Scheft Election

The Raw Vote Is In

by Bill Scheft

TV FICTION PACKAGE: Politically incorrect comedian Tommy Dash horrifies the panelists on a cable news show about the Presidential primary race. 2,759 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


Okay, enough chit-chat. Here are the jokes I never got to on the air:

  • I’m now taking orders for my new t-shirt: “TRUMP: He’s David Duke, But With A Higher Thread Count.”
  • Ted Cruz may win Indiana. It all depends on whether he can get the heavy Gestapo turnout.
  • If you don’t count Ohio, the only time John Kasich has finished first is when he was jerking off
  • Bernie Sanders spent $46 million in the month of March. And half of that was on fiber.
  • Remember, the Hillary Clinton email scandal started because she didn’t want to carry around an extra device. It’s the same thing that happened with Bruce Jenner.

Before we continue, I have several philosophical questions:

If someone is on cable television news and is under the impression that it’s okay to curse because it is cable television, is that person wrong for cursing? Strictly speaking, is the phrase “cock yahtzee” cursing? Okay, what about “turd parade”? Okay, what about “muff” or “snatch”?

Okay, I know you’re going to say “snatch” is a bit vulgar. And perhaps that’s what got me hustled back onto Sixth Avenue. I was vulgar. And you can’t be vulgar on television. You can be dirty. You can be suggestive. You can be naughty, and we hope you are. But you can’t be vulgar on TV. It’s a public trust, or whatever other hypocritical oxymoronic term you can come up with, like “rectal itching” at the end of a pharmaceutical commercial.

Gee, I hope I’m not giving away what happened last Friday when I got booked to appear on the cable news political roundtable, Right Cross.

I’d heard of the show. I’d even watched a few seconds of it on the way to something else, like a Met game or a 50-year-old rerun of Bonanza. (I never watch the entire episode. Just long enough to see if Little Joe’s fiancée has a cough.) You know the format of Right Cross: a panel of five — four overly made-up conservatives and an African-American — taking a serious but at times light-hearted, even satirical, look at the day’s events. That’s all it takes, plus a network committed to the show for five years or until it gets its first genuine laugh.

Let me explain this. Listen to me. When you laugh at something you say, that is not a response. That is, at best, a suggestion, and, at worst, a threat. Jay Leno (before he left his soul in that broom closet he hid in while eavesdropping on NBC executives) used to say a great thing about certain stand-up comics: “Who was this guy watching when he decided he could do this?”

Still lost? Here’s another example: from time to time, I have availed myself of the physical rehabilitative skills of an Asian massage therapist in the Valley. Whenever Miko begins her deep tissue work on my left hamstring, I start giggling, then cackling, then guffawing like I’m watching the first Richard Pryor concert film. Again my point is just because you hear laughter, that doesn’t mean it’s funny. In the same way, just because a massage therapist is Asian, it doesn’t mean the last few minutes will be… well, you know what it doesn’t mean.

Apparently, every once in a while on Right Cross, the panel gets tired of being its own audience sweetener and decides to bring in some guest left-leaning piñata to take a few swings at. I am not left-leaning. I am a Commie sympathizer who doesn’t pay taxes. I’m not a regular voter, either. I’d like to vote, but I’m told the process still involves giving out your mailing address. Maybe now that the government swooped in for its kilo of flesh after I worked on the sitcom I Don’t Get It, I might register again. Seriously, I think the last vote I cast was to ban Andy Kaufman from Saturday Night Live.  No, no, I’m wrong. It was for the Young Elvis stamp.

So, it’s the Friday after the New York primary and I am filling in for the AFRICAN-AMERICAN BLOGGER, who is away for the day. I’m gonna guess family court. That left the other regular hosts on Right Cross: the FORMER BUSH BLOND who lives off of the one time she was described as “brainy,” the CHESTY BRUNETTE WITH A LAW DEGREE who is frequently misunderstood by herself, the SWEATER PUNDIT (we’ll get to him later) who thinks he’s funny, and the MUSTACHED TV WHORE who has gone from crusading journalist to left-winger crusading for justice to right-winger crusading for a regular gig with a stop on Celebrity Apprentice in between. He clearly has replaced the mustached TV whore I used to watch every night during the OJ trial.

