Video showcases Christie's sense of humor

Gov. Christie, at top, and Newark Mayor Cory Booker had some fun with a lighthearted video that quickly approached 200,000 views.
Gov. Christie, at top, and Newark Mayor Cory Booker had some fun with a lighthearted video that quickly approached 200,000 views.
Posted: May 18, 2012

The black SUV that transported Gov. Christie got a flat tire as he was on his way to catching a train bound for Washington on May 4.

Where was Newark Mayor Cory Booker when you needed him?

Three weeks earlier, Booker had made headlines for rescuing a woman from a burning building in his hometown. A new Twitter meme sprouted: Booker was so tough he could single-handedly fight fires, intercept North Korean rockets, and end the Greek debt crisis, the joke went.

Surely he could fix the governor's flat tire.

That speculation among staffers - kicked around with the governor when they finally got on the train to Washington - inspired a parody video starring Christie, the GOP rock star and potential vice presidential candidate, and Booker, the Twitter super-user and subject of three documentaries. The resulting video was approaching 200,000 YouTube views by Wednesday night, 24 hours after its release.

The speed with which it ripped through the social media was a testament to its hilarity and the broad interest in the two politicians. But it also encapsulated the sophisticated way Christie's team communicates his message.

On its surface, the video jokes about the capable, ever-present Booker, putting out fires, rescuing babies, and miraculously showing up to change the governor's flat tire, while still making his brunch date with Bruce Springsteen - much to Christie's consternation.

But the underlying message was far more significant: Christie is likable and bipartisan, and can laugh at himself. Above the fray. Hip to social media. And really funny.

And just as excerpts of Christie's Jersey-centric town hall meetings are e-mailed and tweeted around the country, the parody had a double-barrel release. Christie unveiled the video to 500 or so Trenton insiders during his speech Tuesday at the New Jersey Press Association Legislative Correspondents' Show - an annual event at which reporters perform songs mocking politicians and the governor delivers a rebuttal.

But a half-hour before the video played at the Hamilton Manor banquet hall, it was posted on the governor's official YouTube channel. When the speech was over, Christie posted the link to Twitter.

And he continued to plug it all of Wednesday, as did Booker.

The intended audience wasn't just the reporters, lobbyists, and politicians at the dinner. It was an America that one day might find the name "Christopher J. Christie" on a ballot.

Since Christie says "Booker" several times in the film in the same way that Jerry Seinfeld said "Newman," Christie tweeted the video to both Seinfeld and costar Jason Alexander, who grew up in Christie's hometown of Livingston.

Shot and produced by Bala Cynwyd-based Blossom Productions, and paid for with funds from the state Republican Party, the video has a professional look - and felt similar to the short films that presidents produce for the annual White House Correspondents Dinner (which Christie attended just a few weeks before slumming it Tuesday with the Trenton scribes).

The audience in Hamilton doubled over in laughter at some of the Jersey-centric jokes, such as Christie chief-of-staff Kevin O'Dowd suggesting that Rowan University merge with every college in the state. "The South Jersey guys will love that," he says, in reference to the proposed Rutgers-Rowan merger pushed by South Jersey power brokers.

But in keeping with the administration's practice of publicizing Christie clips that can resonate beyond the Garden State, the video was accessible to a national audience, and depicted a call from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Christie communications director Maria Comella, who appeared in the 31/2-minute film, said several members of the staff contributed to the script. Christie called Booker last week to ask him to participate. He agreed - as long as the video was funny. The mayor traveled to Trenton on Monday for filming at the Statehouse.

"The fact is that the governor and the mayor are naturals, and thanks to their improvisation and willingness to have some fun at their own expense, the final product came together," Comella said.

Much of the online commentary arose from the fact that Christie is a Republican and Booker a Democrat.

Though criticized for his conservative views by some Democrats, Christie often talks about his willingness to reach across party lines. And though Booker is considered Christie's most formidable potential foe in a 2013 gubernatorial race, Christie and Booker have united against the state's largest teachers' union on education initiatives.

A headline Wednesday in "The Daily Beast" said Booker and Christie had exchanged "partisan bickering for collaboration." The column declared: "We're living in an age where politicians from different parties seem to have lost the ability to disagree agreeably. That's why the joint video was such a welcome departure from the Washington warfare we've become accustomed to."

When someone tweeted Christie on Wednesday to say "this video shows that NJ politicians are actually real people and not just talking heads," Christie gave an aw-shucks response: "im just a kid from jersey"

Christie reaffirmed the bipartisan message Wednesday at a town-hall meeting in Morris County.

"When I called Cory to ask him to be in that video with me, he said 'yes' right away, and that doesn't happen overnight between Republicans and Democrats - you have to build relationships," Christie said.

The clip of that comment, of course, was e-mailed and tweeted to a national audience.


See the video at www.philly.com/ChristieChronicles


Contact Matt Katz at 609-217-8355 or mkatz@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @mattkatz00. Read his blog, "Christie Chronicles," at www.philly.com/ChristieChronicles

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