A comedian for president?

The premise behind the movie, Man of the Year, which suggests that a late-night TV host could become president. Sort of. Anyhow. Here are some additional thoughts from comedians on the subject.

From Lewis Black, who plays the joke-writer/speechwriter for Robin Williams in the movie. When is the right time for a comedian to run for president? "Yeah, when Christ returns and there is total peace on Earth, then you might want to have someone who just tells jokes. Then, but only then." Black said he had some input on the script, sitting around with writer/director Barry Levinson and co-stars Williams, Christopher Walken and Laura Linney to talk out the plot and figure out speeches and jokes. But what if people wanted you to run? "My official stance is I would never run, because I would only use it to get laid on a regular basis." He said the trappings of the office offer too many diversions, from a bowling alley in the White House to a boat to anything else he probably could think to ask for. "And it wouldn’t be for good!" Most presidents wake up early, but he wouldn’t. "I would be asleep by five in the morning." No, but seriously. "I did some political stuff for a while. It just made, it wasn’t, the people who do it made me crazy." Of course, Black’s act often revolves around people and things that drive him nuts. It wasn’t always that way. "There was a time when 20 percent of my act was politics," he recalled. "I like talking about the weather." On Conan the other night, Black tried out a new bit about neuticles, which are implants for neutered pets. Yes. Exactly. "You saw that? That’s my new breakthrough piece!" But back to politicians. "These guys are just taking up so much of my time," he said. "I go yeah, OK, I can get off on this, but then they keep giving me more!" As he noted in this summer’s HBO special, Lewis Black: Red, White and Screwed, it’s almost too much to handle at this point. That might be why it’s so timely to talk about a comedian saying what needs to be said to the politicians. "I think it’s a fun thing to throw out there. It’s the right place, right time."

From Jimmy Tingle, who runs Jimmy Tingle’s Off Broadway Theatre in Somerville: He said that some entertainers look for something more fulfilling to do after 25-30 years of performing. But he added, "That’s a very rare person who wants to completely go into the day-to-day tediousness and give-and-take of day-to-day politics. Because it’s much bigger than making a speech." He understands why people would create Stewart/Colbert T-shirts, because Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert can cut through the rhetoric with satire. "Jokes are basically soundbites," Tingle said. "That’s why Stewart and Colbert are so successful. Not ony are they funny, but they also have artistic and creative freedom to say whatever the heck they want. That’s something politicians don’t have." And that’s not even something Tingle had when he delivered commentaries years ago on CBS’ 60 Minutes II. "They wanted commentary about everyday life. They didn’t want to do politics. They didn’t want to do issues. They wanted bottled water, parking tickets, things people can relate to."

From Doug Stanhope, who grew up in Worcester and has a Stanhope for President MySpace page seeking the Libertarian Party nomination. When Stanhope performed at the Abbey Lounge last month as part of the Boston Comedy Festival, he told fans after his show that in truly libertarian fashion, he doesn’t want to be in charge. "I don’t want to be president," he said then. "There shouldn’t be any president."

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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