When the SWEATER PUNDIT (whom we’ll get to) introduces me at the top of the show, I say the only reason I’m there is because the AFRICAN-AMERICAN BLOGGER is in South Carolina responding to Jeb Bush’s allegations about fathering a black child. This gets a lovely chorus of silence from the other four panelists. SWEATER PUNDIT, who aspires to loathsome, does that passive-aggressive joke deconstruction we comics can’t get enough of. “For our viewers who don’t remember,” he begins, “Tommy Dash is making an incredibly obscure reference to 2000, when after the New Hampshire primary, the George W. Bush campaign allegedly claimed that John McCain had fathered an out-of-wedlock African-American child and it might have cost McCain the South Carolina primary.”

“Thanks for explaining that joke into a fine mist.” I said.

“Thanks for having such a thick skin,” he said. I have to say, good comeback.

“And we need to point out that the man Tommy’s filling in for is African-American,” CHESTY BRUNETTE WITH A LAW DEGREE added.

“That’s also for you viewers who don’t remember,” I said. Again, silence. Although, I saw MUSTACHED TV WHORE drop his head for a second.

“Speaking of which,” the FORMER BUSH BLOND subtly jumped in, “what do you think about Andrew Jackson being replaced by Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill?”

“I’m not surprised,” I said, “I knew we’d have a black woman on the twenty before we had one appear on The Five.’

“Okay, now we need to point out,” the SWEATER PUNDIT chimed, “that Tommy Dash is referring to another panel show on another cable news network.”

“And I know for a fact,” added CHESTY BRUNETTE WITH A LAW DEGREE, “they had at least one bla–, uh, African-American woman on that show.”

And that’s how we started.

The worst, I mean the worst, case of unnecessary joke explaining happened to me at a meeting with some network finger-fuckers from ABC Sports in 1998. They had moved Monday Night Football to 8:30 and they wanted to do a 20-minute comedy pre-game show called Monday Night Blast. They put a bunch of comics who knew about sports in a room with food, which is pretty much all it takes.

The suits passed out the season schedule and said, “Just give us some ideas for an SNL-type sketch or remote piece we can run that involves the teams in that week’s game.” And then the lead jerkoff says, “Go nuts. We want to do completely original comedy. Completely original. Stuff that’s never been done. So far, we’ve come up one segment. We’re calling it, ‘The Top 10.’”

All the comics stared at each other. One guy (it might have been Hugh Fink) said, “The Top 10? Gee, what do you even need us for?”

We started tossing out stuff. Nothing, really. Then I say, “Look, the Green Bay Packers are publicly owned. Why don’t we do a stockholders meeting. Smoke-filled room. Suddenly, Michael Douglas bursts through the door and tells everyone their stock is worthless.”

Lead jerkoff: “You mean, like Gordon Gekko?”

I couldn’t take it. I said, “Gee, I hope so. Because if he comes in as the guy from Fatal Attraction, or the guy from Basic Instinct, it won’t be funny, it’ll just be fucking stupid!”

As I recall, we then took a five-minute break. Five minutes for everyone else, forever for me.

That’s how it started at Right Cross. The difference here is I waited until they were uncomfortable, then lasted another ten minutes into the first commercial.

In my defense, I was not fully aware of the format. I was under the impression it was a conversation. I thought there would be, you know, some exchange among the panel. I thought the cameras could actually swivel or there was a director who could call shots. A couple of times when I began to speak, CHESTY BRUNETTE WITH A LAW DEGREE dug her nails into my leg. I now realize she was trying to get me to stop. But at the time, looking at her, I figured it was a move she learned at the escort service while working her way through law school. Actually, I got the nails twice when I began to speak, and once after I said that the giant cross Carly Fiorina wore during the Iowa debate had just endorsed Ted Cruz.

Look, I know I’m not the best looking guy in the world. I’m not even the best-looking guy in my apartment when I’m alone. But let me just say this about CHESTY BRUNETTE WITH A LAW DEGREE: there is a bright and attractive woman in there somewhere. There might be two in there. Seriously, I haven’t seen cleavage like that since Jennifer Tilly walked up behind Richard Dreyfuss in Let It Ride, put her hands over his eyes, said “Guess who?” and he said, “A football salesman?”

