- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 7, 2001

One of the more interesting points about "Thats My Bush" a singularly talentless live-action burlesque of the Bush administration brought to you this week on Comedy Central by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, those naughty, naughty lads who have mined the murky depths of scatology to emerge covered in what passes these days for theatrical glory with their "South Park" cartoon series is the often-repeated story that no matter who had won the 2000 election, Messrs. Stone and Trey were going to proceed with a weekly first family satire.
If true, a Gore presidency would have had Al and Tipper, not George and Laura, as the main targets of ridicule amid the series treatment of such wacky issues as abortion and gun control. Also, if true, a Gore administration satire a la "South Park" would have made entertainment history for its crude and derisive lampooning of a liberal Democrat not to mention his Democratic liberal leanings on abortion and gun control.
Nope, doesnt sound too likely. The fact is, anti-establishment political humor is usually wielded as a cultural weapon and a very effective one against the conservative, not liberal, establishment. The once-ubiquitous Rich Little made Richard Nixon and his V-signs ridiculous. Britains "Spitting Image" gave Margaret Thatcher an alter-persona as a dictator. Late-night Lewinsky jokes aside, the significant Hollywood treatment of the Clinton years is the ever-righteous "West Wing," starring Martin Sheen as an idealized Clintonian character. It is only now, as Republicans have retaken the White House, that the "South Park" team has staked out political turf.
And so, "Thats My Bush" "loaded with pointed, hilarious satire," enthused the New York Times will feature Timothy Bottoms as President Bush, the "doofus dad of our country," one reviewer called him, whose wife Laura is his "randy anchor in the White House storm." (Doofus Dad aside for a moment, there is something not a little grotesque in this so-called humorous depiction of the gracious new first lady.) Their gonzo White House world will include such characters as a weirdly deformed and diapered pro-choice leader whose malformation resulted from his having survived an unsuccessful abortion. Yuck, yuck (not yuk, yuk).
Another episode is said to feature a mock-execution staged for the benefit of the presidents visiting frat brothers; the gag is that the mock-execution turns out to be lethal, unbeknownst to the president-character who dances around singing, "Another one bites the dust." Worth noting is the series tag line: Every episode will end with "George" smiling affectionately at "Laura" and saying, "One of these days, Laura, Im going to punch you in the face!"
Its all very well to say that none of this sounds remotely side-splitting, which indeed it is not, but the insidious factor working in favor of such political lampoons, funny or not, is that any form of disapproval, from failing to crack a smile to full-throated denunciation, comes under the heading of not being able "to take a joke." This, of course, only invites further derision.
Considering this same phenomenon and how it relates to British culture, the journalist Peter Hitchens (formidable conservative brother of Christopher) notes in "The Abolition of Britain" that "No democrat dares to be seen as humorless, and only dictatorships are ready or able to punish jesters… . Democratic politicians do not want to ban or control subversive humor, and could not even if they did, although jokes can do more damage to agovernment than great piles of normal propaganda, slanted news or selective editorializing, and because they are jokes do not need to be measured against the truth."
While it is certainly the case that jokes dont need to be measured against truth, it is also true that, with enough success, they become their own kind of truth an ingrained perception or familiar image that some segment of the culture instantly recognizes as reality. Does that make "Thats My Bush" political TNT? Probably not. Frankly, it is, as its own creators might say, too dumb to live.

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