By Lauren Mayer, on Wed Apr 22, 2015 at 8:30 AM ET
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!)
By Lauren Mayer, on Wed Apr 15, 2015 at 8:30 AM ET
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’.
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:
By Lauren Mayer, on Wed Mar 25, 2015 at 8:30 AM ET
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 . . .
By Lauren Mayer, on Wed Mar 18, 2015 at 8:30 AM ET
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:
Retro is in! The fun of nostalgia is that we can romanticize the aspects we liked (e.g. Downton Abbey’s fabulous costumes and Maggie Smith’s great lines) while ignoring those we wouldn’t really want to resume (servants with no lives of their own, no antibiotics or disposable diapers, etc.). So it was only fitting that the controversy around Bill O’Reilly’s exaggerations erupted the week before Downton Abbey’s Season 5 finale. Here’s my tribute to the 1920s/commentary on O’Reilly’s reaction (which was, shall we say, just a tad different from Brian Williams’), and it’s up to you if you want to consider it as also being a commentary on the age of O’Reilly’s target audience.
By Lauren Mayer, on Wed Feb 25, 2015 at 8:30 AM ET
One of a mom’s primary roles in life is to embarrass her children, and my sons would be the first to tell you I’ve done a great job in that capacity. And while I don’t think I fit the cliche of the overbearing Jewish mother, I have been known to nag them about eating, and of course like any good Jewish mother, I secretly yearn for a gay son (because he’d never leave me for another woman . . . cue rim shot), although both my boys have had to tell me, “Sorry to disappoint you mom, but I’m straight!”
When I started doing these weekly videos, my younger son was 16 and pretty plugged into social media (for example, he saw the “Gangnam Style” video before it passed 100,000 views!) He cautioned me against expecting too much, because as he put it, “Mom, anything over 100 views is viral for old people.” And of course he threatened to disown me if I ever attempted to do anything as daring as a rap.
However, last week’s MSNBC interview with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a great reminder that not only is she incredibly smart and well-spoken, she’s also become a hip cultural phenomenon. So if an 81-year-old Jewish mother can be re-invented as a meme, this middle-aged Jewish mother can become a rap star to salute her.
By Lauren Mayer, on Wed Feb 18, 2015 at 8:30 AM ET
Not only is E.L. James’ fan-fiction’ trilogy a runaway success, the movie version is also setting box office records. Meanwhile, critics, literary analysts, BDSM experts, and all of us with any basic sense of logic and writing are scratching our heads. How on earth could so many people embrace soft-core porn that expects us to believe a beautiful 21-year-old English major has never been kissed, has never thought about sex, and has never decided to use her supposed experience reading Thomas Hardy novels to update her vocabulary from “jeez” and “triple crap”?
Since women are the bulk of the audience (including those of us who read a book or two ‘just to see what all the fuss was about’, honest!), it’s easy to dismiss the whole phenomenon as an illustration of suburban sexual frustration, of lonely moms yearning for some kink in their lives. But I’m firmly convinced it’s really because the books tapped into the suburban mother’s deepest fantasy – of having someone ELSE take charge for a few hours.
For that we’d put up with awful writing, a hero who is more abusive-stalker than charming, and a lousy representation of consensual sexual experimentation. Just think how successful we’d make any example of ‘mommy porn’ that skipped the contract delibrations and references to “my inner goddess”?
By Lauren Mayer, on Wed Feb 11, 2015 at 8:30 AM ET
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:
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.