Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Punching Up the State of the Union

Tonight President Obama will deliver his annual State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress and Americans everywhere.  As the nation stands shakily poised on the brink of economic recovery, still immersed in a difficult war in Afghanistan, and struggling with the consequences of partisan politics as never before, the President's address has the potential to be a watershed event in our nation's history.

My prediction:  The speech will be twenty minutes too long, the President will gesticulate dramatically approximately 300 times, and the cameras will cut away to disgruntled Republicans at every possible opportunity.
Those are easy calls, of course.  Talking and gesturing are Mr. Obama's long suit, and Republicans are a bunch of sour-faced old white men who don't like not getting their way.  (Oh, calm down; so are Democrats, except slightly less old and white.)  All in all, the State of the Union address, while an important annual event, is pretty predictable and typically kind of a snoozefest.  In fact, there's likely to be at least one cutaway shot to an elderly Senator or Supreme Court Justice actually nodding off during the speech, probably during the part when Obama introduces a 10-year-old who proves that he is right about everything in the entire world because she won a geography bee or something. 

As entertaining as that will be, it's not enough.  The State of the Union speech desperately needs some punching up to hold the attention of a beleagured and easily bored populace.  What's that, you say?  Do I have any ideas on the subject?  Oh, now, if I had ideas and opinions, I would be one of those electronic webloggers on the Internets.  So, yes.

Unfortunately, it's already too late for my first and best idea for drawing more interested eyeballs to the State of the Union address.  If you ask me, Washington and Hollywood both missed a titanium opportunity by announcing Oscar nominations on the same day as the President's speech...and not combining them.  I mean, the Academy Awards are all about prestige.  What could be more prestigious than having the leader of the free world announce that Toy Story 3 is up for Best Picture?  What could be better for diplomacy than to congratulate our Spanish and British allies on their representation in the Best Actor race (while making it clear that the US of A still produces 60% of the best actors in the world - BAM)?  The President could have led Congress in a singalong of the Best Original Song nominees:  "OK, now let me hear the Tea Party brothers throw down on 'I See the Light' from Tangled!"  Alas, it's not to be.  If it were up to me, some White House staffer's head would roll over this oversight.

Still, there are other good ideas on the table.  How about a comedy bit where Ted "The Golden Voice" Williams comes out and pretends to be Barack Obama?  What a merry mixup when the formerly homeless radio announcer - newly self-graduated from an abbreviated stint in rehab - presents himself to the Congress as the President!  In a conservative suit and modest graying Afro, many in the chamber and in living rooms across America would be taken in by the uncanny resemblance of the two men.  Then, Ted Williams would open his mouth, and instead of the stilted cadence and groove-free oratory we all know and love, we would hear the remarkable velvety tones that have captivated a nation via YouTube and Dr. Phil.  And then he would start chugging from a bottle of Grey Goose vodka, and the joke would be on Congress!  The President could come out, shake Ted Williams' hand, accept a pull on the vodka botle, and begin his speech to an appreciative and relaxed audience. 

But wait, there's more.  As President of the Senate and Speaker of the House, poor Joe Biden and John Boehner are stuck in their chairs behind Mr. Obama for the whole speech.  They're on camera every moment he is, so they can't roll their eyes or adjust themselves or squish their faces up when they break wind.  Fortunately, the Vice President and the Speaker just may be the most perfectly-matched pair of underlings in American history:  between Biden's inappropriate bursts of laughter and Boehner's opportunistic tears, they're like those theatre masks that depict comedy and tragedy.  I suggest they dress up like a couple of harlequins, the better to portray their roles as the official court jesters of the State of the Union address.  Maybe they could break into a chorus from Pagliacci or "Tears of a Clown" if the speech bogs down.

Hey, Joe, does this clown suit
make my butt look big?
Finally, I'd like to suggest that the judges from "American Idol" be on hand to critique the President's performance.  I think the speech would be enhanced by Steven Tyler's maniacal table-drumming, not to mention the entertainment factor provided when the aging Aerosmith frontman ogles the female Congressional pages and the First Daughters.  Jennifer Lopez can run up to the podium and tearfully embrace Mr. Obama whenever he mentions hardship, struggle, illness, or his dream of Broadway.  (Note to JLo:  be sure to wear something bootylicious.)  And Randy Jackson will probably be rebuked if he shouts out "Dawg!" too many times, so his best bet is to have the cameras catch him repeatedly leaning into his fellow judges and mouthing, "Are you sure he's black?" 

Ryan, you can wait outside and watch it on TV.
So there you have it.  I invite - nay, implore - the stagers of the State of the Union address to consider these suggestions.  I thank you, America thanks you, and that old guy sleeping in the third row thanks you.

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