Monday, December 17, 2012

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: New Mexico, The Comedy State

Note: I'm on vacation, so there probably won't be much action on this blog until after Christmas unless something really big breaks.
But have a safe and joyful holiday.
Here's Sunday's column

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
Dec. 16, 2012

For one brief shining moment last week, it seemed that New Mexico was the center of the universe for political humor.

First there was a story in The Onion with its recommended steps on how the federal government should deal with the so-called “fiscal cliff.”

“STEP ONE: Eliminate school breakfast and lunch programs, Medicaid, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, Medicare, PBS, New Mexico, elk, the Coast Guard and all dams.”

Get rid of New Mexico. Nice.

But before Land of Enchantment boosters start sputtering all over each other’s umbrage-taking, I’d better explain that The Onion is a satirical publication. I know that explanation isn’t necessary for the overwhelming majority of the highly intelligent, hip and savvy readers of this column.

But you never know.

Just last year, a former elected official from New Mexico — it’s the Christmas season, so my gift to her is not using her name — blogged about the startling news in an Onion story that purported to report a new political strategy: “re-electing Barack Obama and making his life even more of a living hell than it already is.”

“I just cannot believe what I was reading,” the politician blogged. Well, her initial instinct was right. Had only she stopped there.

Wedgies for congressmen: So there was this Onion mention, and then later in the week, our very own U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, who will retire at the end of this month, appeared on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report.

I know what you’re thinking. Jeff Bingaman is hardly the funniest man in the U.S. Senate.

That honor probably would go to Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., though since he got elected in 2008, the former Saturday Night Live star seems to have made a determined effort to become just as low-key and serious as, well, Jeff Bingaman.

Then again, nobody’s ever said Bingaman is humorless. His wit is just a bit more dry than you normally see on late-night TV.

Bingaman didn’t break character on The Colbert Report. With a straight face, he played straight man to Stephen Colbert, whose recent shtick is that he’s trying to get the governor of South Carolina to appoint him to fill the seat of retiring Sen. Jim DeMint.

He  was on the show to give advice to Colbert on how to be a senator. When he asked Bingaman if he was leaving because Colbert was going to be a senator, Bingaman answered earnestly, “No, I was planning to leave before you were planning to come.”

Colbert quipped, “I’ll miss you in the steam room.”

Bingaman shot back, “I agree.”

Colbert asked him how much he gets paid. Bingaman said $174,000 a year. Colbert feigned shock at how low the salary is, asking if Bingaman received food stamps. Bingaman said, “I don’t, but that’s because I have a wife who’s also been very successful in supporting our family.”

Indeed, Anne Bingaman, a lawyer, retired lobbyist and investor, has been successful. Last year, according to Bingaman’s required financial disclosure, he and his wife’s personal assets totaled somewhere between $6.8 million and $25 million. “So I should marry rich?” Colbert asked. “You need to marry rich. For sure,” Bingaman said.

Colbert asked if senators have the power to “walk up to anyone in Congress and give them a wedgie.” Bingaman responded, “Uh, yeah, I guess I do.” He didn’t elaborate.

Asked which lobbies Colbert should “roll over for in exchange for cash,” Bingaman, without flinching, said Colbert would need to figure out “who the major influence, uh, organizations are in South Carolina are and then roll over for them, I would assume.”

If Bingaman were running for anything again, an unscrupulous political consultant — not that we have any of those around here — might be able to craft an attack ad from that one.

But remember, it was only a comedy show, folks.

Blog Bonus: Here's a video of Bingaman's Comedy Central debut:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Stephen's Appointment with Destiny - Jeff Bingaman
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