Author’s Corner: Will Durst

Political satirist Will Durst will be performing his show, “State of Confusion,” at the Crest Theater on May 8 at 8 p.m. His latest book, “The All-American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing: Common Sense Rantings from a Raging Moderate,” came out in 2008.

I didn’t know you lived in San Francisco?
Yes, I’ve lived here for 30 years. I moved here in 1980 from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

I hear Milwaukee is a great town.
It’s an undiscovered little jewel.

Tell me about your book and show.
The book is called The All-American Sport of Bi-Partisan Bashing and it came out in paper last year. The one-man show is called the “Lieutenant Governor of the State of Confusion.”

Is that a reference to California?
No, pretty much everywhere I go I have constituents. We’re all part of the state of confusion. Right now, you have people involved in a tax revolt who actually got lower taxes and they are revolting. You know, being a political comic, sometimes nothing’s going on and I’m screwed, but not now. I have so many people to thank.

You’ve referenced the fear that many comics had when the Bush Administration went away there would be nothing for you guys to make fun of, it seems that that has not come to pass.
No it hasn’t, luckily enough for all of us. But you’ve got to understand, Bush was so good for political comedy. But when you think of it, so was George H. W. Bush, so was Ronald Regan, so was Bill Clinton. You know, we’re always worried about the future because the present is always so bright. Obama is tough because of hope; it’s hard to mock hope. And also the race thing, it has a lot of people upset. Some people are never going to get used to the fact that we’re being governed by a black guy living in public housing.  

As a Californian of 30 years standing, how would you fix the state?
Very easy. It’s a simple fix, but we can’t get anybody to agree on it. All you do is amend Proposition 13 so it doesn’t involve corporations, and it’s that simple.  

That’s a rather serious answer.

Yeah, well try to get a politician to agree on that.

Here comes the joke.
Yeah, it’s like using a pitchfork to shovel gravel, it’s not going to happen. A politician can’t [take it on] because you’re not just talking one industry that you’re pissing off, the gas or energy people, you’re not just pissing off the car manufacturers, you’re pissing off everybody.

Look at what PG&E is putting into prop 16. Look at what Meg Whitman is putting into this.  I mean look at it, you’ve got Meg, you’ve got Carly. I’m all in favor of electing billionaires instead of politicians because that way we eliminate the middlemen.

I’ve noticed also that you also do a lot of speaking to corporate groups.
I do corporate gigs, but a lot of them are often for the medium workers of the organizations, it’s not for the CEO’s or the board members. My audience is primarily people who read, or know someone who does. As long as they’re aware of what’s going on I can usually get them to laugh.

I hear one of the highlights of your career was getting Bill Clinton to spit water though his nose.
I did, I gave the former president of the United States a sinus douche. It was at a benefit for Barbara Boxer. He was in the front row and I saw he was taking a drink of water and I hit the punch line to a joke early and he laughed so hard he actually snorted water. I didn’t think I’d be so effective.

Tell me about the radio show you used to have with Willy Brown.
That was two years ago. [It ran] Just a year, 13 months, but that was a lot of fun. They couldn’t afford Willy. He was getting a pretty penny.  My penny was kind of tarnished. Oh man he was fun! You know I’m a political comic and he’s a politician, so it worked out well. Because his Rolodex is so incredible, we had wonderful guests. We had regulars, we had Bill O’Reilly come on, that was when he was on his anti-San Francisco kick.

How did that go?
Badly. Although we did get a lot of flak from some listeners who said we were too soft on him. I thought we challenged him.

Tell me about your author photo, the upside-down map. Is that a distress symbol like the upside-down flag?
Exactly! Very good! And it’s also because I’m very confused.  So it works on both levels.

What’s the Lieutenant Governor part?
Yeah, actually I’m just a figurehead and it’s an appointed position, not an elected position, because I can’t run for elected office. You know some people have skeletons in their closet? I have the entire bone-army from the Seventh Voyage of Sinbad. My closet was decorated by Ray Harryhausen. I mean, the opposition research computer would blow up.

Al Franken overcame 30 years of inappropriate jokes and got elected.

That’s true, but much less inappropriate behavior than I. I’ll tell you who I feel sorry for, poor Norm Coleman. You think of this guy, this is the guy who lost to Jessie Ventura when he ran for governor in Minnesota. I mean, he lost to a comic and a wrestler.

You have an incredible run of losing comedy awards.
Five Emmys and seven consecutive stand-up of the year awards.

Are you the Susan Lucci of political comics?
Well she actually won. Susan Lucci is no longer the Susan Lucci anymore. Yeah, I haven’t won anything, not even a toaster. It’s better to be on the outside looking in. I don’t want to be co-opted by these guys. They’re all nice people, you meet them and they’re friendly and they’re charming and you have to be to get at their level and I don’t want be that.  I want to be the opposition, but burn, that’s what I do well.

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