Got into a discussion recently on the value of “stupid” characters on TV. And by that I mean in sitcoms, not our President. My contention was these characters worked because they had their own internal logic, usually taking things too literally. Think Gracie Allen, the Coach & Woody, Reverand Jim, etc. (In the case of our President the internal logic is “But if I go to New Orleans to inspect the flood damage I’ll miss the Padres game”.)
“Stupid” characters also provide a great way to impart exposition to the audience. When Sam explains what’s going on to the Coach he’s also explaining it to the viewers.
So the trick is to find that line that is dumb but you understand why the character would arrive at it. Sometimes it’s a fine line. In the case of the Coach on CHEERS we had a contest in a writers room to see who could pitch the dumbest Coach joke. One day we were faced with the following set-up: Sam is in his office. The Coach comes in to say he’s got a call. Jerry Belson is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. He pitched this:
COACH: Sam, there’s a little black man in the bar who wants to speak to you.
SAM: No Coach, that’s the phone.
But I’d like to offer this:
RUMSFELD: Mr. President, there’s a little black man outside on the desk who wants to speak to you.
BUSH: Send him in.