To be sure it wasn't just me being mentally slow in not understanding why Mitt Romney's "binders full of women" remark isn't as funny as some think it is, I asked two comedians to explain it. They didn't think it was that funny either.
In the second presidential debate Tuesday night, Romney said as governor of Massachusetts he went through "binders full of women" to fill positions in his administration. From the very moment he said it, it became a joke online.
The reference to the debate is clear but I, along with a few others, still didn't see why it's funny enough to be repeated over and over. (MSNBC's Morning Joe crew laughed about it for a few minutes today.)
"I can't honestly say why the phrase is funny other than (1) it's sort of fun to say and (2) it has a good visual attached to it," Emily Zanotti told me in an email. Zanotti is a conservative political consultant and creator of the popular "Hey Girl, It's Paul Ryan" Internet meme.
"I hear it, and I think about giant ten foot tall binders with all sorts of different ladies packed into those plastic envelope pages I used to put my reports in," Zanotti said. She suggested the joke may be only actually funny to liberals and Romney critics. "The weird thing about comedy on the left is that, once someone 'decides' it's funny, they all seem to just go along with the idea it's funny. Think of it as the political meme version of [comedienne] Sarah Silverman. Or [SNL's] Seth Meyers."
Ian Kelk is a Los Angeles-based comedian and he also didn't find the "binders full of women" reference that good. He said he recently tweeted a "Big Bird" joke and got plenty of positive feedback. But after tweeting a "binders" joke this week, it fell fairly flat.
"The short answer to your question is that it's not that funny," Kelk said. "Every time there's a political showdown, it is inevitable some turn of phrase will become an Internet catchphrase, and in this particular case it happened to be 'binders full of women.'"
He said the reason the reference spread is because it portrays Romney as an "outdated, misogynist caveman who thinks of women as objects to be enumerated rather than as people."
"Most things are considered funny for one of two reasons: either they cleverly mock someone who deserves insult, or they present a scenario so bizarre that they are intrinsically funny due to their absurdness," he said. "While the binders meme does in fact capture both these traits, it does so without any intrinsic cleverness. Once you get past the visual jokes of women jumping out of Filofax's, it really doesn't have any substance; it's just an excuse to rehash women's rights jokes."