Satirist Sticks It to Prickly Presidents
SAN DIEGO — Cartoon Network “Regular Show” writer Patrick Baker once dreamed of running for higher office. He realizes, though, that his reframing of history in “The Presidential Dickerbook” — a satirical examination of the most egregious actions of our all-too-flawed commanders in chief — makes that unlikely.
The fully illustrated guide, which popped onto the scene on July 3 and was on full display here at Comic-Con 2015, takes the measure of each POTUS at his lowest points and ranks them on Baker’s proprietary dickometer. “My mind was [on] how many people died as a result of you being rough,” Baker told HOH about his personal yardstick.
That sliding scale means legendary Lotharios such as Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy rank fairly low.
“If Clinton had been a Moral Majority guy, … a family values candidate, I think it would have been a bigger deal to me,” he said of the career-threatening dalliance with Monica Lewinsky.
Baker said he did, however, delve into Clinton’s involvement in U.S.-ordered air strikes in Kosovo.
“Honestly, it was hard to get that across in 150 words. Kosovo was a complicated thing and it was ultimately a humanitarian mission,” he said of the constraints he faced when trying to boil down the issue for inclusion in the pocket-sized tome.
The professional provocateur said he hatched the idea for the hybrid history/anatomy lesson last spring. “We were out drinking and then somehow we came up with the pun ‘dickerbook’ and we were like, ‘We need to make a dickerbook immediately so that we can copyright that,'” he said.
The flash of inspiration evolved into a plan to excoriate the absolute worst decisions made by the various chief executives and immortalize their failures via anthropomorphic appendages.
The resulting character sketches show our leaders in a most unflattering light, though some pols fare better than others.
A few of the least tainted leaders include:
- Ulysses S. Grant: “Grant didn’t do much wrong, he just had corrupt people around him. He was a bad judge of character,” Baker said.
- Howard Taft: “We couldn’t find anything really bad on Taft,” Baker admitted, noting that in the end he went with an anecdotal tale of the plus-sized POTUS getting stuck in a bath tub. “[And] that might not even be real,” he noted. “In a history that is so filled with bloodshed and hypocrisy, it would be nice to have one president who just got stuck in a bathtub. Maybe that’s all he did.”
Other times, the offense was crystal clear in his mind, but became hard to flesh out.
Some of the head-scratchers include Herbert Hoover, which relates to his treatment of the “Bonus Army” and promise to provide a chicken in every pot; Theodore Roosevelt’s mini-me with mustache and glasses; and Calvin Coolidge in a headdress.
Digging up presidential dirt helped scratch an itch that’s been with Baker his entire life. “I wanted to be a colonial archaeologist,” Baker, who said he slept in a Civil War era rope bed until going to college. He began as a history minor, but “that slowly changed into what I’m doing now,” he said.
And about that run for public office? “There’s always a part of me that wants to do that,” he said, but is resigned to the fact it may not happen.
“I’m not gonna. … Having to explain [this book] in a debate is not going to go well for me,” he quipped. “But I always harbor that. I feel really strongly that we should be civically engaged.”
He could, on the other hand, see himself giving other historical figures his signature treatment.
Baker said he is strongly considering delving into famous industrialists — “Titans of Industry is the one that’s been mainly on my mind,” he said, citing Andrew Carnegie. Either that or groundbreaking scientists.
Then again, sliding Congress under the microscope might be a trip. “It would be entirely easy to do senators and representatives,” he said.