Throughout the vice-presidential debate in Danville, Ky., Thursday night, Joe Biden got one message across loud and clear: LOL.
Indeed, the current U.S. Vice-President chuckled, chortled and guffawed his way through congressman and Republican candidate Paul Ryan’s share of the dialogue, so much so that Gawker quickly spliced together a laugh reel.
Most often, Biden’s sound effects came across as incredulity – as when Ryan agreed that he was opposing President Barack Obama’s stimulus money but asking for grants that would go toward his constituents. Cue the bahahahaha from Biden, who then proceeded to declare that the grants were “such a bad program” and that Ryan was completely contradicting himself.
But it’s also fair to ask whether all that comic relief functioned either as a nervous tick for Biden or he was using it derisively and condescendingly against Ryan.
When the congressman accused the Democrats of “getting their hands caught in the cookie jar, turning medicare into a piggy bank for Obamacare,” Biden enthusiastically snickered in the style of The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart.
And for every justified laugh, there were moments when the Biden seemed insincere. Why, exactly, was he referring to Ryan as “my friend” when taking an opposing (pro-choice) view on abortion – especially when he later had no qualms calling Ryan’s statements “malarkey”?
Perhaps the laughing was Biden’s way of psyching out his opponent. Certainly, it functioned as a non-verbal means of interruption. Take the candidates’ accuracy and party platforms out of the equation for just a minute and consider this: If someone chuckled nearly every time you attempted to voice your opinion, you’d likely be thrown off, even just slightly.
As the New York Times television critic Alessandra Stanley observed: “Mr. Ryan at times seemed disconcerted by the sheer blowhard intensity Mr. Biden brought to the night.” She added: “Mr. Biden turned his temperature up, singeing the young man across the table with patronizing grins, but mostly withering retorts.”
Ryan did, however, manage to get in a laugh from the audience at Biden’s expense when the his opponent brought up Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s controversial 47-per-cent comment made at a private fundraiser last May. “I think the Vice-President very well knows that sometimes the words don’t come out of your mouth the right way.”
At which point Biden grinned … through clenched teeth.