If they're laughing, they're listening.
It was the key difference between the two debates on Tuesday night: the big debate between Judith Collins and Jacinda Ardern, and the finance spokespeople debate down in Queenstown.
The finance debate was a rollicking affair full of one-liners and sledges.
Act leader David Seymour was cock-a-hoop after his seven per cent result in that day's poll, quipping about Grant Robertson telling "scary bedtime stories" and the toddlers at his public meetings "worried about the debt."
Labour's finance spokesman Grant Robertson was cock-a-hoop after unearthing a multi-billion dollar hole in National's books and National's Paul Goldsmith was ... there too.
For those required to instead watch the far more earnest leaders' debate between Collins and Ardern, the only entertainment was Ardern's tendency to pronounce her t's as d's.
That meant her frequent references to 'double duty' infrastructure sounded like she wanted more Double Judy.
We did learn after the debate that the one Judy she had - Collins - is not a gracious winner.
Having been declared the 'victor' by several commentators – including herself – she made sure everybody knew about it. She said she had won "hands down".
After Ardern said it was not a 'blood sport,' Collins' response was 'poor wee thing'.
It has been a while since Collins had anything resembling a win, so her joy might be forgiven.
One debate does not an election win, and the 1 News Colmar Brunton poll preceding it showed just how hard that election win will be for Collins.
National put up its hail Mary pass the week before: its sweetener of income tax cuts for 16 months as part of its Covid economic response.
National's tax cuts are, as Ardern would say, intended to do double-duty.
Their short term duty is to restore enough support for National to be able to implement the tax cuts: to get them back into Government.
The longer-term duty is to stimulate consumer spending and help get the economy growing again.
At the moment, the short term duty is obviously the priority. And boy do those tax cuts have some heavy-lifting to do to compensate for the fraught times National has been through.
The Colmar-Brunton poll on Tuesday night was the first report card for the impact of the tax cuts on National's chances. Thus far, it is a Not Achieved.
National was still well adrift on 31 per cent – down one more point since July.
The tax cuts were announced on Friday, a day after the poll began.
However, that does not mean they will not have an impact.
The same poll showed why Ardern could not afford to complacent.
It would still have allowed Labour to govern alone with 48 per cent – but its support had dropped five points since July. The buffer was small.
That indicated the Covid-19 gratitude votes were starting to wear off.
None of the support Labour has lost has gone to National, not yet anyway.
But the tax cuts promise has Labour worried, and quite rightly.
Tax cuts are the policy options equivalent to the singing Sirens of Greek mythology.
They can have a slow-burner seductive effect. The more people think about that extra $50 or so a week, the harder the song is to resist.
As voters start to consider the options – especially the 14 per cent of undecided voters in that poll – the Sirens could come into play.
By way of hastening that process, Collins has also come up with a new message for voters which she first road-tested at her campaign launch.
It was that people did not want to wake up in the middle of next year, wishing they had voted National.
It is her attempt to break what National see as the mesmerising effect Ardern has on voters: and win some of them back.
The hope was people will come to see a choice: they can have Ardern or more money in their pockets.
Hence, Labour has gone to some lengths to convince voters the tax cuts are actually bad for them.
Ardern and Robertson have talked about the tax cuts as if they are lollies being offered by a strange man, calling them "unrealistic" and "irresponsible".
They have tried the demolish the credibility of National's books – the highlight of which was the $4 billion "mistake" from using outdated figures.
To counter that, National has pointed to Labour's forecast debt figures – something it says is irresponsible.
Do not count out the impact of the tax cuts just yet, but as of this week it is still more likely that it is not Ardern who will feel like the "poor wee thing" come October 17.