Satire and the Politicos


It’s awfully hard to write political satire these days, the crowing spice of more sophisticated political debate. That’s because the leading political figures are such caricatures of themselves that it is very hard to exaggerate their peculiarities in order to laugh at them.

Could anyone be more wooden, more artificial, more klutzy than Hillary Clinton? Tighten that corset lady! The Donald’s outrageous pomposity is only exceeded by his vulgarity and boorishness and the obvious lack of real content to his remarks. It’s going to take more than a clever room clerk. How to mimic the pure nebbishness of JEB who hangs around like an orphan in the storm? Okay, so you’re a family man but how does that make you a candidate for the White House? And so it goes.

Nevertheless, the jazz pianist and comedian Marcus Roberts is trying, maybe too hard, but he is trying.

Roberts has created a series of songs, ballads that take on the presidential candidates on their own turf. The names tell you all: “Making America Great Again [All By Myself]” [Donald Trump], “It’s My Turn” [Hillary Clinton], “I Did Chop Down That Cherry Tree” [Ben Carson], and “Feel the Bern” [Bernie Sanders].

Roberts told The New Yorker magazine that the different melodic refrains in the piece are a reflection of aspects of their personalities; for example, Bernie Sanders’ personality has its ups and downs.. So, he says, you get “… the tenor [Saxophone] plays it, it starts to get a little more rambunctious. You know, maybe that’s when he tells Hillary, ‘I don’t really give a damn about hearing about your e-mails anymore.’ It becomes kind of aggressive, and there’s a lot of fire, like, we’re going to get to this. I think that’s why Sanders appeals to young people.”

Roberts say that razzing Trump was the easiest part of his set of ditties. “It was clear that it needed to be bold and up-front and egotistical,” Roberts said. He told a colleague to whistle as if he were Trump surveying his vast real-estate empire from up high. ‘You’re rich, you’ve got pretty much everything anybody could want, and you’re just chilling,’ Roberts said: A trumpet cuts in on the whistling, to show Trump’s more aggressive and cocksure side. ‘He interrupts himself,’ Roberts explained, ‘almost to say, “I’m going to get all this great stuff done, I don’t need any help, I know what I need to do, just get out of my way and let me do it.” It almost has a Batman-superhero vibe to it.”

Roberts, who teaches music at Florida State, told The New Yorker,  he especially wanted young people who are followers of one or the other of the candidates, to listen carefully to the songs as a reminder that “art still has a place in politics “

We wish more clever satire had.



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