A Farewell to the Comedian in Chief
I miss him already. Miss his steady rationality, his I-got-this mien, the eight years without a hint of personal scandal. And not to be overlooked, I miss the wit of Barack Obama. No president has had a better comic sensibility.
Let’s face it: we’re going to need to laugh to get through the presidency of Donald Trump and the Monster’s Ball of his administration. Trump can’t tell a joke, nor can he take one. He was graceless and unfunny at the Al Smith dinner last month, getting booed for his boorishness. And he was petulant and petty with his tweet after a “Saturday Night Live” skit had him asking Siri about the Islamic State.
面对现实吧：我们将需要大笑着熬过唐纳德·特朗普(Donald Trump)的总统任期，经受他的政府的“魔鬼之锤”（Monster’s Ball，该片的常用中文译名为《死囚之舞》。——译注）。他不会讲也听不懂笑话。在上个月的阿尔·史密斯(Al Smith)晚宴上，他既没风度，也不风趣，他的粗鲁引发嘘声。得知《周六夜现场》(Saturday Night Live)的小品说他要向Siri询问伊斯兰国(Islamic State)后，他在Twitter上的发言非常暴躁和哀怨。
Thankfully, jokes at the expense of the highest office in the land are fully protected by the Constitution. But jokes coming from the occupant of that office are rare, and rarely funny. Obama is the exception.
Anyone can write a joke. Few can deliver one. Obama has great timing, and a sense of self-deprecation honed over years of making fun of his name and his ears.
Here’s a highlight reel to call upon during the coming White House humor drought:
While being interviewed for a post-presidency job not long ago, an employer played by Stephen Colbert was skeptical that Obama had any useful skills. “I did win the Nobel Peace Prize,” said the president.
前不久在采访中谈到卸任后的工作时，斯蒂芬·科尔伯特(Stephen Colbert)饰演的雇主对奥巴马是否掌握有用技能表示质疑。“我倒是赢得了诺贝尔和平奖(Nobel Peace Prize)，”总统说。
“Oh, what was that for?”
“To be honest, I don’t know,” said Obama.
You would think that having your legitimacy challenged would make you Nixonian dark or Trumpian enraged. For Obama, the birther nonsense has given him some of his best material. So there he was in a video for the White House Correspondents Dinner, waiting in line at the department of motor vehicles to get a driver’s license.
你可以想像，如果自己的政治遗产遭到质疑，尼克松那类人会脸色阴沉，特朗普之流会大光其火。而对奥巴马来说，关于出身的荒唐质疑给他带来一些上好的笑话材料。所以，在为白宫记者晚宴(White House Correspondents Dinner)拍摄的视频中，他在机动车管理局排队等候领取驾驶证。
“You’re going to need a birth certificate,” says the clerk. Obama pulls one from his pocket. “It’s real,” he deadpans. Another video showed him getting retirement tips from former House Speaker John Boehner. Obama looked at the bright side: “I can wear those mom jeans again.”
Appearing on “Between Two Ferns,” the mock cable show with Zach Galifianakis, Obama was asked, “What’s it like to be the last black president?” POTUS didn’t blink. “What’s it like for this to be the last time you’ll ever talk to a president?”
扎克·加利菲亚纳基斯(Zach Galifianakis)在假冒有线电视脱口秀《两盆蕨类植物之间》(Between Two Ferns)中问奥巴马：“作为最后一位黑人总统，你是什么感觉？”这位美国总统连眼睛都没眨一下，问道：“这是你这辈子最后一次跟总统交谈，你是什么感觉？”
Trump sends out angry tweets demanding apologies, and cyberbullying his many enemies. Obama used Twitter to comment on an unusual recipe for guacamole in The New York Times. “Not buying peas in the guac,” he wrote, a bipartisan conclusion.
The secret source of humor is not joy, Mark Twain said, but sorrow. And in looking back at the presidents who could tell a joke, you see people surrounded by tragedy. Obama may have found some of his inspiration from the man who held the union together at its darkest time, Abraham Lincoln.
马克·吐温(Mark Twain)曾说过，幽默的秘诀不是欢乐，而是悲伤。当回顾那些会讲笑话的总统时，你会发现他们全是悲剧缠身的人。奥巴马的某些灵感也许来自于那个在美国最黑暗的时期把这个国家团结起来的人：亚伯拉罕·林肯(Abraham Lincoln)。
Lincoln’s best-known comic line came during a debate, when he was accused of being two-faced. “Honestly, “ he said, “if I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?”
Teddy Roosevelt, who lost his wife and his mother on the same day, was a buoyant prankster and joke-teller, and probably the only president to skinny dip in the Potomac. His progressive agenda was often stymied in the Senate. T.R. returned the fire. “When they call the roll,” he said, “the senators do not know whether to announce present or not guilty.”
泰迪·罗斯福(Teddy Roosevelt)在同一天失去妻子和母亲。他很爱搞恶作剧，爱开玩笑，很可能是唯一一位曾在波托马克河(Potomac)里裸泳的总统。他的改革提案经常在参议院受阻。他回击说，“点名时，那些参议员不知道是应该回答‘到’还是 ‘无罪’。”
His fifth cousin, Franklin Roosevelt, loved a good joke, and not just while mixing drinks during his regular White House cocktail hour. At the depth of the Great Depression, in signing legislation that loosened the worst grip of Prohibition, he said, “this would be a good time for a beer.”
Harry Truman gave us the line about how to find a friend in Washington — “Get a dog.” John F. Kennedy parried concern about his wealthy father buying the election with a telegram he read for the press: “Dear Jack: don’t buy a single vote more than is necessary. I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay for a landslide. Love, Dad.”
哈里·杜鲁门(Harry Truman)在谈起如何在华盛顿找到一位朋友时，说了一句有趣的话：“找条狗吧。”约翰·F·肯尼迪(John F. Kennedy)在回应他富有的父亲为他买选票的质疑时，对着媒体念了一条电报：“亲爱的杰克：千万别买多了，够用就行。你要是买出一场压倒性胜利，我就完了。爱你的爸爸。”
Ronald Reagan, who learned to glide through public life on a carpet of soft humor, had this famous quip to his wife after being shot: “Honey, I forgot to duck.”
Obama’s humor is droll, with a bite. He noted that Dick Cheney said he was the worst president of his lifetime. “Which is interesting, because I think Dick Cheney is the worst president of my lifetime.”
The 44th president is leaving office with soaring approval ratings, or as he put it: “The last time I was this high, I was trying to decide my major.”
In Greece last week, after touring the timeless monuments of an ancient civilization, Obama was pestered with questions about the fate of the planet when he hands the office over to Trump. He offered some reassuring words, echoing Yogi Berra. “I always say that the only thing that is the end of world is the end of the world.”