Monday, November 26, 2007

Charleston Post and Courier article

Like a switchblade, best quips cut deep
C of C prof's book focuses on politics
By Aubrey Straub
The Post and Courier
Sunday, November 25, 2007
C of C prof's book focuses on politics

Today's overly orchestrated political debates and scripted responses have largely pushed out the harsh and often hilarious one-liners of classic campaign rhetoric. Perhaps modern-day politicians could pick up a few tips from a College of Charleston communication professor's new book that compiles some of history's great political quips.

"I'll Be Sober in the Morning: Great Political Putdowns, Comebacks, and Ripostes," edited by professor Chris Lamb, is a collection of humorous and biting comebacks that past politicians used to score points and silence opponents.

"I don't think I'll have to revise the book anytime soon," Lamb said. "The media want their politicians to be glib and shrill. Political consultants want their candidates to stay on script. They undervalue humor."

Lamb concedes that there has been at least one humorous quote in the current presidential campaign. Lynne Cheney, the wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, announced that she had discovered her husband was a distant relative of Sen. Barack Obama.

"When the Obama camp heard their candidate was related to Dick Cheney, a spokesman said, 'Well, every family has its black sheep,'" Lamb said.

The collection also features comebacks from Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Cicero and even South Carolina's own Fritz Hollings.

The former U.S. senator once delivered a zinger during a televised debate when an opponent challenged Hollings to take a drug test. "I'll take a drug test," Hollings snapped, "if you'll take an IQ test."

The book, released this month, includes several putdowns and retorts from former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, whose acidic quips contributed to the title.

At a party one evening, a heavily intoxicated Churchill bumped into Bessie Braddock, a parliament member. "Mr. Churchill, you are drunk," Braddock scolded him.

Churchill responded, "And Bessie, you are ugly. You are very ugly. I'll be sober in the morning."

This comeback was one of Lamb's favorites. "I like it because it's short, sweet and to the point," Lamb said. "There wasn't anything Braddock could say."

Lamb said comebacks and putdowns helped him hold his own growing up in a big family.

"Comebacks are simply one upping someone else. Putdowns are different. The person who delivers a putdown isn't interested in getting a chuckle," he said. "The best putdowns are like switchblades — short and to the point. They cut deeply and leave a scar."

Reach Aubrey Straub at