Column: May the funny one win?

Jason-Column2I’ve always gotten by being the funny one.

It was late in elementary school when I realized it wasn’t going to be my looks or my athletic prowess—and certainly not my dire lack of both—that was going to carry the day for me, if in fact I was ever going to win any days. It was around that time I realized I was probably funnier than a lot of the folks around me and that was going to be my play.

Being funny has gotten me jobs, gotten me girlfriends, it got me married and probably got me this column.

My sense of humor has served me well, I would say. But will being the funny one help County Executive Rob Astorino become New York’s next governor?

He’s trying to find out.

According to a poll from Siena College released Monday, Astorino, the Republican nominee, trails Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, by 36 percentage points, 57 to 21. A worse number for Westchester’s county executive is 69, the percentage of respondents in the Siena poll who either don’t know or have no opinion of Astorino.

Astorino’s unfavorable rating was only 12 percent, so I guess that’s something.

So what’s a newly re-elected county executive with higher aspirations to do?

Apparently, in Rob Astorino’s case, play to his weaknesses.

Last week, as Editor-in-Chief Christian Falcone and I were putting the finishing touches on your newspaper, reporter Chris Eberhart called our attention to an internet video, just sitting there on Vimeo, entitled “Bad Astorino.” I clicked it expecting a hit piece by the governor’s people, a special interest group, or whoever, bashing the county executive and his candidacy on this issue or that one.

Oh, the video bashed Astorino alright, but it was the county exec himself, his staff and even his family doing the bashing.

Throughout the video’s eight-minute-and-36-second duration, Astorino, playing himself, is depicted as a slovenly, hen-pecked husband, something of a potato chip-pounding dope and maybe even a bit of a drunk.

“Hawaii’s not a state,” Astorino says at one point through a mouthful of chips and giggles.

Addressing the county exec’s biggest problem in the campaign so far, “Bad” Astorino holds a press conference on his front lawn attended by only one reporter, about four years old, wearing a latter day Pee-wee Herman suit.

The video, made, it turns out, for Astorino’s appearance at the Legislative Correspondents Association Show in Albany-—sort of New York’s White House Correspondents’ Diner—is legitimately funny and the county executive is outstanding in it. When I watched it the first time, I had to pause and stare at the first scene in which Astorino appeared because, by the way he was behaving in his worn t-shirt and mussed hair, I thought it had to be an actor playing the county executive.

Wasn’t.

The video was informative as well, for me at least. Alongside Astorino staffers, Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay and Edward Cardinal Egan also appear in the video. The slightest internet research tells me Astorino was once quite successful in radio as, among other things, the executive producer of Kay’s ESPN radio show and a host on Sirius with Egan.

I didn’t know that and it tells me two things. First, there’s more to Rob Astorino than perfect hair and bright-eyed grin. Second, his pre-political friends still like him.

That probably matters in some way.

“Bad Astorino” taught me something else about the co-
unty executive who would be governor. In playing himself as a hopeless unknown and pointing out his campaign’s major shortcoming to date, Astorino demonstrated nice comic timing, yes, but more importantly he demonstrated a willingness to laugh at himself, and that shows self awareness.

And if he is self aware, he is very likely human.

Maybe that’ll be worth a few percentage points in the next poll.

CONTACT: jason@hometwn.com