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Debate Prep

The Heretofore Untold Story of the Jokes I Curated for Gore To Be Heard Just Before 2000 Debates

by James Brown

When I started teaching yoga in the late 1990’s, I lived in Washington, DC. Somehow, a few months into it, I was teaching Tipper Gore when she was in town. Her husband was the Vice President of the United States at the time. I continued to teach her through the campaign and the stuff that happened afterward. She is one of my favorite people in the universe.

Around this time every four years, when the Presidential debates are happening, I remember a funny little episode that happened during the 2000 campaign- the one that happened before George W. Bush was made President.

This was way before I became the arrogant puritanical yoga teacher that I am now, before I knew much about yoga actually, and my lessons probably drew as much from my last job- being a nightclub promotor and impresario, as they did from my yoga studies. I recall that I may have relied, at times, on my sense of humor more than I did my mastery of yogasana to relax my students, and I would try to supply a fresh joke for each lesson that I taught Mrs. Gore. I guess at least one of the jokes was pretty funny because she told me, after Mr. Gore’s first debate with Bush, that she had told her candidate the joke right before the debate and that he laughed heartily. Here is that joke.

JOKE #1:

A snail calls 911 and says “Help me! I was just robbed by three turtles”! And the 911 operator says, “Tell us everything that happened!” And the snail says, “Oh my God! IT ALL HAPPENED SO FAST!”


The joke went over well, but the debate did not go well for the Democratic candidate. I can’t remember if it was the debate with the sigh or the one with the lockbox or whether those both happened in one crushing event, and I am not going to look it up because it still hurts. But, let’s just say that I saw it as my civic responsibility to take very seriously the  fragment of dust that I had to throw toward a victorious 2nd debate performance: a joke that would yield better results for my student’s husband and, perhaps, the world.

Now, I don’t want to sound like an asshole, but I was also on tour teaching The Red Hot Chili Peppers at this time. They were, by many measures, the greatest rock and roll band in the world that year. Look it up. Before the 2nd debate, while privately jetting from one arena to another, I clambered tail-ward to take advantage of my proximity to one of the funniest people I know, a funky drummer named Chad Smith. (The band, by the way, thought it absolutely hilarious that I taught Mrs, Gore, who was well known to many musicians of a certain age for her valiant fight to help them label their products in a way that she and others found more sensible.) Always one to bury the hatchet for a friend of a friend in need, Chad happily provided me with his choice as the joke that is now ready to claim its rightful place in the history of US politics, yoga, and rock and roll. It goes like this:

JOKE #2:

A chicken and an egg are in a bed together. The chicken is sitting up, leaning back on the headboard, smoking a cigarette with a big smile on his beak. The egg, visibly upset, is lying with the sheets pulled tight up to its chin, and facing away from the chicken on the edge of the bed. … And the chicken says, “WELL, I GUESS WE SETTLED THAT ONCE AND FOR ALL!”


I can’t remember what happened at that debate. I don’t want to be reminded. But I do remember the debrief from Tipper on how the joke went over. It was, “He really liked the joke about the snail.”

“Great,” I thought a billion times in a row, “I am going to singlehandedly make George W. Bush the next President of the United States if I don’t fix this.”

I don’t know what happened. I got scared. I should have gone down a new path. Maybe told a joke that was grossly inappropriate or unnecessarily violent. But, no,  I went back to familiar territory, I went back to snails. And I failed. Iraq, the Great Recession. All my fault.

See, you already know that the punchline, if it’s about snails, is probably about how slow they are. So, telling you this 3rd joke is almost pointless. But, just for the sake of history, and because I love America, I will share it.

JOKE #3:

A man is watching TV alone at home one night and hears a knock at the door. He goes to the door and opens it, but there is nobody there. Thinking that he has been the victim of a child’s prank, he begins to close the door. Just before it closes, he sees that there is a snail in the threshold. He picks it up and gently tosses it out into the yard.

One year passes by, and the man is again watching tv at home one night. He hears a knock at the door. There is nobody there. He begins to close the door but, just before it closes he sees the snail again. And the snail looks up at him, with tired eyes, and says, “WHY’D YOU DO THAT”?