Applause for Tobacco – If Tepid

Remember when Herman Cain’s chief of staff casually smoked a cigarette near the end of one his candidate’s ads? Comedian Bill Maher made mention of it on his “Real Time with Me” HBO show Friday the 13th as he interviewed the former Republican candidate.

Here’s Cain’s ad

With gentle incredulity Maher asked if Cain had thought showing his chief of staff smoking a cigarette would garner more votes.

Cain said his campaign was unconventional and the ad was intentionally unconventional. “Smoking is not a sin,” he said. He then launched into a call for less intrusion into personal affairs, and for people to “let people be people.” Cain said the fact his staff chief smoked was one of the things that made the video go viral, hence a success.

Maher’s audience knows how to cheer for freedom to smoke, but this time the reaction was tepid and uncertain. Some of the audience must have been having a Borat movie moment, with every social cue telling them to applaud, but their minds going “I’m not going to cheer for cigarettes!”

If the combustable had been marijuana, you know the response would have been less ambiguous. In fact, seconds later, mentions of smoking pot got hearty applause.

Someone told me about being with an aid organization in India and trying to explain American jokes: “Why did the man throw the clock out the window? He wanted to see time fly!”

No response from the Indians to that and a slew of equally corny jokes. Until that is, a Sikh, – a member of an Indian religious and cultural minority — was made the butt of the joke. Evidently, if a Sikh threw the clock out the window because he wanted to see time fly, the joke was funny after all.

It matters both that you’re smoking and what you’re smoking.


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