Let's head back to the garden patch for another episode of Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifiniakis. His guests here are Conan O'Brien and Andy Richter. It's a lot of fun -- and then later an additional guest pops in and crashes the gathering.
Once again, I took my morning walk past the neighborhood Laemmle Royal art house movie theater in order to check out the marquee because (as I note each week) they change on Fridays to make some pandemic joke.
I stared at it a bit though, not sure what in the world they were referring to this week. And then, finally, it hit me, and I burst out laughing. It's also probably their most political comment. I'm not sure how many people passing the theater by will get the joke, since it's pretty subtle, most especially compared to their previous marquee quips. But clear enough since it was definitely in the news.
For those still scratching your heads --
Rio de Janeiro, as you know, is the largest city in Brazil. Its president, Jair Bolsonaro, has long been a close ally of Trump. Indeed, in his ongoing and ill-advised effort to suck up, he's similarly been very dismissive of the coronavirus, referring to it merely as nothing more than "the flu." Bolsonaro has also even followed in his buddy Trump's footsteps an advocate of the drug hydroxychloroquine being the miracle cure, despite it not having medical approval anywhere in the world.
This past Wednesday, Brazil President Bolsonaro tested positive for COVD-19.
As CNN reported about Bolsonaro's response now, "He also acknowledged the grave risk posed by a virus that he has in the past dismissed as just a 'little flu.' 'We know the fatality of the virus for those of a certain age, like me, above 65, as well as for those with comorbidities, diseases, other issues. In those cases, the virus could be decisive and lead to death -- everyone knew that.'"
Well, not everyone. And even those who did didn't always say it.
But back to the main point here -- I don't know who's in charge of the Royal's marquee, but hats off for their love and knowledge of movies, and willingness to go all-in with subtlety.
Not another new one this time. Instead, I came across this old song parody from Randy Rainbow that I don't think I've posted here before. It stands out as different since it's not about politics. The song comes from 2016 and concerns the Tony Awards, the year that Hamilton was nominated. And nominated. And nominated. Indeed, it got 16 nominations in all, winning 11, the second-most in Broadway history, one award behind the 12 won by The Producers. With the show making its film debut on Disney TV+ last Friday, I thought it was an especially good time to have this old song here.
There is a reason Trump's campaign for re-election is in serious trouble. Okay, in fairness, yes, I know that there are a lot of reasons -- and I'll pause a moment while readers fill in the blank with your own responses.
My explanation is what I call the Mark Twain Rule.
Mark Twain has a story about how he was feeling poorly, and was told to cut out smoking, drinking and swearing. He did, and soon felt better. Ever the proselytizer, when he ran into an elderly friend who was not feeling well, he exuberantly had the cure for her. He said she should cut out smoking and drinking and swearing. The problem was that she told him that she couldn't cut those things out because she had never smoked or drank or swore. Twain took in this information for a moment. "Well -- there you have it," he tells us, finally figuring out the problem. "She was a sinking ship with no baggage to throw overboard."
Trump is a sinking ship with no baggage to throw overboard.
We know the Trump playbook. I suspect most people can recite it by heart. He ran on it in 2016, and he has been running on it for the past 3-1/2 years.
Everything that Barack Obama did was terrible and weak and illegal.
Hillary Clinton's emails put us all at risk.
Mexicans are bad and want to come into the United States and must be stopped.
Hillary Clinton should be locked up.
The Media is fake and the enemy of the people.
Barack Obama played too much golf.
We have to build The Wall.
Russia is a hoax.
Barack Obama tried to wiretap him.
Fake news, fake news, fake news.
The Deep State is out to get him.
China caused the pandemic.
We're at risk because of immigrants.
We're at risk because of immigrant children. Lock them up, too.
Kneeling during the National Anthem undermines liberty.
LAW & ORDER!
Obamacare is a disaster and has to be replaced.
The Antifa movement is a terrorist organization.
We're at risk because of Muslims.
And...and...and...yes, fine, you know it all. The list is longer, though most of it simply gets repeated, sometimes with just a few words changed, often the exact same. But we know it all. By heart.
And that leads us to the problem for Trump.
We knew all that in 2018 -- and it didn't work. Democrats had the Blue Wave tsunami, taking over control of the House by a massive 36 seats. They even closed the gap in the Senate. And this was when Trump was telling us that a caravan of Honduran and Guatemalan migrants was making its way to the U.S. and he had to call out 5,000 soldiers from the United States Army. And even with that national "threat," Republicans got swamped in the election..
And despite losing so badly, Trump only ratcheted up his cries of outrage. He hasn't tried to expand his base, he's focused on it all the more intently. Even amid a pandemic where 134,364 Americans have died, and an economic meltdown where businesses have folded and 46 million Americans have filed for unemployment, and national social change has swept across the country -- and a scandal of Russian bounties against the American military. And yet Trump keeps pounding the same, old, unrelenting messages -- with the result that his approval has been plummeting, going from around 45% (which is awful in an election year) to now 38%.
