News Comment

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Kim Bielenberg: Irish politicians more than a match for Obama when it comes to comedy routines

Published 30/04/2013 | 14:16

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Finance Minister Michael Noonan

It is not normally the job of a statesman, but President Obama showed promise as a funny man when he had them rolling in the aisles at the recent White House Correspondents’ dinner.

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So which Irish and international politicians could cut it on the comedy circuit? Michael Noonan, Pat Rabbitte and Joe Higgins have sometimes rivalled Winston Churchill in tickling the funny bone.

1. MICHAEL NOONAN

The Finance Minister has a serious job, but his put-downs are legendary.

He ridiculed Pearse Doherty over Sinn Fein’s support in the Dail for the disastrous bank guarantee, and the party’s subsequent disowning of it.

“The Donegal man keeps shouting at me. It is like Donegal football, it is blanket defence. Pearse Doherty’s piece of casuistry reminded me of Bart Simpson’s defence, ‘We didn’t do it, nobody told us, we weren’t there, it was the other people’.”

To then Finance Minister Brian Lenihan when he cut child benefit for each third child in 2010: "Minister, what have you got against third children? The fourth child won't be cut, the fifth child won't be cut, the 16th child won't be cut. . . did some third child beat you up coming home from school as a young fella?"

Noonan was unfazed when he was hit by a custard pie as Fine Gael leader during the 2002 General Election 2002. Scarcely pausing for breath, he remarked:  "I usually have my dessert after my chips."

2. PAT RABBITTE

In the past the Communications Minister reserved some his choicest barbs for Michael McDowell.

He incurred the wrath of some women when he remarked: "Michael is like a menopausal Paris Hilton. He's an inveterate attention seeker.”

Rabbitte once told the Dail: "I met a woman in Cork last week who told me that every time Minister Seamus Brennan gives an interview, her dog licks the television set. . . And every time the Minister for Justice (Michael McDowell) gives an interview, the dog uncontrollably barks."

Rabbitte once complained that RTE’s Oireachtas Report was on so late that only “drunks and insomniacs” watched it.

3. JOHN KELLY

The Dublin South Fine Gael TD was renowned as the Dail’s wittiest speaker in the 1970s and 1980s.

One of his targets, Fisheries Minister Brian Lenihan (senior), could only laugh when Kelly described him as “the Bismarck of the lobster pots”.

Kelly quickly got the measure of Bertie Ahern, noting of Bertie's disappearance from the divorce campaign of 1986 that the poor ward boss was only copying Charlie Haughey who, "caught between his hillbillies and Hot Press", was doing "the cute thing and lying low like Brer Fox".

The Fine Gaeler once said of his own party, “It could never pass a sleeping dog without feeling the need to give it a good kick.”

4. JOE HIGGINS

Most of the socialist comedy is of the unintentional variety as the Disunited Left Alliance and its strange allies Mick Wallace and Luke Ming Flanagan master the art of farce.

There was a time in the 2000s when Joe Higgins delivered priceless barbs at Bertie Ahern.

He said: “Dealing with Bertie Ahern is like playing handball against a haystack.”

On Ahern’s declaration that he was a socialist: “If this conversion was genuine, we would have to go back 2,000 years to find another as rapid and as radical. Saul’s embrace of Christianity on the road to Damascus stood the test of time but the Taoiseach’s embrace of socialism on the banks of the Tolka hardly will."

5. WINSTON CHURCHILL

The British Prime Minister delivered the most famous political one-liner of all when he was accused of being drunk by MP Bessie Braddock.

"You are drunk," said Bessie.

Winston replied: "Yes. You are ugly, but tomorrow morning I will be sober."

6. BARACK OBAMA

At the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the President showed his own spoof Spielberg movie, playing the part of Daniel Day Lewis playing Obama.

And he was in self-deprecating mood: "These days, I look in the mirror and I have to admit, I'm not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be."

On CNN: "I know CNN has taken some knocks lately, but the fact is I admire their commitment to cover all sides of a story, just in case one of them happens to be accurate."

7. BEPPE GRILLO

In Italy they have decided to go the whole hog and have elected a large number of members from a party led by a comedian.

In 2007, Mr Grillo suggested that the Italian parliament had a higher crime rate than one of the most dangerous suburbs of Naples.

He also joked about the deceased ex-prime minister Bettino Craxi:

A politician visiting China rang the Prime Minister Bettino Craxi and said: 'Listen. There's a billion people here. Are they all socialists?'

And Craxi said: 'Yes. Why?'

'Well, who do they steal from?'

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