The Carly Fiorina cross line was the second or third one I got off. After my opening misstep salvo, I pulled back while the four of them recapped the recap of the recap of Tuesday’s New York primary. Jesus, how many friggin’ times can you say, “Clear path to the nomination?” I looked at the monitor just long enough to see my chyron read TOMMY DASH: “Comedian” / Liberal. As I was daydreaming about how to reach inside the camera, pull off the quotes and stick them on the SWEATER PUNDIT’S throat, I heard him say, “Tommy Dash, as an unabashed pinko, are you disappointed in Bernie Sanders’ showing?”

“Well, technically when I’m on this show, I’m a bashed pinko.” Who knew I could be so glib? Nothing from them. I went on. “But let me say, I think New York was a real wake-up call for Bernie. I think he now has to realize that the majority of Democrats do not want a nominee who looks like the guy in front of you at the supermarket trying to pay with a check.”

Can I tell you something? That was the only laugh I got from these cocksuckers. Well, from the other three cocksuckers. SWEATER PUNDIT said, “Hey, good one. Is that yours?”

“No. I got it from the 11-year-old in Guatemala who made your sweater.” When SWEATER PUNDIT didn’t respond (which he should try more of), I said, “I was expecting you to say ‘Oooooh…’ But then I saw it wasn’t on the prompter…”

FORMER BUSH BLOND gave a soft “meow.” MUSTACHED TV WHORE said, “We should get back to that.” And I had to say, “You’ll get back to it like Al Cowlings will get back to you.” MUSTACHED TV WHORE laughed and said, “You know I met him…” And then CHESTY BRUNETTE WITH A LAW DEGREE said words to the effect of “Can we focus, people?” Which SWEATER PUNDIT interpreted as his cue to launch into his monologue. That one ran a good 70 seconds. But if you take out all the wit, 70 seconds.

It was fresh non-insight into the state of Hillary Clinton’s campaign following her substantial win. A real dog whistle serenade of her untrustworthiness, her inevitable march to indictment, her shrill speaking voice, and a subtle-free inference to her sexuality. All that, and a new term I was unaware of, “victim harvesting.” I’m still not sure what exactly victim harvesting is, although thanks to SWEATER PUNDIT, I now know that Hillary is doing it. It may have something to do with the water in Flint, which is, depending on how you look at it, a horrific tragedy upon the already downtrodden, or just one of those things.

I waited, then said, “Not only that, I heard the U.S. State Department just released 5,000 new Hillary Clinton emails, but 4,500 of them were her trying to unsubscribe from Classmates.com.”

FORMER BUSH BLOND took great pains to tell everyone, “Now, that’s not true.”

MUSTACHED TV WHORE waved the camera over to him and told FORMER BUSH BLOND, “I’m not sure we need to say that every time the comic tells a joke.” And I was almost ready to drop the “whore” from his name, but then he congratulated SWEATER PUNDIT on his “courageous take” on Hillary. “That’s what we do here,” he said. “Sure, we have a lot of laughs, but we also analyze fearlessly. If you want ideological pandering, move along.” And man, did I want to.

But MUSTACHED TV WHORE wasn’t done. “And I know this might not be the most popular thing to say on this network or in this forum, but I think we saw my old boss Donald Trump make the pivot a lot of us have been waiting for Tuesday night in his victory speech. The pivot toward presidential. I thought he was magnanimous. I thought he was gracious. There was no mention of ‘Lyin’ Ted.’ It was ‘Senator Cruz.’ There were real solutions and a real vision. I know all the metrics of what a bad general election candidate he would be. But as Mark Twain said, there’s lies, damned lies and statistics. You want to write him off, keep doing it. You’re just showing your pigheadedness and your ignorance. You don’t need my help. I’m just suggesting you take another look at one Donald J. Trump.”

I cleared my throat and got the nails in my leg for the last time.

“Am I allowed a minute for rebuttal? Well, I’ll need 30 seconds and use the other 30 seconds to vomit. And speaking of suggestions, I’m just suggesting you head for a bathroom anywhere other than North Carolina and blow yourself. You don’t need my help.”

