Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is well aware his Twitter witticisms elicit eye rolls and groans; he just doesn't care.
The two-time presidential candidate's 140-character comedy show frequently pops up in Twitter feeds of journalists and political operatives, inspiring professional critiques and even a Jimmy Kimmel skit, along with countless pleas to give his thumbs a rest.
His shtick consists of corny (and sometimes confusing) quips regarding various current events. Among other things, his freewheeling tweets have referred to Snoop Dogg as "Poop Dogg," compared Senate Democrats to turkeys he's hunted, and equated Comcast service, unfavorably, with the Obama administration.
Huckabee recently told Yahoo News that he embraces a genre he calls "groan humor," and encourages his detractors to buzz off. "If it is absolutely causing you to be constipated, then for heaven's sakes, get off my Twitter feed," he said.
"I know there are people who will respond back with a smiley face, or an LOL, or some indication … they were at least slightly amused," Huckabee said. "I find that pleasurable."
A transcript of the interview, edited for clarity and length, is below.
Do you write all your own tweets?
Yes, I don't want to implicate anyone else in my activities that would forever scar their reputations and future.
They don't go through any of your staff members or anything like that?
Much to their regret, no. It used to. It used to. In fact, when I was a candidate and everybody was so nervous about everything I would say. You know, I didn't even have my own Twitter password. They kept it from me.
Yeah, there were so many people that were nervous about what I would do and of course now they know that they were very wise in feeling that way. But after the campaign I said, "I want to be able to do what I want." So, I do.
Do you read the responses to your tweets?
Occasionally. I read some of them. And the ones that are mean towards me, I don't care. That's part of the deal and some of them are funny. Quite frankly, some of the things people say back to me - that are intended to be mean - I find amusing. But when they attack members of my family, to me that's, that's hateful.
Tell me about your joke-writing process.
Well, I tell people, look, I write for my own amusement. I find Twitter amusing to me. And so I share it, and a lot of people - you know, most of my humor is what I call groan humor, groaning people, oh boy. Groaning, g-r-o-a-n. Intentionally, It's just sort of the kind of stuff that causes people to just maybe smile but they're in on the joke, they get it, that it's intended, tongue-in-cheek.
I picked out a few standout tweets of yours to see if you could give me background information or walk me through how you came up with them, or just give me your reaction to them now that some time has passed:
[Laughing] Oh, no.
During Gorsuch's confirmation hearing:
I grew up with Jimmy Dean Sausage commercials, first of all. It's a little bit of a play on the thought that - there's the old saying: 'Two things you should never see made are sausage and laws.'
And it's also the fact that I thought that while there were many of the Democratic senators - who I'm convinced thought they were just gonna take Gorsuch down and make him totally look like a fool - he came across as a very reasonable, responsible, very thoughtful constitutional scholar. And I was frankly stunned at how little they could go after him and get anything on him. I mean, they just couldn't seem to lay a glove on him. … And so, for me, it was just a matter of, he ground them up into sausage. I thought it was funny.
After Rachel Maddow revealed two pages of Trump's 2005 tax return:
I was embarrassed for Rachel Maddow the night that she breathlessly teased for 23 minutes that she had something really remarkable. And what she found out was that Donald Trump was very, very rich, and he paid a whole lot of money in taxes. And I thought, "Boy, now there's a revelation for us all. Stop the presses here. Tell the New York Times to hold the front page." I mean, seriously, I was embarrassed for her. And this will surprise you: I actually like Rachel Maddow. I think she is who she is. She's good at what she does. And I've been on her show in the past and frankly enjoyed it. She was very fair to me when I was on her show.
After now Attorney General Jeff Sessions admitted to meeting with the Russian ambassador:
Yeah. [Laughs] Well, I've been amazed at how this whole Russian theme has just dominated so much of the conversation about Donald Trump. As if, you know, Donald Trump is two-stepping down Fifth Avenue from Trump Tower to Central Park every morning and making a secret phone call to Putin. With no evidence. … And, you know, to keep pretending that they interfered in our elections, I'm thinking, well I'm sure if they did, they wish they hadn't, because Trump is not exactly making them wanna give him the "Friend of Russia Award" right now.
