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Political Humor Not The Same In Modern Era

Dick Tuck at the 1978 Democratic Mid-term Convention in Memphis. Photo by Jack Gurner, Memphis Press-Scimitar

Commentary By Jack Gurner

The circus is in town.

Actually it is just up the road. But, it’s close enough that when the wind blows from the north, you can smell the elephants…and the donkeys.

No good circus would be complete without a sideshow. Big events such as the Presidential Debate attract groups whose members are looking for publicity. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Many causes can’t afford the kind of publicity they can get by just being around the 3000-plus media people who are expected to be in Oxford.

Most of the staged events will be relatively mild and consist of a press conference or two asking the next administration to pay closer attention to the economy, health care, the current war, etc.  

That’s the serious side.

But, no good circus would be complete without clowns, either. That’s seems to be where the modern political circus is most lacking. The humorists just don’t seem to be that funny anymore. Many seem mean spirited and biased.

One of the great political clowns of the past was Dick Tuck. Although he was described as a political consultant and campaign strategist, Tuck was best known as a political prankster. Although he worked for the Democrats, he tended to pick on everyone.

I saw Tuck at work at the 1978 Democratic Mid-Term Convention in Memphis when I worked for the Press-Scimitar.

His main target that year was a controversial left-wing lawyer named Mark Lane who was one of the best-known researchers of the JFK assassination.

Tuck put out the word that the outspoken Lane was in Memphis because he believed Elvis was still alive. To back in up, Tuck hired an Elvis impersonator to follow Lane around.

It would be fun to see a little of that sort of thing in Oxford this week.

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