I waited for a gang gasp, and was not disappointed.

“With all due respect,” I continued, “what kind of cock yahtzee are you playing with this guy? Wait, he was gracious to Cruz? Why, because he didn’t demand to see his Canadian birth syrup? How respectful was Trump when less than 24 hours after his victory speech he was back calling him ‘Lyin’ Ted?’ Jesus, Curt Schilling showed more restraint. It took you three days to decide that speech was more presidential? A day after he referred to 9/11 as ‘7-Eleven?’ Forget that. Last month at a town hall, your boy Trump confused a question about Sandy Hook with Hurricane Sandy. Which made it official. ‘In the butt, Bob’ is no longer the stupidest answer ever.”

“Tommy, please….” MUSTACHED TV WHORE implored.

“Stache, you people put us on this turd parade. Real solutions from Trump? I missed that. What, he’s going to run a spinoff to Celebrity Apprentice so he can create two phony jobs a year? What, he’s going to stop calling him Cassius Clay?”

“Okay, that’s enough,” SWEATER PUNDIT moaned.

“Hey, good one, hack. Is that yours?”

CHESTY BRUNETTE WITH A LAW DEGREE shook her assets to distract Camera #2. “For our younger viewers,” she said, “Cassius Clay was the birth name….”

“Save it, shystress. Your younger viewers already switched to Flip Or Flop. What guarantee do you have for your sisters? That Trump will make it to the convention without using the word ‘muff’? Okay, what about ‘snatch’? Maybe I should ask the Bush blond.”

“Are we still even on?” she asked.

Another look at the monitor and I could tell we were at least 11 seconds into a portable catheter commercial. Which had probably followed a promo for the show after us. So, they had most likely cut away just after “blow yourself.” Which raises another philosophical question: If no one hears you say “cock yahtzee”, “turd parade”, “muff” or “snatch” on cable television news, did you ever say it?

I did. Just ask the security guards that hustled me out to Sixth Avenue. And thanked me for giving them something to tell their wives when they asked, “How’d it go at work today?”

Television Fiction Package for Emmy Season

Bill Scheft on twitter
About The Author:
Bill Scheft
Bill Scheft was a 16-time Emmy-nominated writer for David Letterman from 1991 until May 20, 2015. He spent 12 years touring as a stand-up comedian until he was hired as a monologue writer for Late Night With David Letterman on NBC. He has authored 4 novels: The Ringer, Time Won't Let Me (2006 Thurber Prize For American Humor finalist) , Everything Hurts, and his latest Shrink Thyself. @billscheft

About Bill Scheft

Bill Scheft was a 16-time Emmy-nominated writer for David Letterman from 1991 until May 20, 2015. He spent 12 years touring as a stand-up comedian until he was hired as a monologue writer for Late Night With David Letterman on NBC. He has authored 4 novels: The Ringer, Time Won't Let Me (2006 Thurber Prize For American Humor finalist) , Everything Hurts, and his latest Shrink Thyself. @billscheft

  5 comments on “The Raw Vote Is In

  1. Is this the semi-official word that Tommy got hired on that other cable network’s new political show, "Left Hook" ? Thank heavens. Even though, in my heart, I Feel the Bern. But that’s another story.

  2. Mr. Dash Goes To Washington and slays the entire process of political punditry, taking no prisoners and leaving no earth unscorched! Somewhere, at that great panel in the sky, Walter Cronkite has removed his glasses and is wiping away tears of laughter, David Brinkley has a rye look of amusement on his face, and Edward R. Murrow is blowing smoke rings and flicking cigarette ash, while their moderator, Jesus H. Christ, is laughing his ass off! And remember, a vote for Tommy is a vote for good comedy!

    1. One time, Brian Williams was on our show during a stock market meltdown in the late 1990s. Dave asked him, "What are they saying is going to happen with the market?" Brian said, "Well, fortunately for me, all my money is in the sex industry…." And Dave leaned back, turned and said to Paul, "Not exactly Ed Murrow is he, Paul?"

      1. Wow – I do recall that show, that interview and that one-liner. I alos recall that, at the time, I felt bad for BW. Now? Not so much….

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