Another American industry, a one-time world leader but now reeling, takes yet another hit in these turbulent economic times. The comedy sector, already hemorrhaging red ink from the loss of The Bush The Younger Administration, now loses another ready-made wellspring of daily comedy as the Illinois Senate has voted to impeach Governor Rod Blagojevich and remove him from office. The vote was an astonishing 59 to zip for impeachment, plus the additional kick in the ass of barring him for life from holding public office in the State of Illinois. What were these State Senators thinking? 

In their provincial zeal to rid themselves of a crooked politician, they forgot about the big picture, that they are but one of fifty United States! And just who do they think is going to replace Blagojevich? The only honest Illinois politician is in White House now! They trash a national comedy treasure and they’ll most likely put some dour, venal old bore in his place who’s just as crooked but a lot more careful. Not many laughs in those secretive creeps. How selfish can these politicians get? Where is their patriotism? Where are their damned funny bones?

This amounts to a callous betrayal of America’s ailing comedy industry and Illinois’ own Second City Comedy Theater operating out of Chicago, once one of the most original and influential comedy troupes anywhere, spawning many of today’s enduring comedy legends, some of them refugees from Canada. What does that say to aspiring comics fleeing to our shores from repressive regimes like Canada and the Taliban? Today the Statue of Liberty sheds a silent tear for the good times. Will the next Sacha Baron Cohen, alias Borat, seek asylum elsewhere, maybe even France, where they’ll turn him into a mime? How did this happen to a world class American industry?

The comedy industry, already paralyzed by the overnight evaporation of comedy-friendly government, loses yet another source of inspiration. Even his name is funny, like a comedic Russian drinking toast. It’s hard to hear Blah-Goy-avitch! without wanting to down a triple shot of vodka and smash your glass in a fireplace. His Moe Howard haircut and Bud Abbot-like straight man abilities will be hard to replace. Who else could keep a straight face on talk show after talk show explaining away his clearly taped conversations revealing an explicit plan to sell the president’s former Senate seat to the highest bidder? He claimed this was his own secret code for achieving world peace and an end to hunger in our lifetimes while preserving Wrigley Field for future generations. Brilliant! This man never left character, never cracked a smile while he spun his tales. That’s talent! Only Bill O’Really approaches his uncanny ability to keep a straight face when delivering hilarious comic spiels.

So now the industry is grasping at the thinnest of straws, hoping that Sarah Palin’s announcement that she is forming her own Political Action Committee will provide the same belly laughs as her performance in the 2008 election campaign. Comedy insiders, however, fear that Ms. Palin doesn’t have a decent second act in her and that she used up all her best material last year. How many times can you claim to be keeping an eye on Russia from your front porch? Anybody heard from the spelling-challenged Dan Quayle lately? Those in the know figure the Republicans will nominate somebody for president in 2012 who can name at least 5 out of the 61 nations and territories in Africa and pick a running mate who has read a newspaper or magazine within the past decade. Comedy pundits figure her to be a minor distraction at best, and all the good jokes about her have already been told. Where’s a nation to turn for laughs?

There’s always O’Really’s tried and true Angry Man routines, and maybe his fat, drug-addled radio counterpart Lush Limburger, who’s trying out a new comic persona as a traitor wishing the president to fail and his nation to collapse. That’s a promising departure from his old schtick of “The Stoned Smirking Glutton.” Then there’s that Sean Sanity guy who just tossed out his liberal comic foil Alan Colmesover, but that’s like watching Abbot without Costello. As funny as some of these comedians are, the comedy industry thrives on new blood and a fresh perspective. Their acts are old and starting to wear thin, even with Limburger’s bold new Benedict Arnold act (It seems he just can’t lose that smirk!). Unlike past aging masters like Henny Youngman and Rodney Dangerfield who embraced their retro images and reveled in being campy relics, these guys are trying to be cutting edge with a plastic spoon. It’s just sad. 

Besides, the sore loser is an old-hat comedy premise. Their great strength and off-the-wall appeal drew on being that most unusual sort of being, the sore winner. Their party was in power, the ideas they spent their lives pushing were a political reality and yet they still hated everybody and whined like outsiders. And in the face of failure after failure of their bonehead ideas and policies, they stayed on message with the same tunnel-visioned zeal as Goebbels in the bunker with the Feuhrer. That was hilarious!  Now it’s not. They just haven’t moved on with the times and the new realities of the nation they are trying to amuse and seem reluctant to drop their genius image and give self-parody a shot. Which is yet another reason to mourn the banishment of Rod Blagojevich, a potential comedy superstar cut down in his prime. This man was a new kind of comic genius, and now we’ll never know how far he could have taken his Brazen Lying Salesman routine. Look for one more industry to line up at Capitol Hill for a Federal bailout any day now. Damn you, Illinois State Senate!

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