You're Welcome America: A Final Night With George W. Bush
A HBO recording of Ferrell’s Broadway production written by him and directed by his long-time comedy partner Adam McKay, You’re Welcome America wastes little time with Dick Cheney informing audience that all cell phones must be switched ON for illegal surveillance, and that Haliburton are in charge of the washrooms meaning toilet paper is now $15 a sheet.
Condensing the last eight years under the reign of arguably the most failed president in U.S. history, Ferrell delivers a broad scattershot of lampoonery encompassing every aspect of number 43’s inimitable idiosyncrasy. In terms of body language, Ferrell has the man down cold; the constant nodding of the head, the waddle, the opened armed hunch forward that is somewhere between John Wayne and a guy who has just shit himself, the hand waving punctuation that accompanies everything he says. It’s all practiced to perfection.
As good at improv as he might be, Ferrell always works best with a script and time to prepare. Luckily (or should that be unluckily?), he’s got eight years worth of gaffs, blunders, clangors, misfortune, and bona fide national catastrophes to sift through and sharpen to needle point. Priding himself on being the president you would want to have a beer with, Bush was nothing if not amiable to folk he likes. He likes theater. Theater that’s that's not faggy, you understand. You know, stuff like Rent. And he likes the "the Tiger Woods Guy," who’s “a good speech maker.”
Sitting in a leather armchair, W. waxes lyrical about the mainstream media, about CNN polls and wonders how he can be so unpopular when they made a movie about him while he was still in office. He can't accept his unpopularity and wishes only that "before they close up the “anals of history" that we hear him out and get to know the man.
He praises his home state of Texas (good cocaine) and reminisces about the past-spent tormenting hobos and stray cats as a young, precocious little thirty-year-old. He remembers Yale where his nickname was Gin and Tonic (sadly true), and he experienced his first threesome invaded by a guy named Dave Rothschild, ably illustrated by extended muff allegories – "Imagine the Great Wall of China, but made entirely of muff. That's how much muff there was.” This leads into his explaining his absence from the National Guard – he was living in Vermont with Dave Rothschild. But it was never sexual (just handjobs). There is a whirlwind waltz through his time in the Lone Star State; his shady oil dealings and the investigation subsequently squashed by then president Bush Sr.
While the truth doesn’t want for laughs, the true hysteria comes courtesy of the stuff Ferrell embellishes or just flat out makes up. Riffing on his reputation of being a fake Texan from New England, Ferrell offers a wink and nod to the audience. Apparently Bush is looking to sell the Crawford Ranch that Karl Rove made him buy to seem more folksy: "Can I be honest with you? I don't know what the fuck I'm doing out here!" is a declaration so painfully funny because you can almost believe it. He hates Texas – “I can't even go outside because it's a 119 degrees.” Then there is the precarious family history personified by an obscenity laced rant about the shitty attitude of his dipshit dad that time he lead them into an unsafe abandoned mine shaft and didn’t tell anyone where they are.
Really, this is meat and drink to Ferrell as so many of his personas over the years have followed a template that George W. Bush is almost a walking, talking parody of; a man who so desperately wants to be something he’s not and whose ego constantly inflates itself only to have the pathetic reality of the situation at hand puncture it time after time. He's a crap cowboy, a crap businessman, and a crap president. But he had help. From Rummy to Cheney – a guy so charismatic he can shoot some guy in the face and have him apologize, to all the people he can’t remember, this was a group effort. He remembers that time he walked in on Cheney being fucked by a goat devil. Then there is the time he modeled his decider persona on a made up robot called "Decision Maker 2230k" whose torso is a microwave and whose eyes shoot laser beams. But Cheney didn’t like that so he shot him in the face.
Of course it can’t sustain itself in monologue format alone, so there is audience participation in the form of Ferrell threatening to have crowd members removed and accusing them of being Penn & Teller and Paul Krugman from the New York "suck my dick" Times. We get a robot lap dance from Condi Rice and a breakdancing secret service agent entertains us through the numerous costume changes.
It's all very stream of consciousness; there are spontaneous prayer sessions to "white, blonde, clean shaven looking Jesus," tangents about Jesus bringing Diet Slice to your frat party, and pictures of his cock (his shock and awe, his stimulus package) on a titantron. He's excited about retirement; all the piggybacks from secret service and getting a tattoo of that Jewish looking guy from Lord of the Rings on his back.
The greatest hits are all present and correct; a guy in the audience throws shoes. We hear how much he loves the book My Pet Goat. There is the Freedom Fries saga and the "Mission Accomplished" USS Intrepid event. But much like Oliver Stone’s aforementioned divisive biopic, it is just surface skimming. There is a lot of comedy but no real insight. An inordinate amount of time spent telling us much that we already know. But on the back of eight years of corruption and incompetence that have been dissected ad nausea by cable news and the blogosphere during the last election cycle what's left to say about a man who lives in a bubble powered entirely by his own blind optimism? A man who while governor of Texas proclaimed June 10th to be “Jesus Day”; a man who is so proud that we got steroids out of baseball. Who is proud that the sanctity of marriage is now defined as being between one man and one woman – even though he still dearly misses Dave Rothschild.
Does he have any regrets? Sure he does. That time a botched joint US-Moroccan venture fouled up and lead to forty Moroccan spear-gun monkeys escaping into the North Carolina woods, resulting in a 1000% increase in spear gun related monkey attacks was real unfortunate. But he could give a shit – that's the Tiger Woods Guy's problem now.