In Praise of Mitt Romney’s Transcribed Laugh

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, laughs as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., tells jokes as he campaigns in Hilton Head, S.C., Friday, Jan. 13, 2012.
OH, WHAT MIRTH! Photo: Charles Dharapak/AP/Corbis

Back in June, when comedian Rob Delaney tweeted the following, it rang true:

@RobDelaney: "Ha ha ha! Terrific!" - Mitt Romney, every time Jar Jar Binks appears on screen

What made the joke was the transcription of Romney's laughter: "Ha ha ha." Because, unlike normal people, Mitt Romney does laugh like that — a staccato set of glottal "ha"s that sound like Groucho Marx mated with a TomTom GPS. It's forced, patrician-sounding, and totally perfect.

As it turns out, we're not the only ones for whom Romney's laughter sounds delightfully retro-robotic. Here is how CNN transcribed Romney's comments on the NFL replacement-referee saga yesterday:

Interviewer: Paul Ryan called those refs out today. [Romney: ha ha ha ha] Are you glad that he did that?

Romney: Ha ha, that's just fine. Paul was very angry that the Green Bay Packers, he believes, won, and the referees took it away from them, ha ha ha.

A quick Nexis search revealed that Romney's transcribed laugh has an almost universally agreed-upon spelling:

6/14/11: "Posing for a photo with his arms around the waitresses, he suddenly jumps forward, pretending somebody pinched his bottom. 'Oh my goodness gracious!' he exclaims, then, 'Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.' He later says the gag is 'kind of fun to do.'"

11/29/11: "'Is there a particular reason you’re only speaking to Fox News?' tried another reporter. Mr. Romney offered a fake laugh — 'Ha, ha ha,' he stated — as a voter came to his rescue: 'Because it’s the best!' she said.

12/29/11: "When Ben Navratil, an 8-year-old boy from Mason City, stood and asked Mr. Romney, 'Is it hard running for the president?' Mr. Romney replied: 'Yes and no. Ha, ha, ha. Sounds like a politician. I apologize.'"

3/30/12: "In what he introduced as a 'humorous' story, punctuated with his 'ha, ha, ha' chuckle, the Republican frontrunner told how his father, George, shut down an American Motors factory in Michigan in 1954, and moved production to Wisconsin."

8/7/12: "When one reporter asked if his house guests were named Rob Portman or Tim Pawlenty — the two most-buzzed-about potential vice presidential candidates — he just laughed. 'Ha, ha, ha, ha,' Romney said."

9/20/12:  "'Ha ha. We’re in the stretch aren’t we? Look at those clouds. It’s beautiful,” he said, pointing to the sky. “Look at those things.'"

There is a variant spelling: the hyphenated laugh.

12/27/11: "Sometimes, when a voter brandishes a camera, his greetings become more elaborate: 'Hi, there. You know how to make that work? Ha-ha.'"

1/7/12: "'That’s a good idea,' Mr. Romney said, laughing his now-at-least-semi-famous 'Ha-ha-ha,' before correcting her: 'Let’s see, well, I don’t have four houses, that’s No. 1.'"

The American Prospect's Paul Waldman thinks there's something nefarious about Romney's laugh. He wrote, "Everything Mitt Romney is as a candidate is distilled within that laugh — his insincerity, his ambition, his awkwardness, and above all his fear."

But whether or not Romney's laugh sounds insincere to you, at least we can agree that it's truly his. In a nation of "haha"-ers, Romney really does stand apart.