THE LIGHTER SIDE OF THE CLINTON CAMPAIGN
Why the Long Face?
BY JOHN KENNEY
From The New Yorker Magazine
September 21, 2015
Last week, Mrs. Clinton’s strategists acknowledged missteps . . . and promised that this fall the public would see the sides of Mrs. Clinton that are often obscured by the noise and distractions of modern campaigning. They want to show her humor.
Clinton campaign H.Q., Brooklyn. Hillary Clinton sits with several staffers.
STAFFER 1: Here’s something. Lots of jokes start with the line “A guy walks into a barn.”
CLINTON: I like that. That’s funny.
STAFFER 2: Bar. I think it’s “A guy walks into a bar.”
CLINTON: Bar? Why is that funny? Are bars funny?
STAFFER 3: I thought it was barn, too.
STAFFER 4: What if a guy walks into a barn and sees a bar?
CLINTON: That makes no sense.
STAFFER 2: Is that funny, though? Walking into a barn?
CLINTON: Barns are hilarious. It depends on the barn, of course, as well as the time of year. Barns can also be sad. I’ve walked into barns in the heartland of this great country, where jobs have vanished and the American dream is dead.
STAFFER 1 (Googling): It’s “bar.” Oops.
CLINTON: Let’s go with “bar.”
STAFFER 3: Doesn’t something usually come after that first line, though? Like, the . . . what’s it called . . . the punch?
STAFFER 1 (Googling): Punch line.
CLINTON: O.K. Well, let’s go with “A guy walks into a bar. Punch line.” That’s funny.
STAFFER 3: No, no. I think we need a punch line. We don’t say “punch line.”
CLINTON: I’m lost.
STAFFER 1: Same here.
CLINTON: A man is walking down the street and bumps into a bar . . . a metal bar . . . hits his head . . . he’s O.K. And I’ll tell you why he’s O.K. He’s O.K. because we passed the most significant health-care reform in our nation’s history. Should it have been single-payer? I think so. But thirty million Americans who never before had health insurance now have coverage for issues like a head contusion from walking into a bar.
STAFFER 3: I don’t think it’s a guy walking into a metal bar.
STAFFER 3: I think it’s a man walking into a bar that serves alcohol.
CLINTON: I don’t get it.
STAFFER 2: Is there a metal bar in this alcohol bar?
STAFFER 3: I don’t think there’s a metal bar anywhere in the story. It’s just a bar.
CLINTON: So I just say, “A man walks into an alcohol-serving bar”?
STAFFER 1: I worry that it’s going to seem like she’s urging people to drink.
STAFFER 2: Agreed. I think we had something really strong with the barn.
STAFFER 3: Maybe add a punch line?
CLINTON: Right. Let’s circle back to that. What is it, exactly?
STAFFER 3: I think it could be any number of things. Like wordplay.
STAFFER 1: I know: “A guy walks into an alcohol bar and has a club soda.”
STAFFER 3: I think it’s more, like, “A horse walks into a bar, and the bartender says, ‘Why the long face?’ ”
STAFFER 1: Sorry, I’m really confused.
STAFFER 2: Why is the bartender speaking to the horse?
CLINTON: People. There are 9.2 million horses in America, according to the Horse Council’s latest study on the U.S. horse industry. More than seventy per cent of horse owners live in communities of fewer than fifty thousand people. Let’s help horse owners protect what may be the quintessential American animal. And let’s not let bartenders—or anyone—demean the shape of their faces.
CLINTON: So far, we have a guy walking into a bar. It’s funny. But it could be funnier. C’mon, guys. Be funny.
STAFFER 1: Does it have to be a guy walking into a bar? Could it be a woman?
STAFFER 2: A transgender woman?
STAFFER 1: We need to speak to that demographic.
STAFFER 3: Maybe it’s a woman. She sees her friends, and they say, “Hey, Steve!” And she says, “It’s Stephanie now.”
STAFFER 1: That’s beautiful.
STAFFER 4: But, is it funny?
CLINTON: There’s nothing funny about discrimination. I will fight for the rights of L.G.B.T.Q. people everywhere.
STAFFER 1: What if the guy—
STAFFER 2: I’m sorry, but I really think we should be careful with pronouns.
STAFFER 1: My bad. What if the individual walking into the bar—and this gets back to the idea of a punch line which we spoke about earlier—what if the individual sees Roseanne Barr?
STAFFER 2: Funny. Because of the bar thing. It’s almost a homonym, I think.
STAFFER 1: What if he or she sees Barbara Bush, whom people call Bar?
CLINTON: Why is Barbara Bush sitting alone in an alcohol bar?
STAFFER 2: Are we sending the wrong signal about a revered former First Lady?
STAFFER 1: What if she’s sitting with Roseanne, and they’re drinking coffee?
STAFFER 2: And praying.
STAFFER 3: Is praying funny, though?
STAFFER 2: There was that funny Jim Carrey movie “Bruce Almighty.”
CLINTON: I like it. Get Jim Carrey.
STAFFER 1: Maybe it’s an A.A. meeting, and Roseanne fell off the wagon. Maybe Barbara Bush is leading a prayer.
CLINTON: With Jim Carrey.
STAFFER 1: Yes. And maybe the bar is filled with recovering alcoholics. Immigrants. Mexicans. Everyone is Mexican, except Barbara Bush and Roseanne Barr and Jim Carrey.
CLINTON: And I walk in and pour them coffee and say, “Let’s stop building walls. Let’s start building compassion.”
STAFFER 3: Funny stuff. ♦