It’s the day after the elections, and the House and Senate are officially Democratic again. Jay Falzone’s mission is accomplished.
“So are you wearing a flight suit right now?” I asked the co-writer and star of Bush Wars, referring to the President’s now infamous “Mission Accomplished” appearance.
“Oh, I’m shopping for one online right now,” Falzone said. For a moment, I am confused, wondering if he is actually serious. But just for a moment. Then he starts laughing and I do too.
“But seriously, it feels good,” Falzone said of the Democrat’s takeover. “Obviously, there’s hope. Everyone feels like we’re on our way out of the darkness. For a show like this, it’s still needed to keep the base energized, which is something the Republicans are good at. We need to keep us focused, and remind us of where we think we are.”
Bush Wars, subtitled “The Musical Revenge,” consists of musical theatre numbers re-written to parody the current administration. Including the numbers, “America” from West Side Story and “Be Our Guest” from Beauty and the Beast. Based on the premise that George W. Bush sold his soul to the Devil to avoid serving time in the National Guard, it covers various aspects of the administration’s political stance, including immigration, separation of Church and State, and, of course, terrorism.
Falzone also writes and performs in The News in Revue, a bipartisan political set that he calls an “equal opportunity offender.” One of the show’s fans approached one of the writers about the possibility of a show about Bush that was not bipartisan.
“He spoke with her in uncertain terms of the responsibility she had to create a show that was not bipartisan and had a strict agenda to put a light on the incredible screwups of the administration and the right wing agenda,” Falzone said.
The show portrays Bush not as a plotting, scheming villain but more as a wide-eyed naievete, who has no idea what he has gotten himself into. It takes him through his time in office, ending with the inauguration of a new (Democrat) President.
“The concept is not that Bush is a maniacal puppet master, but that everyone around him is,” Falzone said. “W. is not the son that was primped to be President. The fact that it was him seems a little odd and deliberate – they let the stupid one into office. He can be manipulated. He definitely has responsibility for his actions, but he really is just playing cowboy. He’s in above his head so far and everyone around him are the ones who hold the puppet strings.”
Falzone said the response to the show has been overwhelmingly positive, citing an audience member who had voted Republican but, after seeing Bush Wars, e-mailed the cast saying that the Republicans could never count on his vote again. “There is the essence that people say we are preaching to the choir, but I don’t think that’s the correct terminology,” he said. “It’s energizing the base – something that the Democrats need a lot of.”
He cited the recent rise in politically charged entertainment as encouraging to Bush Wars, saying that there are few contemporary movies that don’t have a political edge to them. Mentioning films such as Man of the Year, Borat, American Dreamz, he said that politics are infiltrating entertainment, because it is on people’s minds.
Despite the statements, Falzone believes that the show is very accessible for people who do not read the news daily.
“You don’t need to be a political guru to enjoy Bush Wars,” he said. “There are certain references that help, but it’s a funny show in general. It’s hard to overcome that if they already have the preconceived notion of ‘it’s current events, I don’t read the paper, I read People.’”
While the comedy in the performances can border on extreme, Falzone believes that if the comedy is making a point, the audiences will appreciate it.
“Sometimes we do get letters or flack, but the way that we pace ourselves is this – if we’re pushing the limits or being crass or we perceived as offensive – then we shouldn’t be doing it,” he said. “If it makes a point, the people who get offended look at what we’re saying, then it’s worth it.”
Citing a skit where Jesus and George perform the song “Bosom Buddies” in the Oval Office, Falzone explained the level of comedy sought after by the skit, saying that instead of mocking Jesus, they are mocking what the Bush administration has done to Jesus is.
“We’re not saying that this is Jesus. We’re saying this is how the right wing and Bush administration uses Jesus to their own end. And that’s why it’s so ridiculous. Anyone who gets offended by that is not looking at the number. They’re saying, ‘It’s dancing Jesus. That’s sacrilege.’ But we’re saying that what the Bush Administration is doing to Jesus is sacrilege. They’re using him as a tool.”
Bush Wars has finished its run in New York, and is considering going to San Francisco or London next. Either way, Falzone said the show has no plans of stopping its run anytime soon.
“We’re going to keep going in one way, shape or form until he’s out of the office.”