Perhaps the most important thing recovering Hill staffer Doug Hecox took away from his time in the legislative branch was an abiding appreciation for intentionally funny stuff.
“It’s a sitcom with very bad actors. And a really bad script,” the veteran stand-up told HOH about the sorry state of congressional affairs.“Everybody takes themselves entirely too seriously.” Hecox, who now spends his days instructing inquisitive young minds at American University in the ways of journalism and most weekends out on the road telling jokes, has never been shy about taking elected officials down a peg or two.
He’s back at it on his latest album, “Nothing But Upside,” a composite of a week’s worth of shows in Denver last summer.
“If I’m not mistaken, it’s got the first campaign 2016 jokes on record,” Hecox said of a recording — currently available on CD ($7.99) or download ($9.99) via online retailers — loaded with irreverent observations about presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, possible challenger New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and others.
“It’s a little bit like a congressional markup. Not everything survives,” he said of the arduous winnowing process that’s taken place over the past five years to produce this latest effort.
“Political humor is difficult, and it goes stale really fast — which is why so few comedians do it. One really has to stay current, and there is always a good chance you are more current than the audience ... so it's a delicate balancing act,” he asserted.
Those who do excel at it — he cited provocateur Bill Maher (“I don't agree with him on most things, but he is consistently insightful and provocative,” Hecox said.) and columnist Argus Hamilton (“Writes consistently great material on a wide range of news and political issues”) as prime examples — have to craft material that cuts across party lines.
“It has to be current enough to seem topical, edgy enough to seem funny, and simple enough that even those in the audience who aren't political animals get it,” Hecox estimated.
Or they could just go for the jugular like fearless comic Doug Stanhope.
“Doug Stanhope , though not really known for politics, is very well read and — in my opinion — a great political comic,” Hecox relayed via email. Hecox is fairly certain Stanhope’s 2008 presidential bid means he’s partied with a genuine political animal.
“He's actually the only presidential candidate I've ever drank with,” Hecox quipped.
Not that actual pols are any less exciting.
Hecox followed the late Wyoming Republican Craig Thomas through both chambers (“I am proof that, back then, it was easier to get things out of the House and into the Senate,” he noted), as well as watched the likes of Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif.; former Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, I-Conn.; and ex-Rep. Susan Molinari, R-N.Y., crack wise for charity during the annual D.C.’s Funniest Celebrity shows.
He’s met his fair share of jokesters — characterizing former Sens. Alan K. Simpson, R-Wyo., (“the sentimental favorite”) and Bob Dole, R-Kan., (“surprisingly funny”) as perhaps the wittiest of the bunch — along the way. “Politicians need a sense of humor, if only to put up with the jokes the rest of us make about them,” he suggested. “If you are thin-skinned, you're in the wrong business.”
Hecox isn’t quite sure what to make of the current crop of pols.
“I haven't met him, but Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., seems a little too serious — though his letter to Iran was pretty funny, so who knows? Maybe he's just deadpan,” Hecox posited.
“Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is another one,” he noted. “He seems to think he's witty but I haven't heard him say anything funny ... except that ‘I'm not a Canadian’ line. Cracks me up every time.”
Does he believe any of the 2016 contenders should be above reproach?
Don’t make him laugh.
“I'd love to roast all of them, except Sen. Rand Paul. He would probably interrupt the roast by trying to shush me ,” Hecox said. “Roasting Texas Gov. Rick Perry would be tough, because of all the small words I'd have to use.”
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