Politics

08.10.12

Is Mitt Romney Beyond Satire? Comedy Writers Underwhelmed by Candidate

The electorate’s already cool toward the somewhat-robotic Republican. So how can the people charged with making us laugh give him a bit more color?

Pity the poor political satirist this presidential cycle. Sure, Mitt Romney seems ripe for parody, what with his Leave It to Beaver vibe and eye-popping wealth. Really, how often do you get a nominee who has his own car elevator and traffics in interjections like “gee,” “poppycock,” and “gosh”? The former governor is so buttoned-down and toffee-nosed he belongs at Downton Abbey.

Is it possible that Romney is too much of a caricature to caricature? When he, say, tries to make a $10,000 bet with Rick Perry in the midst of a televised debate or talks about Ann’s multiple Caddys or asserts his love for NASCAR by noting that he has friends who own racing teams, the man appears to be satirizing himself.

As for the nominee’s overprogrammed, vaguely robotic persona, there’s only so much fun to be had with that. God knows Saturday Night Live gave it a go with its “Mitt Romney: Raw and Unleashed” skit.

But watching the lovely and talented Jason Sudeikis behave in as comically boring a fashion as possible is still a bit, well, boring. Small wonder Sudeikis is thinking of bolting the show. As he told the Los Angeles Times this week, “To stay just for the juice of being in the public eye—of being Mitt Romney—is not enough.”

Makes you wonder how often Mitt Romney has had that same exact thought.

No question the former governor is a mixed bag, says Will Tracy, editor of the satirical news site The Onion. “We have had quite a bit of fun with Mitt Romney, but my sense is that we are fighting against a certain amount of disinterest in him as a human being, which seems to be the exact thing Mitt Romney himself is fighting against,” posits Tracy. “Nevertheless, anyone who sleeps upon a massive pile of crisp $100 bills every night, as I’ve been assured he does, is bound to yield a few interesting stories.”

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Comedian Stephen Colbert makes some jokes at the expense of Romney's horse

At least one veteran funnyman assures me things are going to get better. Darrell Hammond—who, as SNL’s longest-serving cast member, has picked apart his share of presidential players—says the home stretch of any race is always the richest. “The presidential glare doesn’t turn on full force until six weeks out,” says Hammond, best known for his channeling of Bill Clinton. When the spotlight gets bright enough, he contends, “you see them squirm, and one way or another they do something more human.” Not even Romney can make it to Election Day without revealing a bit of his real self, says Hammond. “Mark my words, you’re going to see something interesting,” he predicts. “We have 87 days left. It won’t be long now!”

Americans don’t like perfect people, insists Hammond. “We like people like us.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Hammond says Romney should go ahead and “let it all hang out” now. “The guy needs to coarsen up a little bit,” he advises. “Start appearing in public with a couple days’ growth of beard and a beer in his hand. Stop looking like a J. Crew model!” Americans don’t like perfect people, insists Hammond. “We like people like us.”

Not that it makes much difference to Hammond. His SNL days behind him, the comedian is at work on an audio version of his 2011 tell-all, God, If You’re Not Up There, I’m F*cked. Next month, he’ll head to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., where he’s scheduled to reminisce with NBC’s Chris Matthews about a kinder, funnier era—specifically, the good-ol’ days when President Clinton was providing enough material to keep the entire politico-satirical complex fat and happy.