Bad enough our financial institutions, auto industry and now the steel industry are in desperate straits and America faces its biggest economic challenges since The Great Depression, but in about two weeks a disaster will befall one of America’s most productive enterprises, our comedy industry. That’s right folks, the bottom is dropping out of the comedy business with the departure of President Bush The Younger from office. While most Americans feel nothing but relief that the end is at hand for our official Worst President Ever And Into The Future, he takes with him a ton of ready-made comedy material. Even if his successor Barack Obama turns out to be a bad president, it is mathematically impossible to duplicate the sheer idiocy of Bush The Younger. All Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy, every single Marx Brother plus Abbot and Costello couldn’t equal the madcap buffoonery of his eight years in office. Not even Richard Pryor in his prime.
Bush The Younger is a living, breathing cartoon character tailor-made for comedy, an inarticulate moron so off-the-wall that if he didn’t exist, no one would ever believe the creation of such a fictional character to be remotely plausible. But there he is, big as life, screwing up in more ways than any one thought humanly possible. Who else could make Kim Jong Ill and Robert Mugabe look like great statesmen by comparison? Has either of them ever attacked the wrong country? Talk about a “woops, my bad!” Have they ever let one of their great cities drown and then told the guy they put in charge of rescuing that city “Helluva job, Brownie?” Those guys ever publicly identify their own spies?
No way! They simply do not possess the breathtaking comic creativity of Bush The Younger. There’s not a single problem he faced, not one situation that thrust itself upon him or any decision he made that he did not not screw up in a monumental way. Curly Howard would be bursting with pride. His brother Moe would be equally proud of Dumbya’s superlative straight man, Shotgun Dick Cheney, perhaps the most talented straight man in the business since Bud Abbot. Shotgun Dick never left character, playing the grumpy old evil mastermind right to the bitter end, defending his policies of torture and murder as calmly as if he were discussing a dinner menu. The Larry Fine role goes to a woman, Condoleezza Rice, the only other Stooge to spend the entire eight years in the White House with this crew, acting half zany like Curly and half serious like Moe. The Larry role is a nuanced and tricky one, and Ms. Rice pulled it off admirably.
For eight glorious years, our nation’s comics had only to read the newspapers aloud or repeat the TV coverage of the president to get laughs. The president was actually writing their material for them! It might have been piss-poor politics and a disastrous presidency, but taken as a whole body of work, it was comic genius of the highest order. It only now becomes apparent what Bush The Younger was aiming for. He knew going in that he wasn’t cut out for great statesmanship or even attaining an acceptable level of mediocrity, and yet he burned with ambition and desired to leave his mark on history. The big question was, how could he do it with his severely limited intellect and tiny skill set?
Well, Bush The Younger answered that call and then some! His approach to running the country was basically this: “How bad can I screw up and how ridiculous can I appear to be without completely ending America?” He proved just how resilient this nation is, able to withstand even eight years of slapstick comedy leadership. The shocking discovery to many Americans that English isn’t his first language was a brilliant stroke, and when it dawned on them that his Spanish was just as mangled and vocabulary-challenged, well, that was just too funny for words. We’re still not sure what language he speaks! Of course the Iraqis aren’t laughing, but then again, comedy appreciation has never been a huge strength in Mesopotamia. Perhaps like Lenny Bruce, Bush The Younger’s profound comic impact will sink in only with the passage of time. In the case of Iraq, a whole lot of time. Centuries, maybe.
Be that as it may, waxing nostalgic over the funniest presidency we’ll ever see won’t change hard reality and America faces a severe crisis in the comedy sector. President-elect Obama is simply too normal and well-adjusted of an individual to provide many real belly laughs. Besides, he’ll be busy as a one-armed juggler cleaning up the countless disasters created by Bush The Younger, both at home and around the world. And no doubt when he assumes office he will discover that things are even worse than anybody anticipated, making his job even grimmer and providing precious little raw material for comic writers. Comedians may have to start mining the Senate and the House of Representatives for comedy, not quite as riveting as a complete buffoon of a president but always a rich source of hot air balloons waiting to be burst.
So, like a lot of our traditionally booming industries, lowered expectations are on the horizon for the comedy sector. Individuals will have to work longer hours for fewer laughs, and far too many of our nation’s comedians are out of practice in writing their own material. Perhaps the Federal Government will have to include the comedy industry in their bailout schemes, maybe funding comedy writing seminars or subsidizing stand-up comics who are temporarily too traumatized to perform. Doubtless many of the marginally talented will leave the industry altogether, perhaps waiting tables, driving taxi cabs or running for public office.
Downsizing is never easy on workers, and sometimes even harder on ordinary citizens, who already have ample experience with bad comedians driving cabs, waiting tables and enacting legislation. America will just have to suck it up and weather this crisis as best we can. Television and cable networks can pitch in by continually rerunning The Honeymooners, Richard Pryor and George Carlin specials, The Abbot and Costello show, Three Stooges shorts, Seinfeld, W.C. Fields and Mel Brooks movies, Redd Foxx routines and classic Bush The Younger speeches and press conferences. With proper inspiration from such past masters, America will once again achieve comedy greatness and reclaim our position as the funniest place on earth.