Thursday, January 26, 2012

Newt & The Laugh Track

This is a political post

Photo from the Washington Post

Newt Gingrich, and oddly the View's Elizabeth Hasselbeck, were upset that the moderator of the first Florida debate asked the crowd to please hold their applause. This created in Ms. Hasselbeck's view a "very boring debate", and caused some pundits to say that Newt floundered. What it says to me is that the Republican nomination process has become the political version of "Last Comic Standing".

The dearth of crowd reaction and Newt's reaction to it is an actual phenomenon, stemming from the development modern television sitcoms. You see the average television situation comedy (sitcom) comes with a laugh track. This feature provides an auditory cue for your humor instincts. It laughs on cue, funny joke or not and actually induces you laugh, or at least make you think there is enough mirth to keep the show on the air. It's a fairly big deal in television production, because when a show that's supposed to be a comedy gets made without one, the whole vibe is different. It's the difference between Two and Half Men and 30 Rock.

Because apparently, it turns out, Newt's thing is schtick.

The Republican nomination process has forced all the candidates to choose the same cover story, the same talking points if you will, to be as close to the fantasy candidate mouthpiece the extreme end of the party wants just to get their votes. The moderate Republicans, now a dirty idea in general, will go along with whatever in any case, so no one is pandering to them. As such, there is now really just one candidate, the rest is all camera angles. So to set themselves apart, each has to differentiate himself on another level to woo votes. Perry was the good-ole boy. Cain was the outsider. I'm not sure what role Bachman was shooting for. Santorum is the ideological purist. Paul is the loose cannon. Romney is the inevitable. And as it turns out Gingrich is the performer.

Gingrich has discovered how to play to the crowd. There is no conviction, no this is who I am and this is what I think is best, it's all "you didn't think that was good, wait, let me do this," and whatever else makes you like me, almost like a dancing child. It started with his famous "if you quote what I said then you're misquoting me" when he misjudged that the party didn't really want a leader, they just wanted someone to stand out front and quote the talking points. A pretty face if you will. And the standing ovation he got the other night for his snappy answer to the ex-wife question just reinforced this line of thought.

On stage, if there is no feedback to let him he's rung the bell again, apparently Newt can't make himself standout, as evidenced by his first Florida debate showing. The silent crowd gives him only the same points everyone else has. He needs lights, fog machine, he needs magic. And if you could throw in a minority moderator who will ask him about his sex life, the man can throw out zingers all night. Thank you, Thank you, try the veal, I'll be here until the convention.

I'm curious to hear how he plans to dictate the terms of the Presidential Debates if he wins the nomination.

It's sad that for all the points being made that we need a strong leader in these difficult times, what we're getting from raucous debates is the promotion of an well dressed version of Larry the Cable Guy.

(my apologies to Larry the Cable Guy)

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