Five Mistakes the Five Candidates Made

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I debated not even writing this article (get it?) but there is just too much to say about this week’s Democratic Presidential Debate on CNN. Broadcast live from Las Vegas, the #DemDebate showcased the five top Democrats’ strengths in living color, and it also highlighted their weaknesses. I for one was deeply moved by how badly each one wants to be president, and how badly each one screwed up under the bright lights. Here’s my top five whoopsies from the spectacle:

Lincoln Chafee Doesn’t Think Before He Votes or Speaks
When asked about his vote on the Glass-Steagall Act, a 1999 financial regulation bill, Chafee looked guilty of something, like he forgot to replace the toilet paper. Caught in a spot where he couldn’t defend the vote he’d cast, Chafee chose to claim ignorance of the law. The problem is, Congress makes laws; that’s the whole gig! On live television, this man told the world “Glass-Steagall was my very first vote. I’d just arrived, my dad had died in office.” When moderator Anderson Cooper pressed him on whether he voted on a bill which he did not understand, Chafee stuttered a bit and then said “I think you’re being a little rough.”

Rough? If you’re president, you’ll need to deal with tougher bullies than Anderson Cooper! But the real mistake here isn’t phoning it in that day on the Senate floor. “Sure, I’ll just click “Yea” and then go to lunch!” His error is making excuses. Just be honest; you were in over your head on your first day. And then throwing his dead dad in as a backup excuse in case we didn’t buy the first one didn’t help. I expect Lincoln Chafee to be out of the race by Thanksgiving.

Jim Webb Cries When He Doesn’t Get His Way
Jim Webb, a candidate whose name I heard for the first time on Tuesday (I’m not the only one), spent most of his time complaining that he was not getting enough time. What debate coach advised him to try to look whiny and entitled? Dude, you are <1% in the polls. This isn’t really about you! Then, when he did have the floor he meandered and said basically nothing in way too many words.

Webb reminded me of a certain breed of stand-up comedian. They’re not scheduled at the club, no one promised them stage time, but they hang out at the club all night in case an opportunity arises. When they finally get a shot, most of them start off by saying:  “Hmm, let’s see…what do I want to talk about?” Why are you onstage if you have nothing to say? Sit down.

Martin O’Malley Showed Zero Emotion
There’s a fine line between collected and boring and O’Malley crossed the line. As a native of Baltimore, I’m familiar with this man and I know he has a lot more passion than he brought to the table last night. But so does your average salamander. You won’t win the presidency by lulling us to sleep. He played it so safe that he looked like Al Gore on lithium. Wake up, Marty; it’s showtime!

Hillary Clinton Refused to Take a Stand on Drugs
When asked about legalizing marijuana, a hot button issue with a lot of constituents (many of whom will be too busy eating Doritos to actually vote), Clinton gave a non-answer. It seemed her polling experts, pundits, speech writers, and marketing team hadn’t told her how to answer it yet. For me, it contributed to her image as someone we can’t trust.

Have an opinion! Even if people disagree, they will respect you for being authentic.

Bernie Sanders Zoned Out While What’s-His-Name was Saying Whatchamacallit
Speaking of authentic, I believe Bernie Sanders whenever he speaks, and I firmly believe he wasn’t listening when Jim Webb was babbling on and on about foreign policy with no real point in sight. Sanders was probably just feeling relieved that he wouldn’t have to hear Webb complain about not getting enough time for at least another ten minutes.

When someone’s rambling, it’s hard to pay attention, but you’d better learn how or else you’ll #feelthebern.

Everyone makes mistakes, but politicians are held to a higher standard, or at least they should be. In my opinion, some of these flaws are more fixable/forgivable than others, but all five candidates have a lot of work to do. Fortunately for them, there’s still 13 months until Election Day!

President Obama Funny? Die?

 

Barak Obama’s Affordable Care Act is a big joke, or at least that is what the president is hoping.

Mr. Obama took to the website funnyordie.com to attempt to garner publicity for the law, commonly known as Obamacare. Appearing on the site’s popular Between the Ferns channel, the president traded facetious insults and barbs with understated host Zach Galifiniakis. The goal? To increase awareness of (and dispel common myths about) the Affordable Care Act and its corresponding website, healthcare.gov.

Reviews of Mr. Obama’s comedic performance have been mixed. On ABC News, Michael Falcone and Ann Compton laud the interview as “hilarious.” Howard Kurtz of Fox News harkens back to President Clinton’s infamous saxophone solo on the Arsenio Hall Show, deriding both as undermining the dignity of the Oval Office.  In The New Yorker, Ian Crouch frames the online couch appearance as a “win” in the fight against conservative icon Bill O’Reilly. The critiques continue on, to the point where a Google search of “Obama funny or die” yields over 310,000,000 results. This video is the talk of the nation, and that makes it a very big joke.

But is the joke on Mr. Obama? While the punctilious among us may demur, none can argue that the viral video failed to serve its purpose. As Jolie Lee at USA Today points out, traffic on healthcare.gov was 40% higher on Tuesday, the day after the clip was released. In subjecting himself to criticism of everything from his comic timing to his respect for the esteemed office he holds, Mr. Obama has deftly shifted the focus onto the very law on which his legacy depends. History cares about whether the leader of the free world delivers campaign promises, not punchlines.

Comedy has always been a great catalyst for conversation, and if this publicity stunt continues to drive traffic to healthcare.gov, funny will never die.

I was a crime victim

While I was in Melbourne, Australia last month, I stopped by the Crown Casino to play a little poker. Anyone who has ever been inside a casino knows that it’s the safest-feeling place in the world. Cameras and security everywhere, you’d never think a crime could occur.

