After six years, comedians don’t even have to write jokes about President George W. Bush.
To them, Bush seems to write his own punchlines into the daily headlines.
Which makes being a satirist tougher than ever.
“You can’t parody a parody,” Will Durst tells me.
“I actually had a Republican come up to me and say I’m really disappointed in you. Bush is low-hanging fruit right now.”
Durst has brought his one-man show Off-Broadway to the New World Stages complex. It’s called “The All-American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing,” but it’s really a summation of this San Franciscan satirist’s career. After all, a clips package precedes his entrance onstage, highlighting Durst’s TV appearances dating back to the 1988 campaigns.
Then Durst appears, wearing a light summer suit and seated among stacks of newspapers; a pair of boxing gloves to one side, a large Starbucks cup on the other.
“This is about me and my abandonment issues,” he says.
He claims his show is about questioning how and why politicians have gone to polarizing extremes, abandoning the political center. “We’re all purple people,” he says.
Most of his barbs come at the expense of the current Republican administration, and after a preview show, he tells me that his act is a culmination of “the last six and a half years bubbling up — that’s what it is, because it’s fermented, and the cork is going to pop pretty soon.”
He also gets in digs at the Clintons, John Kerry, even Michael Dukakis, plus many of the 2008 presidential contenders.
What makes this new, though?
Audiences may feel they’ve heard this all before, whether they’ve seen Durst already, or just by turning on the TV.
David Letterman easily fills a segment on his late-night show with mocking clips of Bush’s public speaking debacles.
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart likewise has no shortage of material.
And then there’s other satirists such as Bill Maher (who just recorded a new HBO special and has a new season of his talk show starting Aug. 24) or Lewis Black.
Here in New York City, too, you can see Lizz Winstead (co-creator of “The Daily Show”) and her crew skewering the news in her latest live venture, Shoot the Messenger, Monday nights at Ace of Clubs.
Durst acknowledges it’s not easy.
“I think the audience has reached a point of saturation,” he says. “Unless you have a unique take on it, they’ve heard the Bush-bashing before.”
In comparison to the other satirists, Durst says he likes to take his time to find a larger laugh point.
“Leno, Letterman, Maher…those guys all have 13 writers, so they can turn around and do it the next day,” he says. “Compared to them, I’d be a little boutique in Soho. I hand-stitch every joke.”
So far, he’s stitched together an 80-minute routine that wraps up with a self-described “drum solo” that also could be described as a ranting riff that combines the best elements of vintage George Carlin and Dennis Miller.
For more information about Durst’s show, click here.