Comedians love elections. Just ask Tina Fey, whose depictions of Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin on “Saturday Night Live” in 2008 helped propel her to stardom.
But what is a comedian to do when he stumbles on a presidential candidate who is, let’s be blunt, more outrageous than the comedian’s own imagination?
Answer: a tragicomic faux musical whose implicit subject is the comedian’s own sense of shock.
“Jimmy Kimmel Live,” the late-night comedy talk show by the eponymous comedian, did just that to try to come to grips with the phenomenon of Donald Trump.
The five-minute video produced by the show features Hollywood stars Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick reprising, in slightly altered forms, their roles in Mel Brooks’ Broadway musical, “The Producers.” In that show, based on an earlier Brooks movie, they scheme to get rich by pulling in investments for a show they are certain will be a flop — “Springtime for Hitler.” Unfortunately for them, it is an unexpected smash hit.
In this skit, Bialystock (Lane) and Bloom (Broderick) are down-on-their-luck political advisers. The opening scene, finds them in their office.
“Let’s face it, Bloom, we haven’t had a winning campaign in years,” Bialystock laments.
Bloom suddenly has an epiphany: “Do you realize it might be possible to make more money from a losing candidate than from a winner? First we find a bad candidate, then we raise money like crazy and we promise all the donors an ambassadorship, to Italy or Sweden or Armenia. Then when the public figures out what a nutcase our guy is, he drops out of the race –”
In a rush, Bialystock sees the light: “– and we keep all the dough! O darling Bloom, glorious Bloom!”
But the plan has a kink. It depends on finding “the worst candidate in history, a real train wreck, a schmuck, a putz, a grade-A, world-class, gold-plated nincompoop. Where would we ever find a baffoon like that?” Bialystock wonders.
The answer, of course, is Trump, who the two advisers suddenly see on their 1950s-style black-and-white television rambling on about his desk.
“Many people ask about my desk and the fact that I have so many papers on my desk. It’s actually very neat, but if you look around, I mean, there’s actually a lot of stuff. I noticed over the years, successful people have a lot going on on their desk,” Trump rambles to the viewers. Really.
By now Bialystock is getting breathless and excited. “Hand me the phone, the phone!”
“My desk is in my office. My desk is a very important part of me,” Trump keeps rambling in the background.
The rest of the short film’s few minutes is a predictable run through the major critiques of Trump’s rhetoric over the course of the campaign.
One news anchor, wielding the familiar old-timey 1950s Chicago accent of old news reels, gives away the punchline about Trump’s supporters.
“There’s a new horse in the race for the White House. His name: Donald J. Trump,” the anchor says. “Can he beat the establishment? Who will support him? Fiscal conservatives? The religious right? Or crazy old semi-racist white people?”
In the “campaigning” that ensues, Bialystock is seen pulling a check out of an old woman’s hand, kissing it and quipping, “thank God for Citizens United.”
“That’s 22 ambassadors to France so far,” Bloom says moments later.
The two are laughing about their steady earnings as they set up Trump to fail by suggesting he propose building a wall on the Mexican border.
But their plan, of course, goes awry.
“Good news for Donald Trump,” the 1950s Chicago-accented anchor declares. “The whole world has gone stark raving mad for him!”
“How could this happen!?” asks a distraught Bialystock, going through the crazy policy ideas they had injected into Trump’s campaign: questioning Sen. John McCain’s war heroism, banning all one billion Muslims from the US, saying supermodel Heidi Klum was “no longer a 10.”
“It’s a story that starts out funny and gets really really depressing,” promises a narrator. The line inaugurates the first musical number in what the narrator promises will be “a movie that will help make America great again.”
The video closes as strangely as it began, with Trump-masked dancers doing jazz hands.