View Full Version : Kerry In Minnesota: Crowds Leave Early While the Candidate Is Still "Droning On"

10-22-2004, 09:24 AM
Mr. Fun came to the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on Thursday night and made a lot of people happy.

No, I am not referring to the Democratic presidential candidate, John F. Kerry. There is no way anyone could confuse John Kerry with Mr. Fun.

John Kerry came to Minneapolis and dropped in on the backside parking lot of the Metrodome and droned on for half an hour to a crowd of supporters who had been waiting for two hours in the cold before he was introduced by Walter Mondale and delivered his canned stump speech.

Thursday night's rally produced a nice campaign turnout, but it also was proof we have reached campaign burnout: Thousands of Kerry supporters left before their man finished talking, scramming like Twins fans in the sixth inning of a blowout, going home glad to have seen their champion but feeling no need for another inning of stale lines about how Bush should've killed Osama in Tora Bora.

It was exactly as dull as a George W. Bush sound-bite festival, where the crowds stay polite and applaud each chestnut wearily, like you laugh when your kid tells you the same old knock-knock joke for the 100th time.

But Mr. Fun saw a huge laugh potential. Mondale and Kerry? On the same stage? Mr. Fun was on the way.

Mr. Fun is a St. Paul toymaker and prankster named Steve Poreda who is 34 and -- like millions of his countrymen -- desperate to find something to smile about. Yesterday, he decided to take matters into his own hands.

I saw him walking past the police department bomb-squad truck outside the Dome, humming "Hail to the Chief." The bomb squad is not usually a spot that makes me laugh, but Mr. Fun was wearing white gloves and glitter on his face and a porkpie hat that said, naturally, "Mr. Fun." He was also wearing a shaggy red-and-black bumblebee shirt, sporting a green cape and carrying a white flag.

I hadn't seen anybody dressed this amusingly since the late Charlie McCarty was mayor of St. Paul.

The security guys wouldn't let Mr. Fun bring in the flag (which symbolized peace and purity) but after they had run him through the metal detector and gone through his fanny pack (which was full of chocolates) they couldn't find a reason to keep him out.

Fun got into a presidential rally.

Not a moment too soon, either. This campaign has been so humor-free that if John Kennedy or Ronald Reagan came back we'd sit at their feet and beg them to tell us another one.

Mr. Fun says we have this election thing all wrong. Instead of the candidates asking for our votes, we should ask them for theirs. The way we are doing it now, he said, just gets everyone upset and makes it hard to talk about politics without causing problems among friends and families.

"Fun is what we need, and we need a department dedicated to keeping this country fun," said Mr. Fun, who advocates that the next president, whoever he is, set up a Department of Humor (John Ashcroft could run it).

John Kerry was already on stage as Mr. Fun entered the rally (" 'Rally' is a soft way of saying 'mob,' isn't it?" Mr. Fun said). Kerry's brightly lit big head was framed against the dark sky by iconic neon signs on the near horizon that said "Gold Medal Flour" and "Pillsbury's Best" while some in the crowd began chanting a Kerry-Edwards mantra: "Hope is on the way."

Mr. Fun was beside himself.

"This is surrealistic," Mr. Fun said. "Come on! You can't buy into somebody else's ideas! You can only buy into yourself! Wow! People are the best toys on the planet."

I would love to have talked longer with Mr. Fun, but he was weary of my questioning and I was interfering with his work. He pulled his cape around him and set off through the crowd. Wherever he went, people smiled.

Mr. Fun's departure left me standing with a friend of his named Kirk Allison, a bespectacled intellectual from St. Paul who juggles with Mr. Fun at Grand Old Day. I am not making this up: There really is a Mr. Fun, and Kirk Allison juggles with him once a year and we three, quite by chance, met at last night's rally where we discussed the great humor drought of 2004.

"We desperately need humor, but there is no humor in this campaign and no mirth," said Allison, 44, who works as the associate director of the Program in Human Rights and Medicine at the University of Minnesota. "Mr. Fun thinks people take themselves too seriously. He lives for this."

Allison is voting for Bush for reasons having to do with the war on terror and his concern that Kerry is pandering to voters on stem cell research. But those things aren't humorous, so I will set them aside and just tell you that Mr. Fun's juggling friend likes to quote German poet Friedrich Schiller:

"The human being is only fully human when he is at play," Allison said, first in German, then in English.

Shazam! If Schiller is right, it might help explain why so many of us feel so less than fully human at this moment.

As the crowd streamed toward an early exit, I stopped 22-year-old Amber Martin, a barrista, from Fridley, who was wearing a funny T-shirt about Bush that I cannot repeat here.

"I wanted to see Kerry," she said, "but I already know everything he'll say.

"Besides, I have a date."

Amber and I had a laugh over that.

Thank you, Mr. Fun.


10-22-2004, 09:46 AM
Maybe there was some oil paint drying across the street that drew everyone away.

Radar Chief
10-22-2004, 09:49 AM
Maybe there was some oil paint drying across the street that drew everyone away.

Probably had ice cubes to watch melting.