Friday 28 Oct 2016

Calling Bob and Ray
David Simmonds

Today is the day after “Super Tuesday,” the event that separates the wheat from the chaff in U.S. presidential nomination politics. It’s one of those days on which you can legitimately wake up and say “If this is Morning in America, give me late night insomnia.”

A moment of silence for Bob Elliot.

In order to deal squarely with the subject, let’s remove our hats, bow our heads and observe a moment of silence for recently deceased Bob Elliott, one-half of the famous Bob and Ray comedy team. So famous, indeed, that I had not heard any of their skits, although I had seen plenty of their albums in the used bin at the record shop.

Thanks to the magic of YouTube, I was able to call them up to my heart’s content. Believe me, after listening to you such classics as “Slow Talkers of America,” the “American Paperclip Company,” the “Cranberry Grower,” the “Komodo Dragon,” the “Uncomfortable Air Conditioning Company” and the “Most Beautiful Face in America,” my heart is very content.

New short-form comedy series continues.

Meanwhile, the comedy series entitled, “Race for the Republican Nomination,” is nearing its finale. At the start of the most recent episode, the field had been narrowed from sixteen candidates to five, with two of them Ben Carson and John Kasich, kept around as fish bait. A ‘debate’ was taking place in Houston. Donald Trump and Marco Rubio were trading insults as to which one of them sweated the most profusely or stood in a puddle of his own making.

Trump purported to be shocked at the language used by a former Mexican president to denounce his border wall idea and said that he would build it ten feet higher to retaliate. Rubio, looking to ‘take the fight to Trump,’ wore the smirk of an adolescent who had just gotten away with calling his school principal a jackass.

To the left, physically, of Trump, was Ted Cruz. He was saying the idea of appointing a Supreme Court justice, who was not a close of the late Antonin Scalia, was treasonous. It was as if other judges had somehow taken an oath to undermine the constitution; that it was perfidy for a government to step in and rescue people dying on the streets for a lack of health care coverage. The debate got so out of hand they needed Jerry-Springer-style bouncers to separate the combatants.

The characters would be funny, if the outcome were not so serious.

These characters were mildly funny for the first couple of episodes, but their burlesque has long since ceased to amuse. It’s almost impossible to make fun of the characters in “Race...” because, to put it bluntly, you can’t parody a parody. After my dosage of Bob and Ray, I’m beginning to realize that the real comedians are not the politicians but the straight men, the people who are constrained by their occupations to take this nonsense seriously.

I’m talking about your Wolf Blitzers and your Anderson Coopers, who have to pose serious questions such as, “Do you think Mr. Trump is helped or hurt in Oregon by reducing Jeb Bush to tears?” I’m talking about all your toadies who appear as panelists on CNN to interpret the facts, however unpleasant, in favour of their boss “Yes, it’s true congressman Rancid came in 17th in the Rhode Island primary, but he doubled his vote from the Connecticut caucuses, which is something no other candidate can claim. If this momentum keeps up, he’ll keep doubling his way to the nomination.”

I guess I must also be talking about your David Simmonds, your sucker that’s actually tune in and watch this stuff. So, when your wife comes home from choir practice, your attempt to come up with a reply to the innocent question “So what did you do tonight, dear?” inevitably turns into a punchline. “Oh, just finished watching a TVO documentary on the evolution of snails. My goodness, that survival of the fittest business is quite something. You should see them go toe to toe.” Not this answer, “I was just watching ‘Race for the Republican Nomination’ for a few minutes while I waited for you to come home.”

The airing of the final episode lies in sight, as it does for the companion series “Race for the Democratic Nomination.” Just around the corner lies the sequel, “Race for the Presidency.” A Canadian spinoff production, “Race for the Leadership” will air this fall and culminate in May 2017. The potential Canadian candidate making the most noise is former “Dragon’s Den” and “Shark Tank” investor, Kevin O’Leary, who bears a passing resemblance in his demeanour to Donald Trump. I doubt we will find much more humour in this series. So, we’ll again be calling Bob and Ray.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Mike Barnacle, Jimmy Breslin, the late Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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