When people like Donald Trump (or most Republicans for that matter) try to deflect by saying “I was joking” about something, they’re lying. This morning, Republican House candidate Carl Palladino (from the Buffalo, NY area) said “in a radio interview that U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland “should be executed” for authorizing a search of former President Donald Trump’s home.” Later in the show, Paladino got squirrely about what he’d said. He told the audience he “wasn’t being serious”. Uh huh… At some point, I assume, someone on Carl’s campaign team explained that threatening the AG out loud, on the radio, might bite him in the ass. Hard. So, Carl went the easy, tried and true route: “ignore what I said, I was joking!” Except, Carl wasn’t joking. He literally can’t joke because he doesn’t know how to. It’s a fact: not everyone has a sense of humor.
People who have a sense of humor laugh WITH people, not AT people. That’s an important distinction and there’s an easy tell. People with a sense of humor can laugh at themselves. People without one can’t. It’s that simple. One thing we know about Donald Trump: he absolutely cannot laugh at himself. And the though of others laughing at him?
In fact, Trump stars in the most perfect example of what it looks like when one person has a sense of humor and another doesn’t. At the 2011 White House Correspondent’s Dinner, President Obama famously made fun of then presidential wannabe Donald Trump. Before he gets to Trump though, Obama explains a joke he made to the Fox News table. The video Obama showed from Disney’s “The Lion King”? He knew that wasn’t really his birth video. Obama’s laughing at Fox, but he’s laughing at himself, too.
Then Obama turns to Trump.
Now, Don-Don likes it just fine when Obama points to him in the audience. Like Oscar Wilde, Don-Don loves attention regardless of whether it’s good or bad. But then Obama begins landing the zingers about how Trump’s a conspiracy freak. Then Obama makes fun of Celebrity Apprentice. Trump had to make tough decisions: whether or not to fire Gary Busey. Trump visibly stews while, all around him, the audience howls.
In fact, President Obama got a huge ovation at Trump’s expense. Some people feel that moment triggered Trump to actually run for president. Maybe yes, maybe no. If yes, it demonstrates the power a sense of humor brings. Or the problems posed by people without one.
Authoritarians aren’t known for their comedy stylings. But then, you don’t get to be a Hitler or a Mussolini or a Pol Pot or a Stalin or a Mao or a Donald Trump by making people laugh. You do it by making them cower.
The ultimate irony is that laughter is Donald Trump’s kryptonite.