rebuke from the campaign and a light warning from the candidate himself.
In short, Mac was riffing on women. From the pool report: “He promised to help Obama and that he would be there “like the Jackson Five” and ended his irreverent riff with a joke involving the women in the families and living with two “hoes.””
“A heckler started protesting, asking for Mac to step down and let Barack come on.”
Obama — after calling Mac “my great friend, one of the kings of comedy” — said, “Everybody is concerned about whether the Democratic Party will be unified in time. We don’t have an option but to make sure that we are united and make sure that we succeed…we can’t afford to be divided by race. We can’t afford to be divided by religion, or by region or class. Or by gender,” he said, pausing for effect. “That means, by the way, Bernie you got to clean up your act. This is a family affair… I’m just messing with you.”
Sure, this warm-up is a normal part of Bernie Mac’s routine, but when telling jokes on during a campaign it is almost a sure thing that someone will be offended. Even Jesse Ventura, not a man who minces words, said this week that Al Franken can’t tell jokes on the trail because someone is bound to take exception. Ventura cited the example of when he told a joke about Irish drinking habits on Letterman, shortly after he became governor of Minnesota. The next day there were cries of outrage in some quarters, even as Ventura tried to defend the remark and pointed out the prevalence of Irish pubs in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Obviously, there’s a big difference when a surrogate tells a joke than a candidate. But Mac’s remarks took place almost four years to the day from the infamous John Kerry fund-raiser at Radio City Music Hall, an event that was overshadowed by GOP cries over off-color remarks made by Whoopi Goldberg.