Candidates and comedy shows have a long history

Posted at 7:07 PM, Sep 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-23 20:15:17-04

Millions have watched the comedy bit with Hillary Clinton and Zach Galifianakis on Between Two Ferns, including Marquette University Strategic Communication Professor Nathan Gilkerson.

The Hollywood Reporter says the online talk show was viewed 30 million times in 24 hours.  Gilkerson believes the advantage for Clinton was reaching out to millennials.

"Doing something like this is likely to go viral and appear in a lot of people's social media feeds - especially younger voters," said Gilkerson.

The six-minute comedy clip brings up controversial issues about racism and sexism that may not be funny on the campaign trail, but can sometimes work in a comedy setting. 

"One of the things about political satire in particular is that it is ambiguous by its very nature," he says.

Gilkerson points out this is not a new phenomenon. Presidential candidates have been on comedy shows dating back to 1968.  Richard Nixon did a cameo on NBC's top-rated "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In." Nixon delivered one line:  "Sock it - to me?"

In 1992, candidate Bill Clinton played the saxophone on Arsenio Hall.

This month, Jimmy Fallon was messing with Donald Trump's famous hair - the video went viral. Gilkerson says self deprecating humor can be good for candidates.

"That was a moment where he showed a sense of humor and ability to be personable."

Gilkerson says he tells his Marquette students it's not just the event itself that gets attention - it's the often the earned media that a candidate gets from the event, which these days is all about social media.