Conservative Comedians: The Sideshow at CPAC

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While potential 2012 candidates were cracking the occasional crowd-pleaser on CPAC’s main stage — “The closest I’ve come to being on a reality TV show is C-SPAN’s coverage of the Senate floor,” Sen. John Thune said at a certain Mama Grizzly’s expense — professional comedians were trying out various means of conversion elsewhere around the conference.

There were those who went for the shock-factor approach, like Victoria Jackson. You may remember Jackson from her near-decade stint on SNL or as the only actress whose voice is high-pitched enough to confuse with Jennifer Tilly’s. But she was shopping a new legacy amidst teeming booths for conservative groups: to be the person who convinced the world that Barack Obama is a communist. Such was, at any rate, the central point of her unambiguously named musical manifesto, “There’s a Communist Living in the White House.”

It’s hardly a subtle call to action, but late in her career, Jackson’s not afraid to take a contentious line. “Hollywood is all liberal, extremely liberal obviously, and it’s very hard to be a conservative there,” she said. “Most of them are in the closet because if they came out as a conservative, they would lose their jobs and their careers. I’m out because I didn’t have a job, and so I got nothing to lose and nobody can fire me. I’m not on CSI.”

Others exercised more tempered objections to the White House occupants. “I have zero malice in my heart toward Barack Obama, and comedy is not meant to be destructive. I truly believe he loves America for what he wants it to be, but I have a fundamentally different vision of the world than he does,” said Eric Golub, a Wall-Streeter who trades in political entertainment on the side. “You’ve got far-right comedians that just want to rip his eyes out, and comedy should not be to hurt people. If he cuts capital gains taxes, I will kiss his feet … if Secret Service allows that.” Golub believes conservatives get pigeon-holed in two camps — stupid or evil — and tries to use his jokery to dispel the dichotomy.

And still others took the less goal-oriented line of parody. Anne-Caitlin Donohue plays a character named “Paula Priesse,” a “lovable, young progressive,” in skits she releases online, and she calls her webisodes  “the conservative answer to Stephen Colbert.” “We just want to educate people in a very positive, funny way. Get people to sort of join in and get more involved in politics,” Donohue said.

While we were chatting, a buzz ran through the crowd near her booth that there was a Sarah Palin impersonator walking around. A man asked her what Priesse would say to Palin if she met her. She donned an innocent chirp and said, “If she would consider becoming a vegetarian.”