Considering how the unfunniest man in political history is rehearsing “zingers” as a path to the presidency, I reviewed a list of the most famous debate zingers. In the process, I was reminded: debate zingers suck.
The best of the list is Lloyd Bentsen’s “You’re no Jack Kennedy” line, and partly because it was assisted by Dan Quayle’s stunned deer-in-the-headlights response. Ultimately, however, it didn’t help Bentsen’s ticket.
“There you go again,” used by Reagan twice, isn’t really a zinger. Reagan’s “youth and inexperience” line is, in fact, a zinger even though it seemed rehearsed and unnatural — in fact, Reagan almost choked on the line.
But this was the all-time worst zinger of the list:
4. “If Bush keeps it up, he’s going to be the Joe Isuzu of American politics.” Both Vice President George H.W. Bush and Massachusetts Gov. Mike Dukakis managed to get in a few zingers during the 1988 presidential debate in Winston-Salem, N.C. Dukakis claimed Bush couldn’t be serious about bringing down the deficit, because the Republican wanted both more defense spending and lower taxes. “If he keeps this up he’s going to be the Joe Isuzu of American politics,” Dukakis said, referring to a ’70s car salesman famous for his over-the-top TV ads. “Is this the time to unleash our one-liner? That answer was about as clear as Boston Harbor,” Bush retorted.
I cringe every time I read that one. Joe Isuzu?? Ugh.
That line had a shelf-life of about two seconds. I realize the lying Joe Isuzu guy was quite a meme in 1988, but holy hell. Too specific, too topical and, coming from Michael Dukakis, it simply wasn’t funny. Furthermore, Dukakis still lost the election in a blow-out. Plus, George Bush’s response about Boston Harbor was equally as lame, but on a meta-level. It was a “zinger” that was designed to undermine the use of “zingers.”
And this is what Unfunny Romney has been rehearsing since August? Good luck with that.