The Washington Post claims that “The first crisis of the Biden administration could be looming: America may have a president, the first in generations, who is impervious to impressionists.”
This is a topic I know a little bit about, having written, produced, directed and performed in satirical political reviews both professionally and otherwise for decades. I’ve also followed Saturday Night Live until relatively recently. If I hadn’t already abandoned the show as tired, biased and hopeless, Alec Baldwin’s inept and unfunny Trump impression would have driven me away.
It’s easy to come up with a funny impression of Joe Biden. Hell, I could do it: even if it wasn’t very good, it would be better than Baldwin’s Trump. There is one reason and one reason only that comedians are reluctant to mock Joe Biden: he’s a Democrat, and political satire today goes one way only.
The same hypocrites were afraid to make fun of Barack Obama, who was a cornucopia of mockworthy traits and tics for anyone with the guts to exploit them. The Post would really have us believe that any comics drew blood with an Obama impression, or even tried? Ah, but they were terrified of being called racists. (Has there ever been anyone more easy to ridicule than Maxine Waters? How about Sheila Jackson Lee? Have you ever seen them skewered?) TV comics today are, much like the mainstream media—pure partisan agents. They don’t want to be funny as much as they want to signal their virtue.
To say that Biden lacks anything a satirist can latch on to is an outright fantasy. Let’s start from the fact that he is teetering on the verge of dementia. That’s plenty to support an impression. Dan Ackroyd played Richard Nixon while the comic had a mustache, and his Nixon acted like Nosferatu. So what? It was funny. One reason it was funny is that it was so ridiculous. Ackroyd also played Jimmy Carter as the most obsequious and smarmy human being who ever waked the earth. He didn’t look like Carter or sound like him except for the accent, but it made the point, and was funny in the process. Chevy Chase’s famous riffs on President Ford had one message: Ford was a boob. Chase didn’t try to look like Ford, move like him or sound like him. It didn’t matter. The idea was to be mean, in a light-hearted way. If you’re not willing to be mean and punch below the belt, of course you can’t satirize a political figure.
The Post’s Richard Zoglin says that impressions don’t have to be mean. Now that’s funny: every imitation of a Republican has been mean, including portrayals of Ronald Reagan as a bobble-headed fool, and George H.W. Bush, a war hero, as a cackling dweeb. Ackroyd, again, played Robert Dole as a psychopath with a crippled hand. Does the Post expect anyone to buy the theory that its impossible to ridicule Joe Biden, with his penchant for calling critics “pony soldiers” and similar gibberish, and the light of the sun dimly showing in his eyes through the back of his head? Apparently so, because their readers have believed worse.
Today’s alleged comics aren’t willing to be mean to poor Joe because he’s like them: a progressive Democrat. Heaven forbid their japery might lose Joe or his party any votes.
Will Ferrell’s impression of George W. Bush, like Chase’s Ford, bore no resemblance to its target (Okay, Ferrell looks a bit like George II), but had a single schtick: Bush was portrayed as a hopeless idiot. In one skit, Ferrell showed Bush on his back playing with a yarn ball like a kitten. It was ridiculous, it was mean, and it was funny.
But then Bush was a Republican.
I’m resigned to the mainstream media, Hollywood and 99% of performers working to slant political opinion against conservatives and toward progressives. I don’t think it’s healthy, fair, amusing or justified, but I’m resigned. I just resent their constant and audacious lying about it, and the fact that so many Americans lack the critical thinking skills and comprehension to see what is right in front of them: constant, escalating ideological propaganda from those we could once rely on for non-partisan perspective.