by Jordan Green
We haven’t yet seen any real comedic gold spun out of the 2016 presidential campaign, comparable to Darrell Hammond’s “Saturday Night Live” mockery of Al Gore’s wooden promise to put Social Security in a lockbox or Tina Fey’s hilarious sendup of Sarah Palin, although Larry David’s impersonations of Bernie Sanders come pretty close.
Part of the problem is that the 2016 campaign is so cuckoo that it’s difficult for any comedian to satirize; how do you up the ante? You can’t improve on this: “I went to the Wharton School of Finance. I was a good student. It’s like one of the hardest schools in the world to get into. I then did a book called The Art of the Deal. It’s the No. 1 selling business book of all time — or just about. You may say, ‘Oh, there was one that sold two’ — but just about. It’s still in the schools and everything else. And then do a show called ‘The Apprentice.’ In the meantime, I build this incredible empire. It’s got a tremendous net worth, very little debt. And then I hear some pundit or some person say, ‘He doesn’t deserve to be on the stage with the senator.’ The senator is nothing. And I’m not saying the senators are nothing; I’m saying certain people are zeroes.”
Besides, I’m sticking to my contention that Donald Trump isn’t funny. You can’t make a guy who wants to systematically exclude Muslims and deport all undocumented immigrants funny.
The best example of reality trumping comedy is Ben Carson’s hilariously inept entrance to the Feb. 6 Republican presidential debate. I doubt if even the most skilled actors could reenact the sublime awkwardness of Carson standing in the corridor seemingly in a daze after his name is called, and then haltingly moving forward.
Carson is like the master ensemble player who provokes great performances from fellow cast members. He stops and turns as Ted Cruz’s name is called and then waves the senator past, eliciting an “Oh, what the hell” expression from his rival as he barrels past while Carson masks his supreme discomfort with an ebullient smile. Incredibly, he still doesn’t take his place at the podium even after a stage manager mouths, “Go, go, go.” Also, improbably, it’s Trump alone who deferentially waits for Carson to take his place instead of bypassing him. As Carson and Trump wait together in the wings, Marco Rubio breezes past with a friendly pat on Trump’s arm like the high school jock who just stole the basketball from you in gym class. But nothing tops Jeb Bush watching from behind with an expression that is a mixture of exasperation and pity before passing Trump with a Stephen Colbert-like raised eyebrow.
Moderator Martha Raddatz apparently doesn’t realize that Carson and Trump’s podiums remain unoccupied as she announces, “Ladies and gentlemen, the Republican candidates.”
Her co-moderator, David Muir suddenly realizes something is wrong and says, “Dr. Ben Carson, please come out on the stage. He’s standing there as well.”
Another bumble that cannot be laid at the feet of Carson’s Rube-Goldberg-machine-like miscue is the moderators’ complete neglect of John Kasich, as Muir says, “And lastly, we welcome back to the debate stage: Donald Trump.”
There’s comedy for you — and also a telling reflection on the status of Kasich’s candidacy.
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