But that wasn't the case when Sanders, the Vermont senator running for the Democratic nomination, sat down for an interview with Killer Mike, an Atlanta-based rapper and activist.
Sanders appeared comfortable, his tie loosened as he leaned back in a barbershop chair. And that comfort created moments voters rarely see during Sanders' regular hour-long stump speech.
The conversation, and the trip through Atlanta, was aimed at making in-roads with the African-American community, a group that remains skeptical of Sanders. But what the interview created was moments of levity between the odd couple: rapper and long-time politician.
1. "Bernie, you are full of sh--"
In a conversation about democracy and voting rights, Sanders said, "I am a fierce believer in democracy. You know what, I love democracy. I love the fact that in this room, somebody disagrees with me, they say, 'Bernie, you are full of sh--, I am going to vote against you.' That is fine. I love it."
2. "Because I give a damn"
Sanders is an atypical politician, something Killer Mike observed during the interview. Sanders explained it this way: "I think it is fair to say that my political career is different than anybody else's. Because I didn't get into politics to figure out how I could become president or a senator. I got into politics because I give a damn."
3. Trump "is the oldest story in the book"
Sanders regularly belittles Trump on the stump. But in his interview with Killer Mike, he went further than he usually goes, casting him as someone using "the oldest story in the book" of pitting one group of people against another.
What Sanders argued, however, is that Trump is legitimizing other people acting out against Muslims, Mexicans and other groups. "What's scary about Trump is you open -- there are a lot of people out there who feel certain ways and you see somebody who is running for president say these things," Sanders said. "'Whoa! Trump said that! I can say that! I can beat up the Muslim in my community! I can be a racist on a college campus now, because that's the climate.' So you're right, it is scary."
4. Why you should get involved
Sanders regularly speaks about apathy, particularly in people who think the political process is rigged. There is a practical reason for this: Sanders does well with non-traditional voters, people who have never been involved or voted before, and his rallies are usually chock full of people new to the political process.
During his interview with Killer Mike, Sanders had some tough talk for people who aren't involved. "It strikes me that if you don't take part in the political process, you're really crapping on people who gave their lives to defend this country, WWII and elsewhere," he said. "Obviously, this country faces enormous problems ... but that doesn't mean you walk away from it. But it means you engage and fight back."
5. Bomb sh--
Sanders and Killer Mike were speaking about the civil rights movement and the rapper described Sanders' work with The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee as "bomb sh--t." Sanders responded, "What we saw, if I could use some bomb sh--, we saw our friends getting sh-- kicked out of them and getting beaten to hell. So we tried to get some money. They were the brave ones, not us. We got some money there."
6. Running against Hillary Clinton
Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton rarely came up during the nearly hour-long interview and Sanders admitted something he usually doesn't: He is in a tough fight. "I am running against a woman who is probably the best-known woman in the United States of America. It is a tough fight, but we are doing pretty good," he said.
7. Old people
Killer Mike, who is 40, told Sanders that that he trusts "old people." "I am going to be very frank," he said. Sanders, the oldest candidate running for president in 2016, saw the opportunity for a joke. "Well, I'll talk to some old people," he said. "I, myself, as a young person, I respect old people myself."
8. "A hack of the NRA"
Sanders' record on guns is well documented, and both of his Democratic opponents -- Clinton and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley -- have knocked him for being too soft on guns.
Sanders described those attacks like this: "I've been criticized by my opponents, that I'm a hack of the NRA. So I have gotten criticized as you may know, that I'm a hack of the NRA and all of that stuff." But he argued in the interview that he believes people who "have a criminal record or a record of beating up his wife" should not be able to own guns.
9. Fist full of awkwardness
When you go for a first bump, don't miss. Sanders, slouched back in his barbershop chair, went for a first bump of approval during a conversation about Martin Luther King Jr. He missed. And it was amazing.