So, OK, John McCain did a credible job of reading some nifty one-liners ghost-written for him on Thursday night. But for true aficionados of his Komedy Kapers, there's nothing like watching the Senator's satirical genius set loose in a smoky back-room Republican club -- "McCain being McCain," as they say, free to unleash his mind-blowing riffs with all the fury of a right-wing Lenny Bruce. Of course, McCain's long been a hero of Republican hipsters for his lacerating way with a satirical hatchet (and scalpel); so, herewith, a transcript of some of John McCain's funniest moments as a stand-up candidate, He might warm the crowd up with something like:
"Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno."
From there, on a swingin' night, McCain might stalk around the stage in his own unique, robotic way, and segue into this kneeslapper:
"Did you hear the one about the woman who is attacked on the street by a gorilla, beaten senseless, raped repeatedly and left to die?
When she finally regains consciousness and tries to speak, her doctor leans over to hear her sigh contently and to feebly ask, 'Where is that marvelous ape?'"
By now, needless to say, McCain's "got 'em right where he wants 'em," to quote his recent assessment of the presidential race. Men and women alike are absolutely screaming with delight at that cherished old rape chestnut -- "it's funny because it's true," as teary-eyed fans always say, and "it's always like you're hearing it for the very first time."
And then McCain -- described by one show-biz reviewer as "a zany cross between a Mort Sahl and a mortician, a kind of geriatic Jerry Seinfeld" -- fields shouted comments from the audience and comes roaring back with brilliant zingers: when one fan yells out something about the huge rise in American cigarette sales to Iran, Johnny shoots back:
"Maybe that's a way of killing 'em!"
"Hold: pause for laughter," he reminds himself, before seguing directly into his world-famous Beach Boys impression: "Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran...."
Have you ever laughed so hard it actually hurts? That's how fans of McCain's wit describe the experience of hearing him work.
Which is not to say that, like many of his peers in the comedy world, McCain does not have a bit of a brooding side; one night, in the wings, when his wife Cindy heckled him mildly about his baldness, he revealed a hint of the sulfurous darkness that drives so many comedic geniuses to their creative peaks:
"At least I don't plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you c--t."
Of course, just as square club owners used to beg Lenny Bruce not to "work blue," there have been pressures on McCain to clean up his act; too bad those philistines just don't "get it," to quote Sarah Palin. Left to follow his own comedic muse, facing the Apocalypse with his own wild sense of the absurd, John McCain reveals truths about himself -- and us -- that no scripted banquet-table routine could ever reveal.
Try the veal, folks, and don't forget to tip your waitresses. He'll be here until November 4th.
Note: All McCain quotes rendered verbatim from video or newspaper reports.