WASHINGTON -- Most politicians are incredibly guarded, boring and dry. Look at what being elected to the Senate did to former comedian Al Franken.
In preparing for our Candidate Confessional podcast interview with Michael Steele, the former Republican National Committee chairman, we thought we’d test whether a politician could, in fact, have a sense of humor.
So, at the risk of some awkwardness, we played Steele a sketch from the Comedy Central show “Key & Peele.”
Not just any sketch. But the comedy duo’s spoof of a meeting of black Republicans (which Steele, of course, is a proud member). The premise of the sketch is that all black Republicans are essentially the same: defensive and confused by their lack of appeal. And, even though they all dress alike, they rail against the idea that they are a monolith.
Malcolm-Jamal Warner, in a cameo role as a furious audience member, vents to the group (“Democrats may be cool, but they ain’t practical. Republicans are practical. Black people are practical!”). The meeting -- and Warner’s speech -- ends abruptly when a guy walks in and announces that “someone’s white wife is here to pick them up.” Everyone rushes out of the room looking for their white wife. That’s the joke.
Thankfully, Steele is a fan of the show and laughed at the sketch. But the white wife bit did spark an unsavory memory from his unsuccessful 2006 run for Senate in Maryland. “That was actually an issue during the campaign about my wife, who is fair-skinned. And a radio station in Baltimore was chastising me for being married to a white woman,” Steele said.
Steele went on the radio program and set the DJs straight. “I remember going on the program and saying, ‘OK so all I have to say is you need to say that to my wife’s face and you’ll find out just how black she is when she whips your ass,’” Steele said. “And they were like ‘Oh My God, we’re so sorry, we didn’t know.’”
Steele couldn’t resist admitting that he liked the running joke about black Republicans being a monolith.
“I get it and we’re not a monolith,” Steele said, before realizing he was repeating the very lines used in the "Key & Peele" routine. “I just wanted to set the record straight.”
Listen to the podcast above, or download it on iTunes. And while you're there, please subscribe to, rate and review our show. Make sure to tune in to next week's episode, when our guest will be Ben Konop, discussing what it was like when your worst moment on the campaign trail goes viral.