Monday, August 24, 2009

Leave it to Maxim to show how make a joke replying to the press

When I ran the PR show at Maxim for many years, we perfected the art of using a sense of humor about some of the very silly questions we were asked by the press.

I wrote about this in July 2008 because so many publicists seem to forget to use a sense of humor defusing certain a situation. Of course, you have to read the scenario right when making a joke, which when employed successfully, can take the air out of some real trivial pursuits, often in the celebrity sphere.

Sometimes the more ridiculous a query, the more ridiculous a response is warranted. Why? In England, they call it "taking the piss" out of something. I like to say it's taking the air out of the balloon. It subtly signals to the reporter a few things: 1) you've got a sense of humor about the whole inane thing, 2) you're treating it with it proper due, and 3) you're not giving them the same old convenient "no comment." In an unspoken way, you are both in on "the joke." You are also telegraphing to the readers, "This is silly and you know it too, so let's have a laugh and move on."

So my hats off to my former freelancer and now head of Maxim PR Nora Haynes for picking the right spot in Sunday's NY Daily News to wield the joke axe.

The set-up: entrants in Maxim's "Hometown Hotties" contest lodged a complaint (through the Daily News gossip columnists Rush and Molloy, of course) that 15% of the semi-finalists were never posted on the magazine's web site for voting. Scandal! This is "serious" stuff, folks, so Nora shot back not one but two zingers in the papers.

In explaining that the editors like a couple of candidates who entered too late to post their videos on the web site, she said: "The newfangled Internet moves much faster than our pterodactyl-powered Flintstones printing press."

The clincher for me was her closer: "We did use the same electronic voting machines as Ohio did in the 2004 election. So we fully expect George W. Bush will be our next Hometown Hottie winner."

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