Posted by: Ian Ross | March 24, 2009

Obama’s Humour Blocking His Message

Twice in the past week, American President Barack Obama has used improv humour during big television interviews. And both times, his little quips have been seen as off-colour — distracting millions of viewers from his key messages.

He certainly has important things to say about turning around the economy. But going off message to seem ‘down to earth’ has somewhat derailed his public relations campaign.

On Thursday night, he made a silly comment about the Special Olympics when describing his poor bowling skills on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. The ratings for the show were the highest in more than 10 years, reaching millions.obama2

On Sunday night, it was 60 Minutes when he laughed while talking about the economy, followed by interviewer Steve Kroft asking if he was ‘punch drunk?’ Obama had 16 million viewers.

I bet many were talking about his poor humour and not his policies around the watercooler the following days.

Reporters and bloggers were certainly buzzing. The New York Times has some differing insights from PR folks about the 60 Minutes interview. Gawker thought Obama’s gallows humour could be good PR.  In the Huffington Post, Richard Greene doesn’t think the outbursts are such a big deal, but Stanton Peele calls them PR mistakes.

If Obama’s humour is this distracting, it isn’t helping his cause. He needs to stay focused on his key messages.


  1. I don’t think Obama’s humour will have a detrimental effect on his image. He’s already known for having a good sense of humour; he was absolutely hilarious at the Alfred E. Smith dinner when he roasted John McCain during the election run. Unless his jokes were in poor taste (which it seems you’re alluding to regarding the Special Olympics comment), then I think it will only help him.

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