Lauren Mayer: First Name Celebrity

One indication of super-sized celebrity is being so famous that your first name alone is enough to identify you.  Think of such iconic performers as Madonna, Cher, or . . . actually, those are the only clear examples I can think of (okay, maybe ‘Giselle,’ as in the super model, but that’s stretching it).  But now they can welcome a new member to this very small club.  Hillary Rodham Clinton is starting her campaign much more humbly than in ’08, doing small events, featuring mostly other people in her announcement video, and encouraging everyone to call her Hillary instead of Senator or Secretary Clinton.  And because she is such an iconic and polarizing figure, just her first name is more than enough to identify her and to elicit a huge range of responses, from outrage & conspiracy theories on the right, to ‘I’m for Hillary’ cheers on the center/left, to ‘Well, she’s our best hope since Elizabeth Warren won’t run’ on the farther left.

So I thought it would be appropriate to commemorate her announcement by parodying an iconic showtune all about a character’s first name.  (Hint, this is from a musical taking place in Iowa, appropriately enough!)

Lauren Mayer: Rand Paul Isn’t Sexist (He’s A Jerk To Everyone)

Senator Paul’s presidential campaign got off to a rocky start last week, with his constant issues with the media (and reminding everyone of the episode several weeks ago where he patronizingly ‘shushhed’ a female journalist).  He may not have been quite so patronizing to male reporters, but at least he managed to prove that his obnoxious behavior wasn’t limited to women.

I’m far more offended by his actual policies than his behavior – for a supposedly libertarian renegade, he hews quite closely to the far-right agenda of trampling on reproductive choice, gay rights, etc. – but as a satirist, I have to acknowledge him for said behavior, since it is what we in the business call ‘comedy gold’.

Lauren Mayer: Comedians’ Dreams Sometimes Do Come True

Frequently, in political satire truth is so much stranger than fiction that it makes my job a simple matter of setting reality to music.  If I were to write a fictional character who was so clueless, he didn’t bother to secure basic variations of his domain name, and so egotistical that he compared his science denial to the principled stance of Galileo (and then completely mis-represent Galileo’s breakthroughs), no one would take me seriously.  Which is why satire is almost always the best response to political shenanigans.

Ted Cruz’s first week as a declared candidate was like something out of a Monty Python routine.  So here’s a fitting musical tribute:

Greg Harris: The Kase for Kasich

Greg HarrisSpeculation about a Kasich presidential run is still very much alive and well, and deservedly so. By any objective measure, Ohio’s economic situation has improved greatly under his leadership, which was affirmed in his landslide re-election. Kasich has emerged as somewhat a maverick at a time when other presidential contenders are sounding very much alike in making appeals to a small base of the Republican party (with some exception for Jeb Bush and Sen. Rand Paul).

Governor Kasich stands out for a track record that no other contender can offer: a track record of effectiveness at the state and federal level. While many presidential hopefuls spout the need to cut spending and shrink government, Kasich actually led Congressional efforts to accomplish a balanced budget while in Congress. And Ohio’s economic recovery outshines that of Wisconsin, the home state of current frontrunner, Governor Scott Walker.

As a fulltime Governor, Kasich cannot camp out in Iowa. But he can distinguish himself from other candidates by tapping his inner-wonk and letting it shine. He would quickly distinguish himself by releasing a specified plan on exactly how he would balance the budget, which would quickly make the rhetoric of other challengers—lacking specifics—sound empty. Furthermore, Kasich can espouse at the national level what he is trying to do at the state level: convert from taxing income to taxing consumption.

A Kasich candidacy could spark a more deliberate policy discussion on tax reform. As I asked previously in the RP, does the income tax complement the American entrepreneurial spirit, or serve as its harness? Perhaps a national sales tax instead of income tax is more in line with the American experiment? Exempting the first $10,000 in worker earnings from payroll tax (FICA) could offset the regressive nature of a sales tax. The message of doing away with the IRS would certainly have appeal to Republican primary voters.

Policies that encourage savings, a real individual-level valuing of goods, and genuine control over what you earn and how you spend what you earn, should be part of some new reckoning with an economy that is ever changing. It also addresses hundreds of billions in uncollected taxes, and would not exempt the very rich if applied to financial transactions and capital gains.

More exciting still, such tax reform would have a strong cleansing effect on democratic institutions hijacked by powerful interests that currently manipulate the tax code to the advantage of elites that pay for their services—you know, the very institutions that were formed to give power to the people.

