For advice on being funny, ask Amy (and Al)

WASHINGTON — Funnily enough, for all the partisanship in Washington, the one thing Democrats and Republicans here agree on is that Minnesota has the funniest Senate delegation. There’s no question Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken are ranked 1-2 in some order, though there is a bit of a debate over who’s on first.

Klobuchar’s big breakout came last year at the annual Congressional Dinner, when she joked about having set the Senate’s record for fundraising from ex-boyfriends… adding that in the House that record is held by Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank (who is very openly gay). The crowd ate it up.

Since then, Klobuchar has been asked to headline a number of gigs, including the National Press Club’s presidential inauguration, and her humor has been cited as part of the reason she’s now seen as a rising star in the Democratic caucus.

As such, POLITICO went to Klobuchar to get advice for would-be pols-turned-comics. Her advice:

Tip one: “You have to be able to poke fun at yourself and at your own party,” she said.

Tip two: Try out your jokes. Klobuchar said she did a test run of her gig in the Senate cloakroom in front of John McCain, Joe Lieberman and Chris Dodd. “The last thing you want to do is to offend one of your colleagues for one cheap laugh,” she said.

Tip three: Go with the flow. “Part of it is just the verve and enjoyment, you can tell if someone likes doing it or not, whether they are a Republican or a Democrat.”

Tip four: Have a line ready. If a joke goes bad, “move on,” Klobuchar said. “I had this one line in my head I was going to use—it was ‘Hey guys, I’m only five minutes into this and it’s shorter than a Joe Biden soundbite.’ I used it when I flubbed a joke.”

The POLITICO piece doesn’t quote Franken, who hasn’t yet stepped out into the Washington social scene as the entertainment. However, the Senate’s only professional comic-turned-pol frequently turns to humor in his speeches.

Franken hosted a handful of Olympic athletes at his weekly Minnesota breakfast today, riffing several times on how he understands derivatives regulation but can’t quite understand the rules of curling as he kept the assembled constituents — including a few members of the U.S. Curling team — in stitches.

Most of Franken’s skill comes from that cadence comedians have, knowing where to place a pause to better deliver the closing line. As a result, Franken got off several lines that probably aren’t going to be as funny written on this blog. My favorite (given the recent brutal winter, both here and back in Minnesota):

“Minnesota had the most Olympians of any state at the recent Winter Olympics (pause… pause…) Go figure.”

Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Alicia DeMatteo on 04/21/2010 - 12:05 pm.

    Humor is an effective way of creating bonds with people you may not have much else in common with. Hopefully they’ll use their funny bones to get good work done.

  2. Submitted by Jeff Goldenberg on 04/21/2010 - 12:14 pm.

    Amy’s move towards humor is smart politics. Al’s election, while helpful to the party, is a mixed bag for Amy.

    Had Norm held the seat, Amy would be, by a mile, the most powerful Minnesota Democrat. With Al her near-equal, plus his national reputation, she’s sharing the Minnesota Democratic political throne.

    Establishing herself as funny simultaneously boosts her status on the national stage and modestly and benignly diminshes Al.

    Amy is a master at helping herself.

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