On October 29, presidential candidate Barack Obama will air his own TV show: 30 minutes on CBS, NBC, and Fox, bought for nearly $3 million. Content has yet to be disclosed, so we asked some experts for creative suggestions.
Mike McCurry, political consultant:
For three minutes, remind us of all that audaciousness that got this election going. He might say, “Been a lot of noise in this campaign, some of it nasty, and you deserve a break. I’m going to share my favorite tunes from my iPod and some great photos of the campaign for the next 27 minutes. Let’s reflect about America and our shared history.” If nothing else, McCain would lose a half-hour to run negative ads.
Bruce Campbell, actor:
A low-budget horror movie called Barackula: He sucks the life out of Republicans.
Bill Maher, TV host:
A game show, Spread the Wealth, where lazy, do-nothing contestants vie for the hard-earned wages of decent Americans. But the way things are looking, Obama could just let McCain rant and rave, and call it Old Yeller.
A. J. Jacobs, author:
Re-air the Newhart finale. Everybody loved it! Give the people what they want.
Jane Espenson, writer-producer, Battlestar Galactica:
Barack, in a Viper spacecraft, battles enemy nukes with precise bursts of Lugar-Obama nonproliferation legislation (backlit graphics), then faces a dangerous doppelgänger (motion-control split screen), and, finally, fights McCain in hand-to-hand combat, employing some wild Buffy-style moves (stunt work, CG replacement). Defeated, a furious McCain bursts into a spectacular shower of dust. (Not a special effect.)
Chuck Klosterman, journalist:
Reunite the Smiths. “If I can get these guys to sit down …”
Kevin Smith, director of Zack & Miri Make a Porno:
Dude’s got a massive war chest: He needs to drop some Orson Wellesian “War of the Worlds” on us. Calmly tell America that the saucers have landed in the Arctic Circle (or somewhere that the media can’t immediately debunk), and cut to “satellite footage” (courtesy of ILM) of bloodthirsty moon-men chowing down on penguins, hungry for human flesh. At this point he could terrify this country into a state of violent panic and still get elected.
Alison Becker, comedian:
The Obama Factor: He faces life-affirming challenges—parachute blindfolded, tame a lion, back up a hard drive, reconcile a gay college student with his homophobic roommate—all in 30 minutes. Who says he’s not a man of action?
Kevin Allison, comedian:
Team up with Oprah, and give all undecideds a new car.
James Toback, director:
Have experts ask him questions: Warren Buffett or Bill Gates, Harold Bloom on Shakespeare. Sort of like an infomercial, selling the presidency. But no hot women. So far, Obama has been naturally sexy without being even mildly threatening and I think that’s been very effective. Let’s face it, at this point he’d have to engage in soft-core porno exhibitionism to lose the race.
Kevin Bleyer, writer, The Daily Show:
“Hello. I’m Barack Obama. Only in America can my story be told. A skinny kid with a funny name. Son of a Kenyan goatherder. And one of the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815. Justify that, J. J. Abrams!”
David Blaine, magician:
We dress Barack like Gandhi and put him in the middle of a jungle in Papua New Guinea with a group of isolated natives. He does simple miracles—walking on water, swimming on land. He teaches them hopscotch. One day, he summons a whale into their river, jumps inside, and disappears. A bobblehead Obama doll floats to the surface. He is immortalized as their savior.
Dean Winters, actor:
Obama-Palin Jell-O wrestling.
Jim Johnston, producer, Real World:
I’d make him live as a homeless person on the streets of New York. I can’t think of a more humbling experience than walking in the shoes of America’s most despised and downtrodden.
Tony Kushner, playwright:
He could assail the malignant crap in these robocalls and the things these depraved people are saying about him. And I think it’s time to really talk about the extent to which this is really about racism and stop pretending that this is all somehow in a never-never land where race is not an issue. Then again, you could do Tina Fey as Sarah Palin for half an hour and I don’t think anyone would complain.
James Franco, actor:
Somebody sent me this statistic, like, if they can get just 50 percent of 18-to-22-year-olds to vote, that would be breaking a record. So, make an MTV video?
