(all photos by Timothy Norris)
At one point or another over the last eight years, nearly every American was dumbfounded at our former president (it feels so good to write “former”), W. Sure, we were also frustrated, frightened and embarrassed, but no word captures the essence of America's first eight years of the 21st century like dumbfounded. And no one was a more consistently funny and pointed critic of W and his henchmen than comedian/actor/gadfly Harry Shearer, best known as the voice of Mr. Smithers and Ned Flanders on The Simpsons (and he played bassist Derek Smalls in This is Spinal Tap).
Shearer's hour-long KCRW radio show, Le Show, showcased President Bush's foibles week in and week out; while our president was clearing brush in Crawford, Shearer was busily making his own pile of detritus: evidence indicting the policies and proposals of the president. Monday night at Largo at the Coronet the actor bid farewell to Bush with his “Bye Bye Bushmen Concert,” an evening filled with pointed musical parodies and indictments written by Shearer and performed by he and his band, the High-Value Detainees.
At the beginning of the evening, Shearer passed out lyrics to songs he's written about Bushie 43, and invited the crowd to sing along. Over the next few hours they ran through songs about cabinet members and advisers (“The Head of Alberto Gonzales,” “Karen,” about W cheerleader Karen Hughes, “No Cooler for Scooter,” about Scooter Libby), about policies and problems, about all the many polarizing ways Bush reaped havoc on the constitution.
The best of Shearer's songs, most of which were taken from his Grammy-nominated comedy album Songs of the Bushmen, took little tidbits from the controversial policies and habits of the former administration and magnified them. For example, “935 Lies” used as a springboard a think tank finding that Bush and his people in the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq told 935 lies to the American public.
“A thousand dollars will buy you
A pretty good suite at the Ritz
Truffle dinner, plenty Champagne
A custom made suit that fits
Yeah a thousand dollars will buy you
A pretty nice day at the store
But 935 lies will get you
A trillion dollar war.”
Shearer also played a few video parodies by his wife, the singer Judith Owen. The best of them, “Connect the Dots,” mimicked an old James Bond/Shirley Bassey clip, and the singer hilariously listed evidence against Bush and sexily suggested that we “connect the dots.”
The evening was a fitting end to a disastrous presidency; it's a measure of our will as Americans that after eight years of insanity we're actually able to laugh at the misdeeds. Thankfully, Shearer and company played the role of bemused Greek Chorus aptly and confidently.