A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the White House


CONCORD, N.H (Jan. 6 2012) — Jimmy Tingle campaigns on Main Street shaking hands, kissing babies, asking his fellow citizens to vote “Tingle for President.”

But in Jimmy Tingle’s case, it’s a political joke.  He is nowhere to be found on the New Hampshire primary ballot. Instead, Tingle is campaigning for his one-man comedy show, “Jimmy Tingle for President: The Funniest Campaign in History.” It will be playing in the spring in Schenectady and Rochester.

“Producing a show is very similar to running a campaign,” says Tingle. “You’re dealing with the public and the media.” He added, “The only difference between me and the candidates is no one gives me money — I have to earn it.”

Tingle is among the sideshows of comedy and bizarre characters of the New Hamphshire primary. Another is Republican “hopeful” Vermin Supreme, who will be on the ballot on Jan. 10 along with 29 other Republicans and 14 Democrats.

Supreme is from Baltimore, Md.  He runs on a platform of mandatory toothbrush laws, time travel research  — “So I can go back in time and strangle infant Hitler” —  and free ponies for all Americans.

His supporters helped him raise the $1000 necessary to get on the New Hampshire primary ballot, Supreme says .  in“I have a wide but shallow constituency base that transcends party lines,” says Supreme. “My supporters usually don’t actually vote for me though, and I don’t expect them to.”

In the 2008 presidential election, Supreme received 43 write-in votes, according to The Hill in Washington, D.C. That placed him above Donald Duck, who received 19 write-in votes, and below The Jockey, who received 809 write-in votes.

He uses outlandish antics, such as wearing a rubber boot on his head. That attracts the media and supporters, he said.

Political humorist Jimmy Tingle utilizes a different strategy to garner support. “I try to be fair and have jokes grounded in some expression of truth and reality,” says Tingle. “It’s great when I can make jokes that people on both sides of the aisle can laugh at.”

Ultimately, Tingle wants to be more than a comedian. He wants to be part of the change. “Humor brings people together,” says Tingle. “And I want to take my humor to the next level. I want it to be more than humor. I want it to be action.”

Growing up in Cambridge, Mass., Tingle, 56, developed a passion for politics.  As a child, Tingle frequently counted ballots at the local grammar school with his parents. He learned about politics from his uncle who was the mayor of Cambridge. In 2010, Tingle received a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

Tingle is a registered Democrat who voted for Barack Obama in 2008. He describes the government as broken.  “The lack of communication is the biggest issue in politics today,” says Tingle. “I think comedy is a great way to bridge the gap and try to find common ground.”

In New Hampshire, Tingle says, he never considered going through the process of getting on the primary ballot. “There are people who work really hard their whole lives to get on the ballot,” says Tingle. “And I don’t want to take votes away from people who have earned it.”

(Ben Klein, a senior with dual majors in magazine journalism and political science at Syracuse University, is covering the New Hampshire primary for The Saratogian.)


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