Bad jokes, bad pronunciation, and bad makeup jobs aren't helping the presidential candidates, says Bruce Fretts

By Bruce Fretts
Updated October 04, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT

Bush and Gore need to revamp their TV style

There were no major slip ups and no knockout blows delivered in the first debate between Democratic Vice President Al Gore and Republican governor George W. Bush, which raises the stakes for the next two matchups between the presidential contenders. In the interest of equal time, I’ll offer five tips to each candidate on how to improve their upcoming performances.


1. Go a little lighter on the facial makeup. You don’t want to look cadaverous the way Richard Nixon did in the first presidential debate in 1960, but you don’t want to look like one of the Spice Girls either. If you insist on tarting yourself up, at least put a bit more makeup on your hands to match your face. And speaking of hands…

2. Learn to make gestures with your left hand as well as your right. World War II vet Bob Dole had a damn good reason to keep one hand glued to his side. You don’t.

3. Go easy on the details. Not every voter knows the fine print of the Medicare system or what ”stripper wells” are. In fact, given your ties to Slick Willie, it’s better not to use the word ”stripper” at all. You also shouldn’t refer to skyrocketing oil prices as an ”energy crisis” — it only reminds people of the malaise filled days of Jimmy Carter.

4. Behave yourself and listen quietly when your opponent is speaking. Don’t roll your eyes, sigh audibly, laugh derisively, or shift from side to side like a preschooler who needs to go wee wee. (Bush isn’t much better at this; when Gore’s talking, he screws up his face like he’s sucking on a lemon.)

5. Defend yourself. It’s fine if you want to take the high road and not attack Bush’s character, but you need to respond when he basically calls you a lying sack of crap.


1. Lay off the good ole boy diction. You went to Yale; you know it’s not called ”War-shington.” If you can’t help but say your ”esses” as ”eshes,” avoid phrases like ”shtrict conshtructionists” and ”preshcription drugs for shenior shitizens.”

2. Don’t try to crack jokes. ”I’m beginning to think that not only did [Gore] invent the Internet, but he invented the calculator.” Huh? As you proved by bombing via satellite on ”Late Show With David Letterman” earlier this year, humor ain’t your strong suit.

3. Pick a pronunciation and stick with it. Does the Yugoslavian tyrant’s name sound like ”Milose-VICK” or ”Milose-VICH?” Gore didn’t waver on that like you did — and he made you look bad by correctly naming Slobbo’s opponent, Vojislav Kostunica, as well.

4. ”There is differences.” ”He decides whether who the right people are.” ”The Vice President’s vice presidential running mate.” Okay, none of these are as egregious as ”subliminable,” but with your reputation for mangling the language, watch your tongue.

5. Take an antihistamine. After all the unanswered questions about whether you’ve ever used cocaine, it’s not wise to sniffle loudly and repeatedly on stage.