Take [Bill Clinton]. He gets up at a banquet and, amid some pallid witticisms, gets off two awful - well, I can't even bring myself to call them jokes, or to use even any one of the many fine English synonyms for joke. After all, no language is rich enough to include among its words for a thing a word meaning the un-thing. And these were definitely un-jokes. One, about Sen. Bob Dole and a federal grant for a project in Kansas, would have been funny if it were true. Of course, if it were true, the White House would have seen to it that the papers played it as a charge, not a joke, and tried to flog the man with the headlines. As it was, the line was false, weird and peevish. Clinton's second comment was a mordant observation about Rush Limbaugh, a crack more world-weary and cynical than funny.
Still, few people would have enough confidence in their sense of humor to stand up and tell jokes in front of a crowd, and you wouldn't think Clinton would have so unrealistic an opinion of his wit that he'd want to. After all, he has to know how earnest he is. He has to know that he is a perfect product of the mid-'60s, that post-Bruce, pre-Pryor, very nearly completely unfunny period of American history. Why, even George Bush adjusted to the idea that he wasn't funny and stopped trying so hard. Still, there Clinton was.
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