Imagine my surprise when I looked down to see that my cell phone, which had been sitting on the beverage table three inches away from me, was gone! Never mind that my cell phone is virtually useless in Australia given that the network it shares doesn’t exist there. Never mind that no harm came to me nor to any of my loved ones. Never mind that replacing it only costs $100. I was mortified!

Watching the video surveillance footage later and seeing my unknown perpetrator audaciously help himself to my personal property was horrifying. The feeling of betrayal, bewilderment, and violation that I felt was much stronger than my rational mind knows it should have been.

I can only imagine how victims of violent crime feel. This larceny has me losing sleep at night! Still, if you’re going to be the victim or a crime, having your cell phone stolen out from under your nose is probably the one you’d choose.

(sent from my laptop)

Lots of gigs in Sverige!

This weekend has been amazing thus far. On Thursday night, I boarded the red eye with Jessica Kirson and Joe DeVito, two of my favorite comics and two of my favorite people as well! We rocked it — hard — at the Brooklyn Ha Ha shows in Hornstull. There was no missing either of the originally scheduled comics who decided to skip the trip. I can’t understand why anyone would ever cancel a trip to Sweden!

Sunday, Dec 1, at 8PM the aforementioned Mr. DeVito and I will be appearing at O’Leary’s in Gamla Stan along with the wonderful Janne Westerlund and everyone’s favorite Al Pitcher!  A great time is guaranteed. Please come and laugh with us 🙂

Wednesday night, Gavle is the place to be for Gasta stand-up. Come and I will give you a big hug.

So glad to be here in Stockholm again!!!

Love,

Clayton

 

Big FREE comedy shows in Stockholm this weekend!

Brooklyn Comedy Evening Clayton Fletcher + Isak Jansson + Godfrey + Joe DeVito + Jessica Kirson

Hej hej, everyone! Just want to give you some more details about the big shows at Bar Brooklyn this weekend, November 29th and 30th. I am excited to be working with Brooklyn Brewery and Carlsberg to bring some world class stand-up comedy to my favorite European city!

Jessica Kirson has been on The Tonight Show, The View, Comedy Central, Stockholm Comedy Festival.

Joe DeVito has been on CBS’s Late Show, Comedy Central, Chelsea Lately and lots more.

Hannibal Buress headlined the New York Comedy Festival last week, also seen all over American TV

Isak Johnsson, you guys know him.

And me, I’m the host! This show is free, both nights. Here’s the info, including comedy clips for you:

http://www.debaser.se/kalender/12771/

I hope you will come see us. Can’t wait to get back to Sweden 🙂

Brooklyn in Sweden Comedy Party!

I’m so excited for yet another trip to my favorite European city, Stockholm! This time, I’m bringing my funny friends Joe DeVito (CBS Late Show, Chelsea Lately, Fox News) and Jessica Kirson (NBC Tonight Show, The View, Comedy Central). Its all happening November 29-30. Enjoy!

Brooklyn Comedy Evening Clayton Fletcher + Isak Jansson + Godfrey + Joe DeVito + Jessica Kirson

For full details, visit   http://www.debaser.se/kalender/12771/  

See you there!  -CF

How to say ”screw you” in any language

I have noticed recently that people are finding increasingly clever ways to diss each other. In show business, the classic ”Don’t call us, we’ll call you” has come and gone. Now performers are being subjected to many mixed signals on a daily basis. Sometimes I wish they’d just tell me to f**k off–at least that would be less confusing.

After a recent performance, a booker said to me, ”What you’re doing is really fresh and unique. I’m so excited to see a comic who is willing to take chances and not follow the status quo. I’m looking forward to working with you.”  I can’t get him to return my calls now.

I recently interviewed for a job that suits me perfectly:  hosting a podcast about poker.  The feedback:  ”You’re obviously the right man for this job. What would it take for us to get you to sign on?”  He blocked me on Facebook.

I knew that the entertainment business was a very competitive one before I entered the field. I just didn’t know the ones in power would compete over who can find the most clever way to say ”screw you.”

Vulnerability vs. Weakness

This week I had the privilege of speaking at an event here in New York City called Workforce Live! Along with my co-presenter Steve Cody (a veteran of the New York public relations world and a damn good comedian to boot), I was asked to address the use of comedy as a culture catalyst. Now, I don’t know what a culture catalyst is, but my dad’s Gremlin had a catalytic converter, so I’m clearly an expert.

In the joke above, I admit to not knowing something, which shows vulnerability. I make this kind of joke often in the corporate comedy training I do throughout the USA with strategic communications firm Peppercomm. I never thought too hard about why I do, until Cody and I left the stage at the Workforce Live! event. A human resource manager from one of the companies in attendance asked, “Aren’t you afraid that in being vulnerable you won’t seem strong?”

I was taken aback by the question because that thought had never crossed my mind. Vulnerability and weakness are not inextricably linked. In fact, showing humanity (by admitting imperfections) and being honest (by sharing insecurities) are moves only strong people make! Giving the audience a certain amount of power to hurt me allows them to become more emotionally invested in my performance. This is a comedy trick of the trade that all performers and presenters should master. Being vulnerable takes courage, and those who do it are seen as genuine, open, authentic, and strong.

Pretending to know everything is a surefire way to lose everyone’s trust, and what could be weaker than that?

Hollywood Swingin’

Photo: It's great to be back in L.A.

I am on the road again, this time Los Angeles. Stopped to pose with some Laker girls (the Los Angeles Lakers are a very popular basketball team in this part of the world) before playing in the Legends of Poker tournament, part of the World Poker Tour.

Still making plenty of time for comedy, of course, too. Shows, games, fun in the sun, and hanging out with old friends makes Los Angeles a really fun city to visit.

But I wouldn’t want to live there…