So, that's the time when you dearly need to expand your support, because 38% is not getting you re-elected -- especially in the middle of a pandemic, massive unemployment, national social change, and a Russian bounty scandal. But on and on he goes, with the very same messages -- apparently because he knows it got him elected. And because it's all he knows.
The problem is that the public itself knows all that now. We've heard it for four years. In 2016, he was an unknown and could make wild promises. But he now has a record. And we know it all. We can recite it in our sleep. And repeating to us What We All Know by Heart didn't scare the public, didn't outrage the public, didn't inspire the public -- it got the Republicans crushed in the 2018 mid-terms and has gotten Trump a 38% approval. And this is all he has. There's nothing else. He's a sinking ship with no baggage to throw overboard.
There's nothing else. Trump can't suddenly now tell the country that the doctors and scientists were right all along, and that it was his ignorant intransigence that caused a pandemic to spread further and killed 134,364 Americans, and then expect to gain support from that. He can't bring back the economy without the pandemic ending, which is spiking specifically because of his own actions. He can't bring back jobs that have gone bankrupt and disappeared. He can't support social change that Black Lives Matter when he has spent four years trying to attract white supremacists, when he's run as a racist for -- well, not just four years, but his whole life. He can't put sanctions on Russia, or even criticize Russia, because he's counting on Russia to help him get re-elected.
So, he has nothing to expand his support. He only has the same, old issues. And they long ago stopped working for him. We Know Who He Is. Republicans got swamped on those same, old issues in 2018, and his approval is 38%.
With new options out of reach, and the old tricks flatlining, we've seen his campaign forced to raise those old tricks to almost desperate levels. Using the military, for instance, to attack Americans on U.S. soil during a peaceful rally. Dragging his White House team to a photo op at a church, uninvited, that outraged the church officials and turned into a disaster for him. And when those even-larger efforts failed and his approval lowered further, and election polls widened Joe Biden's margin, Trump has been reduced to using the remaining dregs of his tricks. Not much more than the fumes still in the tank. There's no baggage left to thrown overboard. And so the result is that this week the issues he pushed were his "culture war" demand that the only black NASCAR driver "apologize" for his team finding a noose in their garage at the race track. And his effort to again create "racial divide" was by weirdly bemoaning how unfair it was for sports teams to change their nicknames from ones that are offensively racist. Indeed, Trump seems to be going full white supremacist with his odd support of the Confederate flag (which even the Mississippi legislature voted to change) and statues of Confederate generals, as one of his remaining go-to issues, which would not seem to be an ideal position anyone outside...well, the old Confederacy. (And even inside it, it appears). As for dragging out the old "patriotism" chestnut, Trump has been reduced this week to retweeting Tucker Carlson's ill-advised rant questioning the Americanism of U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, who received the Purple Heart and had both legs amputated from her service in war fighting for the country. The best the Republican National Committee could do was slam Joe Biden for his supposed radical “assault” on the Declaration of Independence for having written an op-ed that referred to “all people are created equal” rather than “all men.” When you're trying to expand your support, it's hard to imagine much more that could help guarantee the erosion of the women's vote than by you being offended at your opponent saying "all people" should be treated equally, instead of only men.
Because he's got nothing else.
Yes, there are all the many problems Trump faces that he's been unable to resolve. There's his shrinking support that he's been unable to expand. There's a pandemic and already 134,364 dead Americans. But after four years, his biggest problem is that We Know Who He Is. We know the old, scratchy, broken record that stopped working years ago. And playing that record over and over and over in the middle of a pandemic, massive unemployment, national social change and a Russian bounty scandal doesn't make it sound any fresher or work any better.
An analyst on MSNBC the other day commented that in the past, Trump has always been able to sue and bully his opponents. But the coronavirus can't be bullied or sued. And Trump doesn't know what to do about it. Or it seems about most anything. And it's made him desperate. And even more insecure. And in deep trouble. Because, in the end, he's come face to face with the stark reality of the Mark Twain Rule.
He is a sinking ship with no baggage left to throw overboard.
Mark Twain can explain it better, here --
The hits keep coming. Which means more on the late Carl Reiner. I came across this video by accident. When I was tracking down the video I posted yesterday of the end credit dance to the movie All of Me that he directed, I followed some and got here.
It comes from 1997, and isn't just of Carl Reiner, but with his long-time best friend of 70 years, Mel Brooks, together as guests in The Tonight Show. As you may recall (or not), when the millennium approached, they revisited their classic 2,000 Year Old Man character, and released their first album with the good fellow in 24 years, The 2,000 Year Old Man in the Year 2,000. And they perform a sketch from it on the show.
But that's not the full treat. Because when they sitting down at the desk, host Jay Leno asks about how the character came about -- and they go into recreating the moment in the old Your Show of Shows writers room. And after that, recreate several other impromptu moments that had come along in the character's history. It's all really a joy.
