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Mitt, Newt, a Lamp Post...or Colbert, Hmmmm?

By Brian Dann


It was the fall of 1993. I was sitting in the audience in the upper tier of the historic Second City main stage theater, waiting my turn to go up on stage with four other hopefuls and audition to be one of the cast members of this historic institution. I had dreams of following in the footsteps of such great actors like John Belushi, Bill Murray, Mike Myers, and Gilda Radner.  Between The Players Workshop, the Second City Training Center, and the ImprovOlympic, I had put in my dues in Chicago learning the art of improvisation.  This was going to be my final and third attempt to become one of the few to be asked to be a part of this great legacy of comedic actors.  But the best improv education I had received was not from a training class, was not from performing onstage with others, but was from sitting in the audience at the Second City, night after night, watching some of the best actors I had ever seen perform their craft.  That was the real education.  That is where I learned how to do it, how it’s not about trying to be funny, and how improv can be as easy as listening and reacting just like you would in life.  Little did I know at the time how famous two of those actors on that stage would become.  Both of them were named Steve.  One was Steven Carell, easily one of the funniest people I had ever seen on the Second City stage.  He could make you laugh so hard you would be crying, and then he would turn around and give a moving performance worthy of an Oscar.  The other Steven was sitting right next to me in the audience, in the upper tier of the historic Second City main stage theater, as I waited my turn to go up on stage for my final audition.  Although he was probably the smartest improviser I had ever seen in my life, no one could have predicted the level of success he would obtain as the host of The Colbert Report.  Watching Stephen Colbert do improvisation was like watching Fred Astaire dance. So knowing that I was about to go on that stage that I had watched him perform on night after night, I took that moment to get whatever words of wisdom I could from him to give me that added boost of confidence to go out there and make them want to hire me.  I introduced myself to Stephen, told him I admired his work, and then asked him what advice he could give me before I went up there.  All he said to me was, “Just be yourself.” Then off I went.
Looking back on that day I think to myself the complete irony of that advice Stephen Colbert gave me because today he makes a living being anything but himself. His television persona as the overly pompous, self righteous, ultra right wing conservative, political pundit is as far from whom Stephen Colbert really is.  His Stephen Colbert character has been crafted so perfectly that at times some real ultra-right wing conservatives simply don’t get the joke.  This cannot be more evident than in what a recent poll by the firm Public Policy Polling showed.  Colbert, who is not even running for president, is not on the ballot in South Carolina, and is not even really a Republican, beat John Huntsman by one point. According to the poll Colbert would receive 5% of the vote and Huntsman 4%. Reportedly, after hearing the results of this poll John Huntsman was overheard uttering the Mormon expletive “DAG NAB IT!”  Is there really anywhere to go with your campaign after you are beat in the polls by someone who is not even running? A fake republican, who is NOT running for president, and is NOT on the ballot, is beating someone who is!  Seriously!?  Can we just forget all this election crap and just declare Obama the winner already.  Even if Romney becomes the candidate, there are republicans out there who are so against voting for him that they would rather give the nomination to a television comedian who is not even a republican, let alone running, than to Mitt Romney!  Of course Mr. Colbert has taken this ridiculous set of circumstances and fully capitalized upon it by launching a mock exploratory committee to consider a mock run for the presidency, and has transferred his very legitimate Super PAC to the control of Jon Stewart so he could legally explore a run for office and at the same time expose the loop holes and inherent fraud in the Super PAC system.  He has even gone so far as to rename his Super Pac, oops I mean Stewarts Super Pac, the “The Definitely Not Coordinating With Stephen Colbert Super PAC”.   But seriously, what does this really say about the current state of affairs of the Republican Party, about their leadership, and about the voters?
