Jimmy Kimmel still at it: What's with Romney and the rubber chicken?

On his show, Jimmy Kimmel tried to jab President Obama, but his satire of Mitt Romney was much sharper. It illustrates a point: Incumbent presidents can be hard to roast. 

  • close
    Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney laughs while addressing supporters at a campaign stop in Chantilly, Va., Wednesday. There were no reports of rubber chickens at the event.
    Jae C. Hong/AP
    View Caption
  • About video ads
    View Caption

Jimmy Kimmel hosted the White House Correspondent’s Dinner four days ago, but he’s still continuing to roast politicians. Though by “roast” we mean he’s singeing President Obama while turning up the heat higher on his Mitt Romney jokes.

Take his monologue from “Jimmy Kimmel Live” last night. (OK, the show appears at midnight on the East Coast, meaning it’s technically this morning. We get it.) Mr. Obama got off relatively easy. Perhaps that was because he was in Afghanistan to sign a new strategic relationship pact with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. It’s difficult to mock a president carrying out crucial foreign policy duties.

But Kimmel gave it a go. “President Obama made a surprise trip to Afghanistan today to commemorate the anniversary [of Osama bin Laden’s assassination],” he said. “He had an inspiring dinner with the troops, followed by dinner at ‘TGI’m-leaving,’ and got right the heck out of there.”

Come on, Jimmy, you can do better. How about this: “President Obama just flew back from Afghanistan tonight. Boy is his left arm tired.”

Or this: “President Obama just signed an agreement with Afghanistan to get US forces out. We’re leaving one person behind to help defend the country. Ted Nugent.”

Feel free to groan, we’re not proud. Anyway, Kimmel’s bit on Romney was tougher. Funny, but tougher. The late-night comedian put up a clip of Romney and his wife Ann appearing on CBS earlier in the day. In that CBS interview Mrs. Romney insists that the former Massachusetts governor is not a stiff. Then she leans over and puts her arms around her husband and gives him a hug.

At that point Kimmel stopped the clip. “Look at how stiff he is while she’s holding him!” he says. “It’s like she’s trying to shake him out of it.... By the way, what was that [fabric print] on the shirt she was wearing? It looks like a cross between a parakeet and a serpent.”

Then Kimmel restarted the clip, which his staff had doctored. What followed did not happen in the actual CBS interview, trust us.

“It’s nice for me as a wife to say this is the person that’s really there,” Ann Romney told CBS interviewer Charlie Rose. “I still look at him as the boy that I met in high school when he was playing all the jokes.”

At this point in the clip, Mitt Romney’s arm comes shooting up, holding a rubber chicken.

“And really just being crazy,” concludes Mrs. Romney.

Then, her husband whacks her with the chicken, knocking her backside-over-teakettle out of the chair.

Kimmel’s audience loved the altered clip, roaring with laughter.

It’s true that Kimmel’s treatment of the president vis-à-vis the presumptive GOP nominee is just a bit of entertainment ephemera, with little or no bearing on the campaign at large. But we feel this does illustrate at least one interesting point: In presidential politics, a challenger is just a challenger, someone whom it’s funny to make the butt of rubber-chicken jokes.

The incumbent is the President of the United States, capital “P,” capital “U,” capital “S.” That can be harder for comedians, not to mention their political opponents, to get a handle on.

As the New York Times political blog, The Caucus, notes today: When it comes to campaigns, a sitting president has “incalculable advantages." One minute they’re issuing harsh ads questioning whether their opponent would have killed Osama bin Laden. Then the next, just as opponents are crying “foul” over the ad, the nation’s chief executive is suddenly in Afghanistan, doing the nation’s business on a big stage.

“The weaving of campaign and official business is the hallmark of presidential reelection campaigns, perfected by previous administrations of both parties. And Mr. Obama’s team will be no different in making use of the trappings of his office,” wrote correspondent Michael Shear.

Of course, it's also possible that Hollywood is just full of Democrats who find it easier to relate to Obama's style (and politics) than to Romney's. We'll let you discuss that amongst yourselves.


We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.