During the Oscars:
[Laughs] Yeah. Yeah, that one got a lot more reaction than I thought it would. First of all, I'm a movie fan. I love film … but if I watch the art of a movie, I don't really care what the actor's politics are. That's not why I'm watching. And I'm watching their art. And their politics is their business and that's fine. When they try to impose it on me in the context of the Oscars and turn something that oughta be the celebration of their art into almost some self-immolation, setting themselves on fire about who got elected, I just wanna say, you're ruining your own moment here. You know, just go up and take the award and thank the people that helped you get it and let us enjoy your craft and your brilliance at doing it.
[Laughs] Yeah, you know, one of the things that amazes me most is that everyday I probably have a hundred people tell me, "Delete your account," "Why are you doing this?" "You're not funny," "You're miserable." And I'm thinking, "Last time I checked, there's not a single law in any one of the 50 states that require you to follow me on Twitter." So, if this is killing you, if it is absolutely causing you to be constipated, then for heaven sakes, get off my Twitter feed. Just go follow somebody that will let you go freely. But leave me alone! I mean, that's what I don't understand. … I find it absurd that people act like they have the right to shut down someone else's speech. Now, it's different if I'm holding them hostage, and if by law they had to read my tweets everyday. Sure, I'd get that they would be upset.
Your jokes are almost always current events, mostly political happenings. Is there any subject matter you consider off-limits?
You know, a lot of the comedians, like Jerry Seinfeld, won't even play college campuses anymore because everybody gets offended by every joke. And I realize that comedy can be offensive. I think it's one of the great aspects of free speech is that people should have some leeway in saying things, even offensive things. And if it's truly offensive, and somebody can point out why it's so offensive, then they can apologize for it. But I think a lot of the people's hurts that they demand an apology for, it's manufactured. They're not really hurt. They're not personally injured by it. Their feelings aren't so shattered that they're not gonna be able to have breakfast in the morning. And I just find it's absurd and I want everybody to grow up and say, look, people say things all the time. My entire life, I had people say things that were intended to hurt me.
Have you ever tweeted something you later regretted or admit now wasn't a good joke?
Oh, I've done a lot that, later on, I thought, That was really stupid. And my kids are usually the ones who are the first to either text me or call me or email and say, "Dad, are you serious? We're gonna take the Twitter account away from you." You know kids. Yeah, they're my worst critics. [Laughs]
What's the reaction like from your family, friends, and staff?
Normally, it's, they roll their eyes and sometimes they just tell me, please, don't do that again. But, you know, that's OK. Occasionally they actually think something I did was funny.
You mentioned Jerry Seinfeld earlier. Do you have any favorite comedians?
Oh, there's a lot. Seinfeld is great. I saw him in concert, he was just amazing. And … I like some of the old-school comedians. The days of Alan King, who was so funny back on the Ed Sullivan show when I was a kid and would watch stuff like that. Rita Rudner is to me one of the funniest people alive, because she's so subtle and none of her humor is over-the-top. It's not profane; it's clean, but it's hilarious. … I like it when people make me laugh because what they said is just so stinking funny. And, you know, to me, Seinfeld is that brand of comedian.
Finally, the president is an avid Twitter user. Do you have any tips for him?
[Laughs] You think he would listen if I gave him any? [Laughs] You know, I know a lot of people have been on him for it and, you know, sometimes he'll tweet something and I'm thinking, "Uh-oh, that's gonna leave a mark."
But here's my assessment of it: It's been so rare that we've ever been able to kind of know what a president really thinks. Because they're so scripted, they're so controlled - they are so inside this very thick bubble and protected by so many people in the palace guard - that the president really is not a real person anymore. So, I find it incredibly refreshing that this president is allowing us, even when we kind of go, "Uh-oh," and even recoil at what he might say, that we have a real clear picture. Hey, this is a real human being with passions and feelings, and he has reactions.
And I find it refreshing, because the American president was never intended to be royalty, removed from the people, but rather a servant of the people and a reflection of them. And so, rather than hope that he gives away his Twitter and never does another tweet again, I find it refreshing.