For the first time ever, a video of Sarah Palin is funny for the right reasons. Normally, we find ourselves laughing at a Sarah Palin video because she either hilariously bungles a softball question; or because she can’t describe the duties of the office for which she’s running; or because she totally botches a major historical event; or because she somehow conflates fast food workers with purgatory. We’re all familiar with the greatest hits.
Then along comes her ALS Ice Bucket Challenge video, culminating with a joke that’s intentionally funny.
Now, it’s important to note here that the joke is preceded by a head-scratchingly bizarre speech. It’s also important to note that the joke doesn’t appear to have come from Palin herself but instead as a surprise from an off-camera participant. I think you can see where this is headed. Let’s go through this mess beat-by-beat.
1) Palin Live From a Flea-Market. Like all of her Sarah Palin Channel videos, she’s obviously in her house somewhere, but the “set” looks like she’s either running a booth at an Etsy trade convention, or she’s selling tchotchkes at a rummage sale. In the frame we see Palin surrounded by the following items: a conch shell; a bottle of soda; an empty glass; handwritten notes; a check book; a small silver deer-head ice bucket; a random red cup with what appears to be the Philadelphia Phillies “P” logo; a bucket of pine cones; a framed ceremonial flag; an American flag hanging from the wall; a potted plant; a repro antique lamp; and a make-up mirror. Why are these things here? Who the fuck knows. It reminds me of Steve Martin’s random “all I need is this thermos” scene at the end of The Jerk: “All I need is this conch shell. And this box of pine cones. And this deer bucket. And this…” Anyway, I suppose the setting could be a lot worse.
2) Palin Prim and Proper. Apparently the lady who hasn’t turned down a chance to exploit her family in a poorly-rated reality show and who made this face on national TV….
…and who’s responsible for this juvenile stunt…
…is apparently too “old” and too “prim and proper” to have ice dumped on her head. So, Palin announces in the video that she’s going to write a check instead — and for double the normal donation amount. Nicely done. But watch her hand carefully when she writes out the check. It seriously looks like she filled it out with big squiggly lines like this:
3) The Longest 30 Seconds Of Your Life. Watching Sarah Palin adding two ice cubes to a glass, then half-filling it (she never finishes anything all the way) with Diet Dr. Pepper, then replacing the cap on the bottle is like a Sisyphean endeavor that goes on for what seems like nine hours. But she really puts in a noteworthy effort with the ice tongs in spite of the fact that she’s probably thinking about a donkey napping under a tree*.
4) She Who Needs to Stop Beginning Her Sentences With “He Who…” After she scribbles loop-dee-loops into her check book, Palin challenges Hillary Clinton and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) — the latter is described by Palin as: “He who she has recently said is her favorite Republican.” For someone who has such a difficult time with speaking and general coherence, she really needs to stop using “he who” at the beginning of her sentences. You might recall this awkward “he who” crutch from such famous Palin quotes as, “We saw where Paul Revere hung out as a teenager, which was something new to learn. He who warned, uh, the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms, uh, by ringing those bells and making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free and we were going to be armed.” Please stop. It’s not helping.
5) The Big Finish. As Brian Cox advised in the Charlie Kaufman film Adaptation, “Wow them in the end.” No matter what happens throughout a film, if it ends spectacularly, you’ll win over your audience. So, just as Palin tips her glass of soda and offers up a “cheers,” someone appears from off-camera and dumps ice water on her head. It appears to happen completely by surprise because her reaction is one of genuine shock. Palin’s glasses fly off and she leaps from her chair screaming bloody murder and chattering in utter horror followed by another off-camera scream. Now that’s comedy, and it’s just about her depth, too. If she wants to win over Americans again, she needs to stick at the Jackass level — straight-up stunt gags. I’d totally watch that show. Palin and Bam Margera waking up Bam’s parents with fireworks. Palin and Johnny Knoxville getting Tazered. Palin and Wee-Man rolling down a hill inside giant truck tires while barfing. Finally, her “zone.”
*Donkey joke shamelessly horked from The Simpsons.