There are certain rules you need to know when you’re doing comedy. One, timing is everything. Two, don’t repeat the punchline. And three, don’t stand in front of a group of several hundred public servants and tell a joke about sex and cows.
Apparently, Bob Cordle never made it to Rule No. 3.
Cordle is a retired Charlotte lawyer. As of last Monday, he was chairman of the state Board of Elections. Twenty-four hours later, he was the ex-chairman of the state Board of Elections. That’s because he decided, at a conference of local election officials from all over the state, to tell a version of what is commonly known as the Welsh cow joke.
I’m not going to actually tell that joke, because you did not come here this morning for sex jokes, so for me to tell one in this setting would make me as dumb as a sack of hammers.
None of that slowed Bob Cordle down. He told his joke. He thought he got a big laugh from it. But one day later, he was turning in his resignation.
By the way, he’s the third person to leave that job for one reason or another since December. I think I’d hold off on making business cards for the next director for a while.
It’s easy to understand why Cordle thought it was no big deal at first. He’s old enough to remember when a powerful white guy – and let’s be honest, it was almost always a powerful white guy – could get up in front of pretty much any crowd and say pretty much anything he wanted without fear of blowback.
The world is different now, and that’s good. The groups who used to be the butts of those jokes have the strength to push back, and many a public official has discovered, to the detriment of his career, that not everybody shared his sense of humor.
That’s not political correctness. It’s decency. More than that, it’s just knowing your audience. If somebody goes to a professional conference, they don’t need somebody up on stage pretending like it’s open mic night at the Comedy Zone.
In fact, I can think of just one public official in the whole country who gets away with that sort of talk – and worse – on a regular basis. Unfortunately, this is not one of those times when leadership starts at the top.
Tommy Tomlinson’s On My Mind column normally runs every Monday on WFAE and WFAE.org. It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to this column in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at firstname.lastname@example.org.