Kasich is currently fighting to return some of the money to Ohioans from the natural resources on which energy interests’ profit. A carbon tax on energy interests that likewise profit off our land could be used to reduce personal and corporate income tax rates, while incenting industries to reduce their carbon footprint.

A Governor Kasich presidential platform could be built on re-empowering the individual in an otherwise consumption-driven nation while bettering our economic and environmental well-being.

While the Governor wouldn’t capture the bank of big donors initially, his platform of substance would ride a wave of earned media and capture the imagination of much of the primary electorate by offering specifics where others only produce rhetoric. He would emerge as a reformer with results and a compassionate conservative in one.

In the process, Kasich would revive the long dormant Teddy Roosevelt wing of the Republican Party that is decidedly not in the pocket of special interests, and that cares about a clean environment and clean government. In so doing, he would appeal to a silent middle that does not currently have a home in the two-party system.

Lauren Mayer: Schadenfreude, Downton Abbey-style

I don’t generally take pleasure in the woes of others, but every now and then it is delicious to see someone get a much-deserved come-uppance.  Like when that speeding shmuck who cut you off 2 miles ago gets pulled over by a cop, or when a morality-preaching evangelical gets caught with his pants down.  So you can’t blame people for gloating a bit about the spectacular (and quick) downfall of resigned Congressman Aaron Schock – he used taxpayers and donors to finance a glamorous, jet-setting lifestyle having nothing to do with his district, and flaunted his exploits – and his abs – at every opportunity, on social media and magazine covers.  Not to mention his homophobic voting record, which as Barney Frank pointed out, actually does make his sexuality at least somewhat germaine.

And how fitting that Schock was a fan of Downton Abbey, a show about the lavish, glamorous lives of a soon-to-be-obsolete upper class . . .

Lauren Mayer: Homophobia Is So Last Millenium!

Public approval for marriage equality has skyrocketed, as state after state joins the accelerating trend.  But a few states are holding on to the past, this time by trying a bit of clumsy obfuscation – framing discrimination as ‘religious freedom,’ as though bigoted florists and bakers are the real victims.  They aren’t losing the right to worship the way they want, but when you do business in public, you follow basic laws.  For example, what if my religion disapproved of being Mormon?, or left-handed, or homophobic?  I still couldn’t turn away those clients.  (On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine a homophobic client wanting to hire a liberal musical satirist, but still, you never know!)

Clearly these feeble attempts are the last frantic sputters of dying-out resistence to gay marriage.  (Which always reminds me of the scene in Blazing Saddles where Sheriff Bart tries to keep the put-upon residents of Rock Ridge from leaving town and giving into Hedly Lamarr’s evil plot.  He says, “Can’t you see that’s the last act of a desperate man?,” and Howard Johnson replies, “We don’t care if it’s the first act of Henry V. We’re leaving!”)  So here’s a musical reminder to opponents of marriage equality that we see through their feeble attempts to disguise what they’re doing:

Lauren Mayer: Stupidity Can Be Bipartisan

Even though I am an unabashedly liberal political satirist, I have immense respect for any efforts at bipartisanship.  (I was a competitive debater in high school and college, where we had to argue both sides of any given topic, and it was great training not just for politics but for marriage . . . . but I digress.)  Which is why I’ve always been proud to contribute to this site whose whole foundation is to encourage bipartisan discourse.

However, my admiration for seeing both sides of an issue has largely been theoretical.  On the issues that matter to me, from women’s reproductive choice to marriage equality to the environment to income inequality, I have had a very hard time seeing any validity to the arguments on the opposing side.  And when that opposing side is based on a wholesale denial of facts, evidence, and science, it’s even harder to remain balanced.

However, an issue has recently come up where science denial originated on the left – the ant-vaccination movement.  And while a few right-wingers have made idiotic, pandering remarks about parental choice, or a ‘temporal link’ between vaccines and autism, just as many diehard conservatives have come down squarely on the side of science.  Who knew we’d find a subject on which Hillary Clinton and Ben Carson express the same point of view?

So for a change, the sarcasm and disdain in my political satire song is aimed equally at Democrats and Republicans who persist in willful ignorance:

Lauren Mayer: Why Leftist Humor Is Easier

Pundits and comics alike have posited all sorts of theories as to why there is a more robust culture of political humor on the liberal side.   Is it that liberals take themselves less seriously so are less open for ridicule? Or is the media quicker to pounce on right-wing mistakes?  Are liberals more educated and wittier? Or is it that the entertainment establishment is run by liberals who won’t give a platform to more conservative viewpoints?  Do liberals see more nuances in issues? Or is the culture of ‘political correctness’ stifling outrageousness on the left?
In this site’s spirit of bipartisanship, I’d like to suggest a more random theory that is nonjudgmental and assigns no blame or evil to either side – Liberals simply haven’t yet come up with anyone to compete with the most colorful rightwing figures.

