Tell me something. When you watch the above video of Justin Trudeau, does it warm your heart? Do you think it funny and therefore good? Do you say to yourself, ‘Aww, isn’t it great that our politicians don’t take themselves too seriously? It’s all in a good cause, too, bless!’
Or do you cringe and think, ‘You vain prat Justin! You are a politician not a light entertainer. Stop degrading us with this cutesy comic crap! Don’t you have anything better to do? Stop using charity as an excuse to celebrate your narcissism and get back to work!’
If, like me, your reaction is the latter, then consolations, comrade. We are in the humourless minority. Most people adore this stuff. Trudeau’s little skit is being shared all over the internet today. It is a response to Prince Harry and President Obama’s viral video promoting the Invictus Games, which everybody loved because it featured the Queen. It was all for a cause that is close to the Prince’s heart, we were told. And Prince Harry said ‘boom!’, which is in and of itself hilarious. These global leaders are just like us, the meme-craving, drooling-on-our-smart-phones masses.
Trudeau took the joke a bit too far, obviously, and his video will not be applauded by all. But when Barack Obama makes a joke, almost everybody heralds him as hilarious. Take his White House correspondents’ dinner speech on Saturday night, which is being enjoyed by everyone. It was, in parts, very funny. The President is a class act. He has a terrific talent for delivering jokes. The ‘Obama out’ microphone bit at the end was cool, too. Because Obama is black and charismatic, he can get away with posing in a way that no other major party leader can. And what’s wrong with that?
Nothing, I suppose. We all prefer Obama in funny mode; it’s much better than when he goes all pseudo-intellectual about the meaning of Barack Obama. (‘The only way my life makes sense,’ he told his biographer David Maraniss, ‘is if, regardless of culture, race, religion, tribe, there is this commonality, these essential human truths and passions and hopes and moral precepts that are universal.’ LOL!!!!)
Besides, it’s quite pleasing when our overlords try to amuse us. It makes everybody feel that we the people are still in charge. If we want our leaders to dance for us — and increasingly, thanks to the advent of online video, we do — then they will. Yet, for us cynics, this gimmicky internet-driven exhibitionism is embarrassing, even sickening. It’s part of a disorientating trend. As Andrew Watts noted in the magazine last year, our politicians are becoming comedians, and vice-versa.
Presumably, spin doctors think that comedy plays well with millennials, and judging by the over-shared worship of Obama this week, they might be right. But as we all grow up with the internet — and as Donald Trump, the funniest joke of all, emerges as a serious presidential contender — maybe we should want our politicians to stop trying to make us laugh and start trying to stop the world falling apart.