What Uncle Was Joe Biden Most Like?

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Though the Internet has not universally declared a winner of the vice-presidential debate—unlike the way all of tweeting America agreed President Obama lost the presidential debate—one thing is clear in the aftermath: the only thing anyone cares about is Joe Biden and his crazy face. Sure, Paul Ryan had wild eyebrows and a baby named "Bean," but Biden's cackles, wide smiles, scoffs, and hands thrown in the air were the main show. Biden's performance was surprising, but also familiar, because everybody keeps comparing him to a familiar family friend: the weird uncle. (Ryan was less familiar—the "MBA," "a wonk who exercises.") But on the question of which weird uncle, the Internet is divided. And whether he was a good weird uncle or a bad weird uncle depends on your political point of view. Here are the best of the uncle comparisons so far:

Drunk Thanksgiving Uncle

Whether you view the drunk uncle's presence at your Thanksgiving table a blessing or a curse depends on your politics, and probably also on how much you hate your family. "The contrast in style between the two men was every bit as great as expected," National Journal's Ronald Brownstein writes. Ryan was the cool MBA, while "Biden was more the corner barkeeper, or the opinionated uncle at the Thanksgiving table: he interrupted, harrumphed, and rolled his eyes." Biden "fashioned himself into a blue-collar elder statesman who sometimes acts like your uncle after three glasses of Scotch," The Washington Post's Dan Zak said.

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"DRUNKLE: That was Joe Biden last night. Like your drunk uncle, interrupting loud, obnoxious, gesturing, arms flailing, laughing," radio host Todd Schnitt said. "Biden is dropping the ends of his words. START INTERRUPTING HIM, PAUL. Don't let the crazy uncle monopolize the T-giving dinner convo," radio host Laura Ingraham said. "Mr. Biden had to show the White House, the Democratic base and himself that he still has it, that he's not the doddering uncle in the attic," The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan writes. 

Sure, they're viewing this through the lens of their political preferences, but you can't help but notice these conservatives have a dim view of their elderly relatives. The classic unwelcome drunkle is Uncle Frank, from Scent of a Woman, played by Al Pacino. But Frank was a little bit too bitter to really capture Biden's performance. 

That night ended in physical violence. This one did not. Biden is clearly smilier than Frank:

Uncle Leo

The Seinfeld reference of choice for tweeters Mike Pascoe and Renois. "So far, Biden = Uncle Leo. WHAT IS ALL THIS STUFF? IM AN OLD MAN. WHAT DO YOU MEAN NUCLEAR BOMB? MALARKY!" DerekIAm tweets. We strongly recommend Republicans adopt Uncle Leo as the chief Biden uncle, because he fits in so nicely with arguments about entitlement reform. Jerry spots Leo shoplifting, and asks him if he's worried he'll be arrested. Leo says no. "I'm an old man! I'm confused! I thought I paid for it." Just like he thought he paid for Medicare and Social Security.

Like Leo, Biden likes to throw his hands up in exasperation:

Uncle Jesse

One of Uncle Jesse's catch phrases on Full House was "Have mercy!" which I do not remember, and which this YouTube roundup of the utterances suggests is because it was stupid. "There were a few moments in the debate where I imagined Biden with an Uncle Jesse 'Have mercy!'" Shana Westlake tweeted.

This one kind of works, because Biden played to the crowd with a few forced mannerisms when reacting to Ryan last night.

Uncle Gore

Okay, Al Gore is not technically famous for being an uncle, and people are making this comparison, so we feel obligated to note it. (Gore's an uncle IRL anyway.) "Voters seemed to hate Al Gore’s sighing in 2000, and Biden’s conduct struck me as far worse," Bloomberg View's Ramesh Ponnuru says. "That condescending, smirking, laughing—it was akin to Gore’s sigh," Republican strategist Mary Matalin said on CNN.

In 2000, Gore was going crazy in the reaction shots:

But again, Biden was a little smilier in his dismissiveness.

Uncle Warmly Dismissive of My College Major

"Biden keeps chuckling like when I told my uncle that I was going to be a theater major," The Atlantic Wire's Richard Lawson tweets. This one was tougher to place, but Richard suggested Cousin Eddie from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

This gets at Biden's folksiness:

Not to mention the cultural subtext in this photo going around Tumblr:


This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.