It’s a truism in comedy that the hardest role is that of the straight sidekick, the bemused Abbott who, standing in for the audience, uses subtle facial expressions and clarifying questions to allow Costello’s frenzy to have its full absurdist impact. This morning, Hillary Clinton revealed herself to be an excellent sidekick—one with a bit more kick than most—the sharp, funny person her friends have told us about. She was a guest on Zach Galifianakis’s “Between Two Ferns,” an acerbic, occasional series on the comedy Web site Funny or Die. Usually, Galifianakis, who plays a rude, clueless talk-show host, picks movie-star foils—Brad Pitt, Will Ferrell, Steve Carrell—and it’s clear that the back-and-forth insults are all in good fun. Though one previous political guest was President Obama, who jabbed Galifianakis with more abuse than he received. (The success of Obama’s appearance in boosting health-insurance enrollment among millennials is the reason Clinton decided to appear.) In the Clinton interview, Galifianakis brought up the e-mail scandal, Donald Trump’s racism, pantsuits, and misogyny. Clinton presented a persona who was sometimes annoyed and weary, other times earnest, but always at the right straight pitch. The stakes in this particular bit were not merely laughs. The real joke of this episode was that a man even more loathsome and ill-prepared than the one Galifianakis plays may well become our next President. Only once, in a brief exchange, did Clinton make the over-all subtext explicit. She said that if Trump wins the election, she will “try to prevent him from destroying the United States.” It was not a laugh line.
This is, we are told, the week that Clinton pivots from a campaign strategy of quietly watching Trump self-destruct or attacking him slightly less quietly when he displays a modicum of discipline. Instead, Clinton will go on the offensive and tell the country what she will do if elected President. A...
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