Monday, June 4, 2007

Berke Breathed on George Bush becoming a satire of himself

I've always loved Berke Breathed's brilliant satirical comic strips, from Bloom County to Outland to Opus, and I mourned the deaths of the first two. Below is an excerpt from a Salon magazine interview with the penguin creator himself. You can read the whole thing here.

SALON: Years ago, you declared that George W. Bush had "cut off our satirist balls" by being unwilling to take himself seriously, but "Opus" features some of the most vehement political satire you've ever written. What do you think is the job of a satirist at a political moment like this one?

BREATHED: Cartoonists -- any satirists -- are mere blowhards at the fringes of the mob, screaming at the crowd to throw the gasoline bombs at the storm troopers. Nobody pays attention to us, really, but we look amusing with our veins popping out. I think it builds confidence for the stragglers in the back.

Bush has given us a gift: far from not taking himself seriously, he's become the only human being on the planet that thinks he's not just uniquely competent ... but brilliant in his strategic, heavenly inspired prescience as to how the world works. This hilarious -- also arguably homicidal -- self-deception is what makes him a comical figure. Literally, it's as if -- I mean this with the utmost respect for both the office and the man -- my 5-year-old boy Milo was running the free world. Milo believes himself equally as shrewd in spotting who the bad guys are in any movie and declaring the complex strategy to deal with them: "Blast 'em all!"

But there's bad news for satirists. Bush has come full circle: His ridiculousness is approaching the sort of existential absurdity that is untouchable. Watch him try to string a sensible sentence together now. Anywhere. He's become one of those guys with the Marx Brothers in "A Night at the Opera" who tumble through the door in the stateroom scene. I can't make him funnier than when he's trying to explain himself in a town hall meeting. Any day now he will go with "I'm the decisioner" and we satirists will know that our balls have been cut off entirely by a very shrewd adversary. Reagan did this too by becoming senile.

Dick Cheney is a different matter. I'd kiss him if I could.

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