I figure that there has been plenty enough coverage of the upcoming book by Trump's niece Mary that I don't have much to add in any immediate comment. I do want to say that the one thing that most leaps out to me is the author credit. The book does not say it is written by "Mary Trump." Rather, it's emblazoned across the cover as "Mary Trump, PhD."
What I love is that I have no doubt at all that this was very intentional to add deep credibility to the overall work and the psychological insight, not merely to give her proper professional title for the sake of accuracy. After all, Mary Trump is a clinical psychologist. So, when she analyzes her uncle's mental condition, the front cover lets you know right up front that she knows what she's talking about.
So, when she writes something like -- "Donald is not simply weak, his ego is a fragile thing that must be bolstered every moment because he knows deep down that he is nothing of what he claims to be," she's not just a relative making an untrained observation. She's putting her professional work on the line and giving it substance.
We'll leave the rest about the book -- and there's a lot -- to others for now. Instead, we'll move over to The Daily Show for a extremely funny, and almost as disturbing a video.
A couple days ago, The Daily Show sent out a clip with a montage of the "Best of Jordan Klepper" interviewing supporters at Trump rallies. They'd posted this a while ago, but said they're doing it again because, in their words, "It's too good."
It's too good.
No, seriously, it's really too good.
Scary, though. But too good.
When Carl Reiner passed away last week at the age of 98, most of the articles about him understandably focused on his influence on the history of television. His film work -- as an actor and director -- has been mentioned, but not with the detail of TV. Yet he directed some truly wonderful films, most notably Oh, God! and All of Me.
And if All of Me existed only for the dance over the end credits, terrific as the movie is, that would have been enough for me. I think the dance is one of the more joyous scenes I've watched in a movie.
If you haven't ever seen the movie or if you've forgotten the specifics of what gets us to the scene, here's a brief recap.
Lily Tomlin plays a very wealthy invalid. She's made a deal to put her spirit in the body of a young, health, beautiful woman, played by Victoria Tennant. Through a mix-up, her spirit gets put by mistake into Steve Martin -- who gives one of the great comic performances of two people (one a woman) in one body. I rarely say someone "should have got a nomination but was overlooked," since it means someone else would have to be dropped off the list. But comedy does get overlooked, and this was a virtuoso performance. If I had to drop a nominee off from that 1985 list, I'd select Jeff Bridges in Starman. A very nice job, but this was masterful. But I digress. Anyway, we only see Tomlin when Martin passes by by mirrors, but they talk and argue throughout the movie. And eventually fall in love. And in the last scene, Martin dances with Victoria Tennant which leads to probably the best camera move in Carl Reiner's directing career. It's glorious.
(I'll only add that I have always loved the actor Richard Libertini from Second City, and here he plays the swami, who you'll see at the table.)
And now, on to The Dance. What a way to go out...
Apparently Randy Rainbow -- like most people in the country -- has a lot of extra time on his hands, so he's written and produced another new song parody. It's very good, maybe even more blunt than usual, and with a strong production, as well. The song being parodied may not be familiar to everyone -- it wasn't to me, so I had to a little searching. It's "Poor Unfortunate Soul," from The Little Mermaid.
And we have a bonus today. In honor of the filmed stage-version of Hamilton premiering last Friday, here is a Randy Rainbow song parody from 2017. It came about after the story broke of Don Jr.'s infamous meeting with Russian operatives during the 2016 presidential campaign. It's the song, "The Room Where It Happened," based on the Hamilton song...well, okay, he didn't have to change the title for this one.
It's another clip from the archives of Don Giller, who collected 1,200 pieces of The David Letterman Show. This though is far more than just a clip. It's the entire "Airport Show" from 1988. This is where they did the entire program from the International Arrivals Building at JFK Airport.
It's the Fourth of July, and there's no way we can't have a little Stan Freberg presents the United States of America. Here's a selection on Thomas Jefferson trying to pass the Declaration of Independence and coming upon a reticent Benjamin Franklin, ending with the song, "A Man Can't Be Too Careful What He Signs These Days."
(For those who might be of more recent vintage, the reference to "Every Saturday evening, I have to bring out the mag" is to the Saturday Evening Post magazine. It had been founded in 1728 under the name , The Pennsylvania Gazette. Benjamin Franklin too it over the next year. With a short hiatus in 1800, the publication officially became the Saturday Evening Post in 1821. It's still published today, though no longer weekly.)
Okay, now back to the comedy.
Robert J. Elisberg is a two-time recipient of the Lucille Ball Award for comedy screenwriting. He's written for film, TV, the stage, and two best-selling novels, is a regular columnist for the Writers Guild of America and was for the Huffington Post. Among his other writing, he has a long-time column on technology (which he sometimes understands), and co-wrote a book on world travel. As a lyricist, he is a member of ASCAP, and has contributed to numerous publications.
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