President Donald Trump carried on the presidential tradition of speaking in front of the United Nations Sept. 13. However, unlike his predecessors, his performance completely bombed. Trump’s appearance was the worst stand-up set the U.N. has seen since Tim Allen, a record none ever thought would be broken.
Trump’s set did not start off particularly well. He opened by thanking the audience for coming and stating how honored he was to be there. Very sweet, but a rookie mistake. The audience was there for stand-up, not a pat on the back. In other words, as a particularly aggressive heckler once told me in a drunken rage, “Get to the jokes, funny man!”
Eventually, Trump did move on, but his setup and follow through did not line up very well. For example, he mentioned how much better things are since his election day in 2016. A promising setup, but the punchline — unemployment being the lowest it’s been in 16 years — did not deliver. Again, rookie move to spend too much time talking about the opening acts during your set, especially if they had been doing a much better job than you. Even Tim Allen would not have made that mistake.
Trump talked in circles a little for a bit, saying things we’ve all heard before. Like a joke about airplane food or Superman’s disguise being glasses, it’s nothing new or original. Things really began to heat up when he got to the topic of North Korea. The performance switches to an edgy, in-your-face style the 90’s would have loved. As that same aggressive heckler said after I cursed on stage, “this isn’t your momma’s stand up!”
Trump hit North Korean leader Kim Jong Un with some seriously heavy zingers, calling him a “Rocket Man” at one point. The president then moved on to crowd-work, with the Iran delegation up first. Many comedians ask the audience members questions about their lives or what they do for a living. However, Trump proclaimed Iran’s “chief exports are violence, bloodshed and chaos.” A big part of stand-up is making sure the right words are used with the right crowd. Now, Iran has not had the greatest track record with human rights in recent years. In fact, some might say Iran is abysmal. At the U.N. however, wrong words, wrong crowd.
Trump’s next target was Venezuela, and since the last crowd work bit went so well, it was a natural conclusion to do more of the same. Audiences love it when an unsuccessful joke is done multiple times. In the case of esteemed leader Donald Trump, he zeroed in on his perception of why each government has failed. This style of comedy is known as observational humor. Trump’s observation was that Venezuela’s governmental decline was due to socialism as a concept and not a megalomaniac with a thirst for power.
After the punchline, “the problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented,” Trump paused for applause. There were 6 full seconds of pure silence before the crowd felt the need for a pity reaction to keep things moving.
Overall, a performance very reminiscent of the U.N’s last stand-up, Tim Allen. Like Trump, Allen also could not read the room and insulted most of the audience while congratulating himself at every turn.