What a fascinating president George W. Bush was. Without even discussing his policies or his legacy or my feelings about him or even politics in general, can we all agree that there's something singularly unique about a president who inspires a feature film biopic while he's still in office? Perhaps no president in history drew more fire from comedians and late night talk shows. No president was the subject of more ridicule, to the point where openly mocking him stopped being political satire and began being the norm. And now, just weeks out of office, gigantic movie star and former Saturday Night Live comedian Will Ferrell is selling out performances of his one man show, You're Welcome America: A Final Night with George W. Bush, at New York's Cort Theater. And, in its final weekend, the show even warranted a live HBO broadcast.
Too Little, Too Late
But here's the thing about You're Welcome, America: its time has passed. My reaction to it now is the same as when I hear Sarah Palin jokes. That time in our history is over, and it's time to move on.
If Ferrell and the show's director, frequent collaborator Adam McKay (who directed the comedian in Anchorman, Talladega Nights and Step Brothers) had put on their show while Bush was still in office, I might have reacted differently. But it didn't begin its run until the day Barack Obama was inaugurated, and, as such, feels like the wrong show for the times. Those eight years were hard for a lot of us, but they're over now. Continuing to make fun of Bush doesn't really accomplish anything. It would help if You're Welcome, America had anything new to say about the former president, but most of the jokes are the same ones we've been hearing since the start of his second term. It just feels kind of tired.
Doing Bush Onstage
Though it already feels dated and somewhat obsolete, what the one-man show has going for it is the performance of that one man. Will Ferrell is very funny in the role that he, for lack of a better word, created. Though it never had the real-world political impact of Dana Carvey's George H.W. Bush or Tina Fey's Sarah Palin, Ferrell's George W. Bush on Saturday Night Live was and is the definitive impression. The character is lost a little in the translation to the stage; the vocal affectations (that famous sort of half-whisper) suffer with projection and at times the President resembles every tantruming man-child Ferrell has played in the past.
Note: You're Welcome, America was nominated for a 2009 Tony Award for Best Special Theatrical Event.
- Original Broadway Run: 1/20/09 - 3/15/09
- HBO Premiere Date: 3/14/09