Essay: Mitt Romney and Guy Smiley

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This man could be our next president

“You could say I lost my belief in our politicians/They all seem like game-show hosts to me”- Sting, “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You,” 1993

This grueling, seemingly never-ending presidential campaign has seen more than its share of underwhelming, disappointing moments. But one thing has let me down most of all: The complete lack of attention to Mitt Romney’s resemblance to Guy Smiley. 

I first noticed it in the 2008 race, and I figured most other people did too- the former Massachusetts governor is similar in both looks and on-the-stump temperament to the famed Muppet and Sesame Street game-show host. Stephen Colbert made the comparison frequently during the ’08 Republican primaries, famously including Guy Smiley footage in his instant-classic highlight package when Mitt dropped out of the race:

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Goodbye Mitt
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That same week, former Clinton aide Bruce Reed, who wrote a blog for Slate at the time of the ’08 race, reacted to Romney’s departure from the race by  paraphrasing Casey at the Bat: “Somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout; but there is no joy in Mittville—Guy Smiley has dropped out.”

But after Mitt launched a second, more successful presidential run four years later, the Mitt-looks-like-Guy meme has noticeably subsided. Colbert has barely mentioned it. Reed has graduated from Slate to a position as… Vice President Biden’s chief of staff, although he has not thus far used the opportunity to insert Guy Smiley jokes into the veep’s speeches.

Is it because Romney’s gone grayer since 2008, and Smiley didn’t? Because the Guy Smiley character has been retired since his puppeteer, Jim Henson, died in 1990, and fewer people remember him? I don’t know.

It’s gotten to the point where the website Jezebel this week wrote a post seeking Romney’s “pop culture twin,” and the list included Herman Munster, Gordon Gekko, Mad Men character Duck Phillips, Scrooge McDuck, Richard Gere’s “Pretty Woman” character and Charlotte’s first husband on Sex and the City, but NOT Guy Smiley.

I haven’t felt this sort of disappointment since “Hilldog”- the South Park-derived nickname for HIllary Clinton, failed to catch on in the 2008 cycle.

I’m not saying this as a political partisan- I’m saying it as someone who loves comedy. The man who may very well be the next president of the United States is a dead ringer for Guy Smiley! Isn’t that funnier than his dog being strapped to the roof of his car?

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