Jeffrey Ross, comedian:
I think Barack should agree to be the honoree of a roast. What better way to show voters that he is a humble man? Proceeds from ticket sales would go to charity. On the dais would be me, Oprah, Colin Powell, Jamie Foxx, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Chris Rock, Sarah Silverman, and, of course, Joe the Plumber. By enduring a gauntlet of jokes about his big ears, his long speeches, and his lousy jump shot, Barack could prove to the nation he is a good sport. Plus he’d get to go on at the end and rip everybody there a new one. As my poker pal Norby always says, “Never too big!”
Rob Sheffield, journalist:
I think it should be the half-hour Obama goth night. He’s really the first goth presidential candidate since Franklin Pierce. And I feel like since “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” is such an easy song to play and an easy song to stretch out to 30 minutes, he should wear a cape and light some candles and, you know, get some dancing Goths for Obama.
Doug Hughes, director of Farragut North:
Obama should follow Elaine May’s priceless show-business adage that “the only safe thing is to take a chance” and devote his pricey 30 minutes of prime time to an utterly unscripted live broadcast of his free ranging discussion of the state of the union with Samuel J. Wurzelbacher, a.k.a. Joe the Plumber. The pair could crack open a couple of beers in Joe’s Toledo kitchen and talk taxes, health care, withdrawal timetables, the Second Amendment, and the bailout. No pundits, no voice-overs, no syrupy inspirational Muzak. A half an hour later I believe much will have been done to heal the cultural schism Senator McCain and Governor Palin are cynically hoping might deliver them this election. Obama will have made the sale. He’d have Joe’s vote and the White House.
Donna Brazile, strategist:
Barack Show: The Amazing Race
Millions of viewers watch as Team Obama races around the country in The Amazing Race. Never knowing where they’ll go next or what they’ll have to do once there, Team Obama will be put to the ultimate test as they work together to stay ahead of the rest. One by one, teams will be eliminated. The first team to cross the finish line will win a new job and two rent-free mansions for four years. (My apologies to CBS.)
Extreme Makeover: Obama Edition
Put together one very run-down Oval Office, a deserving country, the Obama administration, four years, and what do you get? The answer is Extreme Makeover: Obama Edition. A race against time, each self-contained episode begins with team leader Barack Obama’s wake-up call as he, along with his administration, a Democratic-controlled Congress, and an energized populace pleasantly surprises an unsuspecting country with the news that an issue has been resolved with common-sense solutions. Then viewers witness not only the unbelievable transformation of the Oval Office, but during the final and emotional reveal, they see how the makeover has positively impacted the lives of a deserving country. (My apologies to ABC.)
My Journal for The Barack Show!
By Keith Powell
When my agent called and told me I had been hired as a writer for Barack Obama’s half-hour comedy spectacular The Barack Show!, I had only one question: “Who is Barack Obama?”
And after that was explained to me (and a few other interesting facts about this whole “politics” thing), I was in. Sensing this would be one of the most important weeks of my life (not as big as the time I convinced those twins I was Sidney Poitier, but still pretty big), I kept a journal of my experiences so future generations could learn from my wisdom (something I wished I’d done during the twins thing). Excerpts below…
9:45 a.m.: Started with a pitch meeting. The senator wants to do a Laugh-In-style review show starring prominent Democrats. The room seemed cold to my “Cooking With Bill Ayers” sketch idea.
12:32 p.m.: Getting to know the other writers. Some of these guys have been working together forever: James Carville and Al Franken are telling raunchy stories about Tipper Gore. Keith Olbermann keeps trying to sell me some land in Vancouver. Bruce Vilanch is exactly how I expected.
9:15 a.m.: The day started strong. I have divided the staff into the two standard groups: those who know who I am and those who do not. Honestly, though, I think some people are just pretending not to know who I am because they’re intimidated.
1:35 p.m.: Note to self: The senator is not actually a rock star and has no opinion on my demo tape of me karaoke-ing OK Computer.
10:45 a.m.: Not to be outdone, John McCain is developing a rival show in the studio next door, called John McCain’s Hee-Haw! I snuck over there and stole one of their performers. Who knew Joe the Plumber was a plate twirler?! Check and mate.
10:45 p.m.: Joe could not twirl a plate. Whole day wasted.
