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Having Fun with Mr. Bush

January 26, 2009 | 16 Comments



Post to the Host:
First, let me say that I have been a fan and steady listener to PHC since the 1970's. I love the joke shows, the folk music, the regular characters, and the monologues, and I will continue to listen. However, I found the Jan. 24th G. Bush skit to be excessive pandering and downright ugly in its execution. Even if every implicit criticism of Mr. Bush is true, this is no reason for your show to indulge in such a nasty personal assault. It was, in my opinion, needlessly cruel and unbecoming. In short, not consistent with the values your show promotes every week. Thank you.

Frank P.
Lohman, MO

Post to the Host:
I often hear A Prairie Home Companion as I do the dishes from the Saturday night meal...and I heard the Duluth Show and felt very uncomfortable with the spoof on President Bush. I am a Democrat and am excited about President Obama. My feeling is: Enough already! Leave him alone (attacking him only incites those who back him) and we have so much that needs doing. So, let's move on; forget President Bush and deal with the present and future.

Nick R.
Santa Cruz, CA

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Your letters, Nick and Frank, were two of many we received that were offended by the Guy Noir (script | listen) sketch in which Mr. Bush flew to Duluth to straighten out the race for U.S. Senate in Minnesota — which now is in the courts and no winner yet declared. I wrote the sketch because I wanted to hang onto Mr. Bush for at least one more go. Tim Russell does such a great Bush impression — it's just irresistible. I don't suppose we'll do much more with it — but you never know. Our Presidents are huge assets in folk culture and always have been: they become cartoon characters, even the most revered of them. And even though Mr. Bush becomes much less interesting now, as the country is exhausted with him, he will always be the genial bumbler, just as Al Gore will always be the stiff trying too hard to be genial, and Bill Clinton will always be the genial satyr and chowhound, and Jimmy Carter the prickly puritan, and George H.W. the mangler of English whose sentences go in three directions at once, and Reagan — well, how to describe him? All I know is that Tim does the best Reagan I ever heard and we keep looking for opportunities to bring him back.

I'm not attacking Mr. Bush, I'm having fun with him. Quite different. He will be attacked more ferociously in the next ten years than he was the past eight, simply because historians will start to get their hands on the information. Thirty years from now, Mr. Bush will, I think, be pretty well hung out to dry by history who will have peered far enough into his administration to see what he was doing and how he worked. That's the sort of attack a president has to fear, the devastation of history. (Mr. Obama, being only 47, will likely live long enough to read historians sharply critical of his presidency.) What I'm doing is mere play.

The idea that a man leaves office and we close the doors on him is a pleasant idea, but I don't remember it happening in my lifetime. When people wield so much power, they are held accountable, sometimes mercilessly. Putting Mr. Bush in a flight suit and having him bumble around Biwabik and get whacked in the head and become delirious with self-recrimination is cartoon stuff, playing around with cliches. It's the historians who do the real damage.


16 Comments


I've enjoyed your caricature of contemporary political figures, especially President Bush for these last eight years and I'm very much looking forward to your future lampooning of President Obama. Which of your actors will be playing our new president and how do you decide what characteristics to exaggerate and parody?


I'm afraid that W will still be in the news, as his past doings come to light. Keep him in the spotlight, and give him what he deserves, for good or ill.

How about bringing back Laugh In's Fickle Finger of Fate. What would George Carlin do????


I just had to write that I disagree with the posted letters that spoofed Mr. Bush as he left Washington and headed for Duluth to investigate the Minnesota Senate election. I personally thought the piece was well written, well executed and very entertaining. It was not offensive toward the ex-president whom I admire very much.


Well said Mr. Keillor...Well said. :)


I'm not sure what all the fuss is about concerning the Bush parody. The man was so inept he was beyond parody and now that he is gone, I don't think his reputation, such as it is, will suffer greatly from a rather light-hearted spoof on PHC. As GK said, the long knives will be wielded by history. And the truth goes marching on.


All are fair game in my opinion, otherwise you run the risk of being hypocritical. Maybe that isn't a concern however. It will be interesting to see how others will see the current President in single word description. I wonder how many shows will pass before the show begins to "play" with Mr. Obama.


No way were you just "having fun with him" in your portrayal of President Bush in the Guy Noir piece. Of all the spoofs I have heard you do of Mr. Bush, that was by far the most vicious hatchet-job yet. I assume you are going to stop fawning over your darling President Obama and start giving him the same treatment? Somehow I doubt it...


Although the Bush skit didn't offend me, I did find the opening sonnet and song on Obama cloyingly worshipful. Calling Mr. Obama "the top" after 5 days in office is a bit of a stretch.
Otherwise the show was very good, and thankfully free of the usually excessive sound effects.


