OK, kids — who out there likes Wayne and Shuster? Hmm, just as I thought.
The Canadian comedy duo, who made a 50-year career spoofing everything from Shakespeare to the American Express card, was well aware of the inherent theatrical element in modern politics.
Their sketch “Question Time” centres around TV producers preparing to broadcast proceedings in the House of Commons.
Seeking to attract higher ratings, they turn Question Period into a song-and-dance routine, complete with costumed dancers, a sequined outfit for the Speaker and chase lights aplenty.
Instead of debating the issues, the MPs exchange quips and terrible puns, as in this question from “the honourable member for Saskatchewan Slough”:
MP: “Is the Solicitor General doing anything about foreign agents in this country?”
Solicitor: “I have set up electronic surveillance and put my wife in charge.”
MP: “Your wife?”
Solicitor: “Why not? She’s been bugging me for years!”
Of course, the real joke is that too often, politics is really nothing more than a song-and-dance routine, but with performers whose singing and dancing skills are sadly lacking.
Some recent stories in the news have provided us with reminders of this tendency, including the flap over Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s admission that he has smoked marijuana within the last three years, coinciding with his term as MP.
We’ve since had premiers, party leaders and others coming clean to the media about whether or not they’ve ever taken a toke, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who maintains that he’s never tried maryjane.
While maintaining a hardline stance on the issue, he’s taken several jabs at Trudeau, accusing him of “promoting marijuana use for our children” and even responding to a reporter’s question with one of his own: “Do I seem like I smoke marijuana?”
Some observers seem to think it impossible that someone could have lived so long without trying pot, while Toronto Star columnist Heather Mallick says Trudeau’s admission ups his “coolness” factor, as if that should play any role whatsoever in determining how one votes.
Both Harper and Trudeau say they want to keep marijuana out of the hands of teenagers, but the status quo approach clearly isn’t working.
And I’m not convinced that legalizing pot, as Trudeau has proposed, would change things. It would effectively place marijuana in the same category as alcohol and cigarettes — and most teens have no trouble getting their hands on those, either.
What we’ve actually seen is some grandstanding, a few honest admissions, and a dearth of actual helpful proposals.
Meanwhile, in Toronto, the freak show that is Rob Ford’s mayoralty got a little bit weirder when His Honour defeated pro wrestler Hulk Hogan in an arm wrestling match on Aug. 23.
Hogan, who was in the city for Fan Expo, lost to the mayor in 22 seconds, after which Ford declared triumphantly, “I own this city.”
Photo ops have long been a treasured part of the democratic process, from Nixon meeting Elvis in the White House to Harper posing with Bonhomme Carnaval. But it would be hard to outdo the over-the-top tackiness of that awful spectacle.
Alice Cooper offered his take on U.S. politics with the 1973 single Elected. In the song, he calls for the formation of a third party, the “Beer Party,” and acknowledges problems across the country, declaring as the song fades out: “Everybody has problems, and personally, I don’t care!”
And you know something? President Alice Cooper has a nice ring to it.
If we acknowledge that politics is so often a song-and-dance routine, we might as well have someone capable at the helm.
Follow Joel on Twitter @JVDV88.