West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Volume 77, Number 11 | August 15 - 25, 2007


Political comedian Will Durst’s solo show at New World Stages opens August 15, no holds barred.

With Dubya in office, it’s easy pickings for Will Durst

By Jerry Tallmer

He looks like an accountant. He looks like an agent. He looks like your brother-in-law. But would your brother-in-law say things like: “He is the Paris Hilton of presidents … If you were asked who better fit the definition ‘clueless upper-class twit marinated in an overwhelming series of entitlements and never held accountable for a single thing they ever did,’ would you pick Paris or George or both?”?

In public, yet? Bad grammar and all? Forget mine — his is so popular that he’s coming to the big town to provide the wise guys (us) with a live, in-person, close-up Off-Broadway taste of what the rubes and tube-gulpers in San Francisco and elsewhere have been lapping up for years now.

“San Francisco,” he says — says to me, over the phone from there, where he lives with his wife Debi. He’s not from there, but he lives here. “San Francisco is not the real world,” he says.

His name is Will Durst. His trade is equal-opportunity political insult stand-up comic. He’s holding forth at New Stages, corner of Broadway and 50th Street, in “The All-American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing.”

Actually it isn’t his first time in these environs. “I used to work at Caroline’s” — the comedy club not far off on Broadway — “all the time, from ’82 to ’96. Unfortunately, political comedy fell out of favor, unless you’re really famous. Now it seems to be coming back. The Iraq war did that.

“You would assume nobody would want to hear humor about 9/11, but out in San Francisco it was kind of cathartic. You could laugh around it. Be making fun of the coverage. The crawl on NBC: ‘nyc: no increase in looting.’

“I’m a political guy,” Durst says. “Which means that sometimes nothing’s going on, and I’m screwed. But not now. Now we have George W. Bush. And he, for me, is pure gold.”

But, as noted, no one of any political complexion is spared Durst’s barbs. If you doubt it, take a look at the roster of Democratic hopefuls he chooses to list as The Donkeys. This racetrack odds sheet first appeared, like much of Durst’s material, on the workingforchange.com Internet column that’s his home base, so to speak.

“I take notes all week, and then I write it,” he says. “The writing?  Some flows out in 20 minutes, some gets agonized over for four hours. You know how it is. Workingforchange plays a flat fee for two days’ exclusive; then they send it elsewhere. I never know what newspapers it’s going to be in until I get scathing e-mails from Podunk, Michigan.”

He’s done acres of TV of course, and even a couple of Op-Ed pieces in The New York Times. “One was headed: ‘Don’t Vote! This is not Russia. Who cares?’ and the other — I can’t remember what the other one was about.”

The Off-Broadway venture, he says, “is to explain what happened to me and to the country politically. I’m kind of a moderate, middle-of-the-road guy. Then Bush and Reagan and Clinton kept moving the center to the right. Now I’m a Commie pink-o yellow rat bastard. How’d that happen? You have to pick between the strident voices of Ann Coulter and Michael Moore. Nothing in the middle.”

The yellow rat bastard further describes himself as “a third-generation blue-collar factory rat from Milwaukee, Wisconsin,” product of “a family who all worked making tractors for Allis-Chalmers.”

Born in Milwaukee in 1954, he “went to 14 different schools before graduating high school,” and “did seven years at UWM [University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee) but never graduated. Mostly studied film, theater, and journalism.”

When last he counted up the number of jobs he’s had in his life, it came to 108. That includes “being fired twice by the San Francisco Examiner and three times by PBS.”

One of the things that worries him today, even though he may be part of the process,  is “we’re such a microscope, seeing every little chink in everyone’s armor. Not like the old days, when nobody knew FDR had polio.”

But FDR didn’t  have Iraq. Or Paris Hilton.

WILL DURST: The All-American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing. Directed by Eric Krebs. A Hanging Chad presentation, opens August 15 at New World Stages, 340 West 50 th Street, (212) 239-6200.

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