My pre-teen encounter with post-modern comedy came when I went to summer camp with Andy Kaufman in 1960. We were both 11. Though our time together lasted but a few days -- he freaked out and his parents had to fetch him home -- Andy's astounding Elvis impersonation at a talent show left an indelible impression. After the show, he stayed in character so convincingly I couldn't tell if he was serious or zany. It took me years to understand that he was both.
Differentiating Mitt Romney's intended jokes from his sincere utterings can also be viewed through the lens of post-modern comedy. Can you tell which are which among the following Top 40? (All but one or two are direct Mitt-statements -- see links to locate the exceptions.)
1. I've always been a rodent and rabbit hunter. Small varmints, if you will.
2. I'm not familiar precisely with what I said, but I'll stand by what I said, whatever it was.
3. The grass is the right color for this time of year, kind of a brownish-greenish sort of thing.
4. No one's ever asked to see my birth certificate.
5. [M]y job is not to worry about [the 47%]. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.
6. Corporations are people, my friend.
7. I should tell my story. I'm also unemployed.
8. I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.
9. I'll take a lot of credit for this (auto) industry's come back.
10. My sons have chosen not to serve in the military...[they] are showing support for our nation [by] helping me get elected.
11. Take my wife. Please. She drives a couple of Cadillacs.
12. If you want a president who will make things better in the African-American community, you are looking at him. You take a look!
13. [Obama] says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin?
14. Look at those clouds. It's beautiful.
15. President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. My promise... is to help you and your family.
16. I'm kind of a Snooki fan. Look how tiny she's gotten.
17. We're only inches away from no longer being a free economy.
18. I love cars. Let me tell ya...
19. It's time for the party of big ideas, not the party of Big Brother.
20. The gap between Obama's promises and his performance is the largest I've seen, well, since the Kardashian wedding and the promise of 'til death do we part.
21. Get the education, borrow money if you have to from your parents.
22. PETA is not happy that my dog likes fresh air.
23. Middle income is $200,000 to $250,000 and less.
24. It is appalling that Obama spent his teenage years goofing around and smoking pot when he should have been pinning down gay kids and cutting their hair.
25. I'm not sure about these cookies. They don't look like you made them.
26. [I wear] 'as little as possible' in bed.
27. I read a book on how to be spontaneous once and can now recite large swaths of it from memory!
28. I was a severely conservative governor of Massachusetts.
29. My running-mate will be Chick-Fil-A -- it 'clucked' with my views on social issues.
30. The reality is that the problem is called Global Warming, not America Warming.
31. Details? Details? I don't have to show you any stinkin' details.
32. Most of our dinner-time events involved humor of one kind or another...which can't be repeated on the air.
33. I was going to suggest to you that you serve your eggs with hollandaise sauce in hubcaps. Because there's no plates like chrome for the hollandaise.
34. To a man wearing a "Joe Gauci Landscaping" T-shirt: "You do some landscaping work?"
35. I am learning to say y'all and I like grits...strange things are happening to me.
36. It would be helpful to be Latino.
37. I love this state. The trees are the right height.
38. I believe in an America where millions of Americans believe in an America that's the America millions of Americans believe in.
39. Running for president in the YouTube era, you realize you have to be very judicious in what you say. You have to be careful with your humor.
40. Who let the dogs out? Who? Who?