If you are fan of political satire and humorists like Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert, you might want to head over to the Mark Twain House & Museum Thursday. Singer/comic/ oftentimes political basher Mark Russell will be featured at a program “Mark Russell: The Laughter of Politics.” Russell, who began his career at a piano bar on Washington’s Capitol Hill, admits he knew little about politics at the time but knew he could find humor in anything. The stand-up comic admits it’s like shooting fish in a barrel when it comes to jokes about the state of the nation’s government these days, as he took time to Spill the Beans with Java.
Q: I don’t even know where to start this interview. You have got to feel like a kid in a candy shop these days when it comes to finding material for your routine. Has it ever been better than this?
A: It’s pretty good! I am in Washington D. C. and hopefully help is on the way. What I do is a sick profession I thrive in but it is more polite than kicking a paraplegic. This is bad although Obama’s approval rating of 42 percent isn’t as bad as Truman who was in the 20 percentile when he fired Gen. MacArthur and Nixon’s, well his dropped down to the 20’s, too. It just never ends. There have been government shut downs before and all this reminiscing about how well Reagan and O’Neill got along, well I don’t remember them getting along all that well. They didn’t have a beer together every night. They would have one together once a year on St. Patrick’s Day.
Q: You make fun of issues and political persuasions and people and events, but what do you seriously feel about the state of America today?
A: It’s not on life support yet, just maybe on heavier medication. I don’t worry. We survive in spite of ourselves. One headline you will never see is “Iranian Red Cross Rushes To Help Philippines.” As a country we are always there even if Obama’s approval rating is way down.
Q: You watch and listen and then you take potshots at government and politics. So that begs the question, would you ever put yourself out there as an elected official?
A: I am basically a coward. I couldn’t take one day of the vitriol heaped upon these guys on an hourly basis. You look at elected officials and what they face. I was reading The Post today, 22 veterans commit suicide every day. How many homeless are there? We have hundreds of thousands applying for disability every day. If I were an elected official who had to face that I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night. We have no idea what goes on in the middle of the night when our officials are dealing with these issues.
Q: Is your humor designed to discredit people or bring issues to light?
A: The politicians have usually already embarrassed themselves before they come to my attention. If you are part of a late night monologue, you are done. I just pick up on that. I’m just another perception, another way of looking at it while finding humor in this stuff. Once the guy is indicted and convicted and he writes a book on prison reform, I know my job is done.
Q: Who would your dream politicians be, living or dead, when it comes to funny material?
A: Teddy Roosevelt. In fact Mark Twain actually said Teddy was certifiably insane. The whole Gilded Age would have been great. There were a series of mediocre one-term presidents. There was Harding and The Teapot Dome, the original Watergate. I love reading old editorial cartoons from the 19th century. There would be a whole comedy sketch in one picture.
Q: Speaking of Twain, does he have some comic potential?
A: Mark Twain is George Washington and Will Rogers is Abraham Lincoln. And we have gone downhill since then.
Q: Any predictions for the 2016 presidential race?
A: Chris Christie will get the Republican nomination. If he doesn’t, the Republicans are crazier than I thought they were. There are ardent Hillary Clinton fans, including my wife and friends, who don’t want her to run because the baboons on talk radio are already throwing the salvos. I think it will probably be Joe Biden for the Democrats. Biden and Christie would be fun. The two of them are old school even though Christie is young. It would be like an old-fashioned election year, a real Donnybrook.
Tickets for “Mark Russell: the Laughter of Politics” are $40 for MTH&M members and $45 for the general public. Information: 860-280-3130; marktwainhouse.org.