3:45 p.m.: It’s tough to keep this show to 30 minutes. The senator has a long and complicated magic trick that requires an immense backstory and a minimal understanding of theoretical physics in order to truly appreciate. I have to say I like McCain’s “There’s a Quarter in Your Ear” better. It’s more flash.
7:55 p.m.: The Obama-Biden duet of “Faith” has been cut.
8:05 p.m.: Michelle brings the house down with her original composition, “Barack, You Is My President Now.” On a positive note, my modified Bill Ayers sketch (now called “Swift Boat Terrorists for Confusion”) survives…
Keith Powell plays Toofer on NBC’s 30 Rock. A new episode of his comedy Web series, “Keith Powell Directs a Play,” is posted the first of every month on his Website, PowelltothePeople.net.
Obamarama Variety Spectacular
By David Wain
ANNOUNCER: It’s the Barack Obama Spectacular! Starring our presumptive next president, Barack Obama! With special guest stars Joe Biden, Penn & Teller, the music of Estelle, TV funnyman Drew Carey, and … “vavoom,” guys, it’s sexy Morgan Fairchild!
Drum roll starts.
And now … without further ado … the man … the machine … the guy we all-a wanna — BARACK OhhhhhBAMMA!!!
BARACK comes out onstage. Everyone cheers!!! He calms down the crowd.
BARACK: (Sings) SUMMER LOVIN’ HAD ME A BLAST…(Speaks) Please help me welcome two-time Emmy winner Sarah Jessica Parker!
SARAH comes out dressed in a leather Grease outfit.
SARAH: (Sings) SUMMER LOVIN’ HAPPENED SO FAST!!
BARACK: (Sings) I TOURED THE COUNTRY, THEY ALL LOVED ME!
SARAH: (Sings) THE POLLS ARE CLEAR, NO MORE WORRY!
BOTH: (Sings) THE ROAD IS CLEAR, NOTHING TO FEAR.
BARACK: Unless, of course, there’s another terrorist attack!
Big laughter, applause. Sarah leaves the stage.
BARACK: Another hand for Sarah Jessica Parker! When I see her, I don’t have any Failure to Launch!
BARACK: And now I’d like to take you all to a place we’ve all been before, the local bakery shop.
Barack puts on a baker’s hat as the curtains open to reveal the set of a bakery. He goes behind the counter and transitional music plays.
In walks a customer—it’s DON RICKLES. Applause.
DON: Hey, I need a dozen cupcakes and make it snappy. Hey, wait a minute, aren’t you Barack Obama? Shouldn’t you be campaigning?
BARACK: No need, I got this one … (as he puts cupcakes in a bag) … in the bag!
DON: That’s bad.
BARACK: Not as bad as your hairpiece!
BARACK: Where’d you get that, anyway? Was there a close-out on shag rugs at Wal-Mart?
Huge laugher, applause.
BARACK: (Takes off his chef hat) Don Rickles, ladies and gentlemen!
DON takes a bow and leaves the stage. Curtains close on the bakery, spotlight on BARACK, lights dimmed.
BARACK: We’ve been having a lot of fun here tonight. But I’d like to get serious for a second and talk about how grateful I am for the confidence you’ve given me to lead this great nation. Okay … now who’s ever heard of froggies on bicycles?!?
“Mambo No. 5” plays as the curtain opens revealing several cute FROGGIES riding bicycles while eating bananas.
Laugher and applause.
BARACK then jumps into the action, wearing a new sequined suit. Singing to each of the froggies:
BARACK: A LITTLE BIT OF FROGGY ON A BIKE
A LITTLE BIT OF ANOTHER FROGGY ON A TRIKE
A LITTLE BIT OF THIS ONE MAKIN’ A FACE
A LITTLE BIT OF THAT ONE ON MY CASE!
BARACK: Thank you. Looks like our 30 minutes are just about up. My apologies to Joe Biden, Morgan Fairchild, and the others. We’ll try to have them back for the inauguration special. Until then, remember (music plays under) without hope, what have we got? We can do it folks, yes we can! And just a reminder that under my plan, if you make less than a quarter-million dollars, you’ll get a tax cut. I’m Barack … good night, everybody!!!
“Two Princes” by Spin Doctors kicks in, as BARACK, the FROGGIES, DON, and SARAH JESSICA all dance with each other.
David Wain is the director of the upcoming movie Role Models.