Posted tagged ‘political satire’

Political Satire from the Heartland

October 12, 2013

It never ceases to amaze me how people don’t understand that Mort Sahl remains an equal opportunity political satirist. Let him lampoon a Democratic President and even fans of his will question his negativity. How dare he bash a sitting occupant of the White House (especially one who severely deserves it)! I notice this reaction from Sahl’s Twitter and Facebook remarks. “Move the clock forward four years so you can miss Barack Obama,” he recently tweeted. Or, “Will Obama improve? He hasn’t got the Constitution for it.”

And liberals just don’t have the stomach for it. In comedy world, it seems you’re only allowed to insult the other side. That’s not satire. It’s boot licking. Sahl reminds people that if the boot fits, wear it with his compliments.

SahlHe’s going amazingly strong long after first rousing audiences with his unique brand of wit at the Hungry i and the Purple Onion clubs in San Francisco in the 1950s, sometimes substituting for Lenny Bruce while the controversial comic served stints in jail. Unlike Bruce, Sahl never used profanity to get his point across. His points were well made as America’s most popular satirist in TV and movies. He appeared on the cover of Time magazine flanked by Kennedy and Nixon during the 1960 Presidential campaign. He wrote jokes for Kennedy and later took him on as President.

“You can be sure whoever is elected President, I will attack him,” he often said during campaign season. Today’s comics, who should last so long, could take many lessons from Sahl.

I first saw Mort on the Steve Allen TV show in the late 1960s. He immediately became a hero of mine because I couldn’t understand a thing he was saying. “This guy must be intelligent,” I thought. He was taking all these jabs at Ted Kennedy and Rockefeller and Reagan, and people were laughing. I was just a kid, thinking I knew a lot about politics.

In the years ahead, my mind grew and Sahl’s reputation grew tremendously during the Watergate years. He was big once again on the youth circuit, especially on college campuses.

But he continued to draw the ire of liberals when he’d do things like showing up to honor and tell jokes at banquets for Governor and later President Reagan. “Nothing will get me near that man,” angry liberals would say to him. “Except maybe an invitation,” Sahl would reply. He campaigned for Al Haig, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 1988. At the time, he called Haig the smartest figure on the right and Gene McCarthy the smartest on the left. Yet he continued and continues to knock Presidents and political figures regardless of their affiliation.

I finally got to meet Sahl backstage after a performance in Florida a few years ago. He signed his autobiography (which he called, “the Bible”), Heartland, writing, “Thanks for remembering.” Hard to forget someone who has been part of America’s political and comedy landscape through 11 presidential administrations.

Some of his recent online comments:

“The terrorists have gone too far. They attacked a Mall.”

“Our elected officials will do anything to save the country, including destroy it.”

“John Kerry was an unconvincing war protester and is even more unconvincing as Secretary of State.”

If the boot fits, folks. Thanks for being here, Mort.

(from www.geraldwilliamshaw.com – Wisdom from Mort Sahl’s Heartland)

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