Let’s start with the voters.  The clear message that this sends is that there is no one running on the republican ticket that anyone really and truly wants as their candidate. Santorum is to way too religious right wing, Paul wants to end paper money, he wants to remove all foreign aid, and is basically wackadoodle, Newt wants children to work as Janitors, and his name is Newt, (really, president Newt?) and Romney basically has nothing going for him except that he’s not Obama, and looks like a Hollywood TV version of what a president should look like  It’s like if you were a fan of rap music, and you won free tickets to any rap concert coming to town over the next two months but the only rap artists you could choose from were Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, Ice Tea, or Al Gore doing his tribute to NWA, and you choose Stephen Colbert… rapping!  Voters cannot even bring themselves to get excited about the candidate they do vote for.  Overwhelmingly the best reason that voters can give for supporting Romney is that he’s not Obama.  So basically they would vote for a lamp post before they would vote for Obama in November.  The truth about Romeny is that he has the personality of a lamp post, and this has actually worked to his advantage.  He is like the contestant on Survivor who says nothing, stays in the background the entire time, let’s all the other contestants bury themselves, and then comes out on top because he never said anything stupid enough to get anyone to hate him enough to get thrown off the island.  Besides only paying %15 in taxes (not exactly one of the 99%, is he?) destroying numerous companies and ruining thousands of people’s lives through his business dealings, he has led a relatively boring, clean scandal free life. So then why is it that 5% of this poll went to Stephen Colbert?  Out of the entire Republican party why isn’t anyone running of any substance, of any power, or at least of any popularity?  I will tell you why, because no one wants to loose, because any republican who would actually be a candidate that the voters could actually get excited about would rather wait to run against Joe Biden, then Barack Obama, and because currently, in the positions they are in, they have more power to derail everything the president is trying to do and push through their own agenda then if they had to actually be in the president’s position and convince the congress to follow their program. If any Republican of any substance were to actually run for president, who doesn’t come off as either a extreme right ultra-religious wacko, a libertarian in republican clothing, or an imbecile incapable or remembering a list longer then two items, Mitt Romney would be in the same position he was in four years ago, nowhere.
For Barack Obama, this election is his to lose.  It doesn’t matter who the candidate is because all the republican talking points are the same regardless of the candidate and once you apply logic and truth to them, they fall apart.  If the President can do that, and constantly expose Mitt Romney (assuming he is the candidate) as nothing but one of the 1% who will do nothing for the middle class, this will be his election.  The truth is the republicans blew it.  There was only one candidate in the whole pack that could have been a real threat to President Obama, but Stephen Colbert beat him in the polls. Mr. 4%, John Huntsman was the only candidate capable of beating the President.  Why?  Voters are divided up in to four groups, those who will vote for literally any one besides Obama, voters who will only vote for Obama, the undecided, and those who will vote for Obama but will switch at the drop of a hat if they are given a credible alternative.  John Huntsman was their credible alternative.  He’s smart, well spoken, respectful to both parties, served under Obama as Ambassador to China, has domestic and foreign policy experience, is moderate enough for those who want to switch but would never vote for a far right ultra conservative like Rick Santorum, and is extremely likeable.  Huntsman was their ace in the hole, their trump card, their best chance, but more of South Carolina voters wanted a comedian, who’s not on the ballot, and is not even a republican, then John Hunstman.  John Huntsman didn’t flip flop, he didn’t cater to latest poll numbers.  John Hunstman was a candidate with substance who could have actually beat President Obama. But Republicans, from the upper leadership, to the corporate donors, to the average voters could not see their golden ticket staring them right in the face and that is because John Hunstman, unlike many politicians, followed the advice that Stephen Colbert gave me while I was sitting in the audience in the upper tier of the historic Second City main stage theater, waiting my turn to go up on stage for my final audition, “Just be yourself.”  And like Huntsman, I took that advice. The next thing I knew I was on stage, with four other nervous improvisers, trying to prove I was the one worthy of a place in the Second City cast.  I tried my best to follow the words of Mr. Colbert.  I have no idea what I said, or what I did.  It all went by so fast that I can’t even remember leaving.  But all I know is this.  I had about the same success with my audition that John Huntsman had running for President.  Thanks for nothing Colbert.


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