The Wind Cries Kerry
If you’re in that perceptive group that truly sees the danger of this current administration for the twisted bully/cowards that they are - you were probably more than a little freaked out to hear John Kerry talk his way into another jam recently. I know I was, and my level of frustration was much more personal than for most.
See, there was a time starting in 2003 that I made it my mission in life to save John Kerry from himself. That sounds like I take myself way too seriously, but that’s how it came down. I became convinced that a second Bush term would be a national tragedy so I applied to several of the Democratic candidates and offered my services as a writer of one-liners. Sound bites with real pop to them. Frankly, I’d prefer to stay out of politics, but these are desperate times, and so I made the leap. My plan was to sit in my basement in Portland and crank out the lines, to counter the latest Republican spin. I may not be great at it, but the Kerry camp was turning out crap. I'm being completely serious when I say this: I imagined writing a magic line that could save America.
Coincidentally, this is the week that my normal computer went gigs up, so I’m back on the old rig, which has my email exchanges with David Wade - a key player in the Kerry campaign who remained part of the team even after 2004. Here are excerpts from some of the emails. There were a bunch of others, including one that was a vent during the Swift Boat summer of 2004. I don’t normally apply with this level of frustration but I couldn’t believe what I was hearing out of the Kerry camp. So it was a little like today:
* From June, 2003, addressed to Kerry himself.
A few weeks ago I faxed three of your offices and
e-mailed your site, with an offer. I am a professional joke writer
with over 300 jokes sold to Jay Leno. I also write for 115 radio
stations around America.
My idea was that you should have a professional joke writer
on staff to garner you the attention from the national press that a
campaign ad won't. I was responding to the negative attention you got
for your "regime change" quip. Not only can the right joke win you
support, but a good line said in the papers is free. My work has been
quoted on Imus, Larry King, and in the USA Today.
I also wondered what response I'd get. Since none was
forthcoming, please take me off your e-mailing list. This is a very
serious time in this country. I didn't offer to help for the e-mail.
* That’s when I first heard from David Wade.
Thanks for emailing our website - I'm glad that your email made its way
through the volunteers to the Communications office --
Writing help is hard to come by, so I'm grateful and would be very
interested in hearing your ideas re. humor and the campaign -
* The next is from March of 2004.
Bill McDonald here, the freelance comedy writer who
wants to help you win the White House.
I am coming off a stretch where I sold Jay Leno 8 jokes
in a week and a half. The last one(Do you realize the Bush
administration has now produced more gay marriages than jobs?)
got a highly favorable review from James Carville.
That got me thinking. Back during Campaign 2000, I asked
James Carville if he could get me a job writing for Al Gore. It didn't
work and you saw what happened.
Don't make the same mistake. Hire me and let me help you
win this. Don Imus keeps kidding John Kerry on how dull some of his
statements sound("Bring it on!") Let me help turn that around.
Another "Regime change" crack could really hurt, while the
right line could win a swing state.
You don't want to lose and then be sitting there 3 years
from now admiring one of my jokes and wishing you had hired me.
P.S. Here's a point for free: Democrats should call
President Bush "Reckless George". He's reckless about the deficit, the
economy, the environment, our soldiers, the Constitution, and on and
on. If you can brand him with the nickname Reckless George you can
break through this preposterous steady-leadership jive.
Thanks for your note -- is there someone at The Tonight Show you'd suggest as a reference?
Obviously we may be enlarging staff at some point as soon as we can, right now we do rely on a lot of volunteer help from writers willing to give the campaign their creaivity and time --
* I arranged to have Jay Leno take the call from the Kerry campaign. They never called. After asking for a reference they never followed through. My emails continued - here’s one after another Kerry bonehead line. It’s from July of 2004 - the Summer of the Swift Boat.
So here I am closing in on 400 jokes sold to Jay Leno and he's playing a clip of John Kerry's S.A.T. joke, commenting on how difficult it is to write comedy.
Meanwhile I've offered to write comedy for the Kerry campaign but to no avail. I even got Jay Leno to agree to take your call for a reference, but you never called.
My advice would be to hire a professional rather than send John out with a joke that gets him ridiculed in 70 countries around the world.
This is too important to try and wing it. Hire a pro.
* Epilogue: After the defeat I took the high road and wrote David a sympathetic note, even though I wanted to vent. I did call it "The Road Not Taken" - referring to their decision not to hire me. I haven’t printed all the emails here - some were just suggestions. I never gave up and they never gave in. David sent a nice reply back.
Bill, Just a quick note to say thank you - for your suggestions, your jokes, your good advice, and for your very thoughtful note after this thing ended. I appreciate it. keep in touch - I'll be back with John Kerry, who is very much in a fighting mood.
* I remember being so steamed. Now that it was over John was ready to fight? At least he responded today, but it’s the same old movie. I could write a better line than the one that caused the problems. If that’s being full of myself, than so be it. Election 2006 is so important - the idea that this same man could screw it up doing the same things? Let’s just say, I find it personally quite aggravating. I also still have David Wade’s contact information. Sounds like it’s time to apply again. The Portland Freelancer did not get this far by giving up.