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Judging Clint Eastwood’s Chair Speech As Comedy


Over a week ago, actor/director Clint Eastwood spoke at the Republican National Convention and has since drawn much more publicity than pretty much everyone else at the RNC, especially according to the Internet. It was the type of publicity that sparks a national discussion; the speech was just that polarizing, even though the only issue here was whether it was funny or not.

Memes, tweets, and more that made fun of Eastwood talking to an empty chair that Obama was supposedly sitting in, and how bizarre Clint’s stage was. Of course, almost anyone in attendance at the RNC that night thought it was awesome, due to the multitude of cheers and applause breaks, and would be likely to describe Eastwood at the RNC as “he killed it”. Legendary comedian Jackie Mason thought he did great and Bill Maher, who completely disagrees with Eastwood’s politics, defended him. Of course, The Daily Show, as you might expect, did a great send-up. Still, that doesn’t bring any conclusion as to whether what Eastwood did on stage in front of thousands of people was worth the over-enthusiastic response of RNC attendees (political convention attendees are almost all over-enthusiastic on both sides of the aisle).

If any of you paid attention to your social studies class enough to remember it now, you might be reminded of how there were similar polar reactions to the Kennedy Nixon Presidential Debates. It was said that those who listened on the radio said that Nixon beat out Kennedy in the debate and those who watched the debate on television voiced the opposite opinion, claiming that Kennedy outclassed Nixon. The election wasn’t decided right then and there, but the decision on which was the better candidate seemed to depend on which medium people used to witness the debate. Similarly, the difference between being a person who watched it on TV and one that watched it live (more than likely a Republican) seem to mandate the take on how Clint’s time on stage went.

As both a comedian and someone who watches almost four hours of live comedy a night, I personally side with notion that Eastwood was beyond awkward and his performance was bewildering at best, if not off-putting. Yet, he did kill. That crowd loved pretty much everything he did, including the unnecessarily long stilted pauses and lack of cadence he had, as well as the empty chair. Because comedy is so subjective, the thing you can’t take away from any person who tries to do something funny is whether the bit made a room laugh.

Unfortunately, this is the crossroads at which this speech will have to stay. There is no objectively classifying this as unfunny or funny, because objectivity can’t figure into comedy across the board. As such, Clint’s RNC speech will have to exist as both funny and unfunny, good and bad, as does all comedy, because none of us are robots programmed to hate empty chair humor.

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  1. amysrevenge says:

    If an empty chair falls in the woods and nobody laughs, is it funny?

  2. andrew'bcd says:

    if one laughs at an unfunny thing, does the laugh then mean its funny?

  3. Dan Lokhorst says:

    “As such, Clint’s RNC speech will have to exist as both funny and unfunny, good and bad, as does all comedy”

    Ah yes, the paradox known as Schrodinger’s lolcat.

  4. Oh humans... says:

    I think people got it– some of them just didn’t find it funny. Eastwood is no Newhart, sadly.

  5. Martin says:

    It owed a lot to the great Bob Newhart. I was amazed that people had such a hard time with him talking to a chair. Maybe if the chair was not there and he used a phone they would have got what he was doing. Yes, his delivery was off but everyone missed the point of what he was doing. Go watch a Newhart routine and see what he was trying to do.

    Personally I enjoyed it but I don’t agree with his politics.

  6. Gary says:

    The “he killed it” and talk about how great it was came *after* the speech. The immediate response from the RNC was to distance themselves from it. With good reason.

  7. Patty Marvel says:

    I watched the whole “chair speech” and think it could’ve been funny had it been done by a man half Eastwood’s age. His pregnant pauses sounded like he was “having a senior moment.”

  8. Megan says:

    As someone who stays out of politics (the few months leading up to November are the worst), I enjoy reading an article like this one… It doesn’t make me want to roll my eyes or cringe.Your writing is very refreshing, Mr. Kroeger. Thank you.