Well, while enjoying some parts of the show, I find that Garrison's political humor has gone from being biting to bitter in the last few years...and it's gotten boring. Yet so much of the show is still enjoyable. What to do, what to do...

I finally solved the problem by not renewing my eleven-year membership to my local public radio station. I'll continue to listen to APHC and other NPR programs, I just won't support them with my membership dollars any more.


Dear Garrison,

About Bush.... So often, I hear people saying "Move on!", or "Get over it!"... That is important , and getting over the Bush years is something we have to do. But democracy, business and personal matters need to be examined before we can move on. That was Jimmy Carter's idea, and it was swept away by Uncle Ooze Reagan and the Happy Days Are Here Again syndrome. As a result, we forgot the oil shocks, we forgot the war in Vietnam, we forgot the corruption wrought by Mr. Nixon, we forgot the need to care for the less fortunate. It was Carter who spoke of breaking our dependency on foreign oil... in 1978. Every now and then, these days, the news flashes a figure... it is "30 years." It tells us that we, as a nation, chose a path 30 years ago that led us straight to the recycling bin. It behooves us now not to blame politicians -- Bush is a symptom, not the condition -- but rather to look at ourselves in the mirror as small-D democrats and question why we chose such a path. One reason, ironically, is that we refused to look at ourselves in the mirror. And we are still refusing.


I enjoyed the Bush skit. Sorry it took some party poopers to get me to comment. Tim does an excellent impression and there is a lot of comic material to be mined from the worst president ever. Would they prefer a criminal inquiry? The door was hitting the man on the way out and those of us who have been paying attention these last long eight years deserve to do a little partying. Was there ever a more pleasant sight than to behold that big bird taking our national nightmare away into the clouds? Goodbye . . . goodbye . . . good riddance!


I say that after what that man and his gang did to this great nation, nobody has a right to complain about comedic treatment of him that is a warm fuzzy in comparison. Besides which, the skit was not at all acrimonious and quite well done. But even if none of this was true, Mr. Keillor's response is right on the money.


I too think the script was light hearted and well executed. I also agree that President Obama should be treated the same. I'm looking forward to hearing the sketches about him. Come on, someone has to have a joke about Al Gore testifying today to Congress about global warming in the middle of a snow storm that shut down Washington! I think we all need to get a little more lighthearted and less attacking in our treatment of people. I watched Hannity tonight and Olberman last night. They are both way overboard. Lets get down to good debates rather than sound bites. For example, is it really just hybrids are the only cars that should be made. Silver-zinc or Lithium Ion batteries are going to cause severe toxic waste issues down the road and may take more energy to dispose of than they have saved in their design. I don't have that full answer, and neither does Bush or Obama. We need the engineers and scientists to weigh in with facts rather than slogans. Let's look at the issues and treat each other with dignity and respect rather than the name calling (both sides). And for God's sake lighten up.

What do you call a waffle on the beach in Southern California?
A Sandy Eggo.



I heard the Bush skit and thought it was great. You're correct: Tim Russell has him down just right. Pour it on.


I found the Bush skit in the archieve and it came across as good-natured, polite, varm and intelligently witty. And we badly need to laugh at that man as a form of therapy. A good-natured salute to a man who someone here has called the eight year national nightmare. Humor is a way to mend sorrow and loss. If fairness is the issue here, let´s begin with the victims of the Bush years and they are many.


What Would Reagan Say? Clean Up this Oil, Mr. BP! What Would Che' Say? Viva la Pollution? And Clinton, on cigar embargo, frankly my dear, I don't give a damn [ketchup on weenies! Rome, oh!]. Hoover - I did give a Dam! and, to my bonnie lies over the ocean: my blarney's about the ocean,
my blarney's about the sea, my blarney's about the ocean, and Cowardly blaming BP!
cowardly, cowardly, cowardly blaming BP! BP, BP,
cowardly, cowardly cowardly blaming BP!
but, hard of hearing, so for sextant, tent; you were light and breezy and I nudist what to do;refulgent days my friend, we thought they'd never end, we'd sing and dance, forever and a day...EUSTASY (ecstasy, hah, texting, i see is more like it), a worldwide change is sea level.in short, sea change. And now you know why there's such a thing as editing. But excuses to bring back Reagan was the main thing: let's get some alternate perspectives on the analysis of the palace is built on oil, as sand, yet solid ground is where we need to stand. that's where gardens come in, because each tree helps save the sea, and that, dear everyone, Is you and me! peace. Hey, how 'bout we pop in to Atlantis, and see if oil ain't just a female mantis!

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