The RLC's 'Obama' Debacle


As Ta-Nehisi and others have noted, the Republican Leadership Conference was marred today by what appears to have been an extremely inappropriate comedy act by a Barack Obama impersonator named Reggie Brown. I wasn't there, but press reports indicate that Brown didn't limit his act to just black jokes, but sprinkled in some anti-Mormon and anti-gay material, too, before he was ushered off the stage. Ouch.

I may feel differently after seeing the RLC video, but at first blush this seems unfortunate for all concerned. I'm somewhat familiar with Reggie Brown from YouTube, where a number of his clips are posted. He's good. And as you can see in this video, Brown doesn't appear to bear any animosity toward Obama, and in fact seems like quite a fan:

I'm not sure who at the RLC thought it would be a good idea to hire a comedian and then neglect to check out his act. That was boneheaded. The whole idea has disaster written all over it (comedy and politics generally don't work in a political setting; they work much better in a comedy setting, e.g., "The Daily Show," etc., when they premise that "this is a joke" is clear from the outset).

I hesitate to make pronouncements without having seem the footage myself, but at least from this write up in The Hill it sounds like the conservative crowd showed restraint:

Some of the biggest boos came when the fake Obama said Newt Gingrich's campaign was barely clinging to life.

"His consultants are dropping faster than Anthony Weiner's pants in an AOL chat room," he said.

Of GOP frontrunner, fake Obama joked that Mormon Mitt Romney will have "a first lady, second lady, and third lady."

Boos ensued.

He said Tim Pawlenty was out having his "foot surgically removed from his mouth."

"John King served him up a ball softer than Barney Frank's backside," he said, referring to Pawlenty's decision not to attack Romney during a CNN debate.

The audience was silent.

That last part is encouraging. This would have been a much uglier scene if the crowd had roared approvingly. Still, what a dumb, self-defeating move.

Update: Here's the video. As Ta-Nehisi says, more tone deaf than offensive:

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Joshua Green is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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