Face it, it takes no particular wit, or media bias, to have immense fun with characters like Donald Trump and Michele Bachmann.  Who can compete with that?  Elizabeth Warren is newsworthy but she’s just not that funny, and it’s been years since we had a comedy candidate like Kinky Friedman (who ran for governor of Texas in between gigs with his band, “The Texas Jew-Boys”).

And when it comes to comedically inspiring figures, no one can top Sarah Palin, and in fact she topped her own very colorful record at the recent Iowa Freedom Summit.  Her oratory was almost a song in itself – so here’s a musical setting of mostly verbatim quotations.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Think Fast!

Think fast!

I have to do this a lot –thinking fast. Mostly when I get myself in a jam because I am thinking slowly. Or not thinking at all.

jyb_musingsI was behind a young couple at Starbucks today and ordered a grande, or medium, coffee (“grande”must be how they say “medium” in Seattle, where Starbucks started).

We were the only ones in the store but they took my name anyway which demonstrates the extra pains Starbucks takes to make sure no customer gets another customer’s coffee order. I sometimes think Starbucks is more careful about customers getting the right coffee order than some hospitals are about patients getting the right medical treatment. But the point is it didn’t appear like there was going to be any coffee order confusion involving our two orders.

But that is where my thinking slowly or not at all comes into play. I was in a hurry and when the Barista set out a small (or “tall” as they say in Seattle) coffee drink for pick up, I ran over and grabbed it and took it to the condiment stand. I opened the drink and saw caramel drizzle and frothed milk on top instead of plain coffee which is all I had ordered.

I looked up at the barista hoping she would have my back and take the blame but all she did was say in a judgemental tone, “That is not yours, sir.” Weird because I had just given her my first name but she still called me “sir.” Maybe they only use first names in relation to coffee orders in Seattle.

Anyway, I apologized to the Barista and quickly tried putting the lid back on. I looked at the couple who had been in line with me to see if they noticed. The man, a very tall and stout man, noticed. And said it was his. I had to think fast to smooth things over.

I smiled self-deprecatingly and said, “I promise I didn’t touch your drink. Just took the top off and glanced at it and put the top back on. Just think of me as an extra Starbucks Barista overseeing quality control.”

He laughed reluctantly and I exhaled impressed by my quick thinking to help smooth over an awkward situation.

But I could tell the guy hadn’t entirely let go of his irritation with me for opening his coffee drink. We both stood and waited in awkard silence for his girlfriend’s coffee or mine.

I thought to myself, “Caramel drizzle? That’s a pretty “girly drink” for such a husky and angry guy. He’s should be glad I didn’t out him to others about ordering such a foo-foo drink.” But he wasn’t having the same thought. I could tell.

Finally they handed me my coffee drink. Hand to hand. The Barista was leaving nothing to chance this time. I looked at the guy and said, “You can open it if you want? It’s the least I can do.” He smiled in a strained way and said, “I just might take you up on that.”

The thought of him opening my coffee drink bothered me. I realized now why it bothered him so much when I took the top off his drink. There was a pause. Then he just walked away and didn’t say anything as he left. I breathed a sigh of relief because I felt him touching my drink was somehow different from me touching his drink. More wrong and unacceptable somehow. But I couldn’t put my finger on why I thought that. Then it occurred to me. He was never willing to pretend to be a Starbucks Barista overseeing quality control. And I was.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Parking Lots

jyb_musingsWhen you are in a parking lot and not paying attention when going to your car and the car parked next to you looks like your car, it is easy to walk up and try to open the door of the wrong car.

When that happens, of course, the door stays locked, you immediately realize your mistake and you have a good laugh at yourself.

But tonight I took it to the next level. Coming out of a Thortons I lackadaisically wandered over to the wrong silver sedan in the parking lot and tried to open the driver’s door. And did. The door not only opened but the driver was still sitting in the car and was talking on his cell phone.

In fact, he tried to hold his door shut when I opened it and shouted at me, “I’m still in the car. This is somebody else’s car.”

And, just like when there isn’t a driver still in the car, I immediately realized my mistake and had a good laugh at myself. And the driver still in his car had a good laugh at me too.

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