White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs played the crowd during a recent White House press briefing for writing notes on her hand at last week's Tea Party Convention, with a grocery list and the words change and hope in case he "forgot".
But as Patrick Gavin, Vivyan Tran and Luke Freedman report in POLITICO, the laughter has started to die down:
Back in May, POLITICO analyzed the press briefings and found that the instances of laughter — as indicated by "(Laughter)" being noted in the official transcript — occurred more than 10 times per day during press secretary Robert Gibbs's briefings.
But the laughter has been reduced by half in recent months: In the first six months of the Obama administration, briefings produced an average of 179 laughs per month. Over the past six months, the average has dropped down to 89.
Chalk it up to the close of any administration's initial honeymoon — and the Obama administration's tough second half of 2009, as it wrestled with health care and saw the late Ted Kennedy's U.S. Senate seat filled by a Republican.
"The tone is one reason for less laughter," says American Urban Radio's April Ryan. "There are lots of serious questions begging for serious answers. Those questions do not meld with laughter and light banter."
But there's also some frustration a-brewing among press corps members.
"There definitely aren't a lot of laughs around the briefing room these days," says Washington Examiner White House correspondent Julie Mason. "Robert's little digs and evasions have lost their power to amuse — particularly since we haven't had a presser since July."
Mason also reports frustration in the ranks: "Reporters know how close the press secretary is to the president, and yet the quality of the information we get doesn't often reflect that."