Last summer, when Nevada’s Sen. John Ensign and South Carolina’s Gov. Mark Sanford enmeshed themselves in sex scandals, political humorist Will Durst wrote that Republicans breathed “a sigh of relief that at least they were caught with women.” Durst’s style of humor gets him billings at mayors and governors conferences. He also writes for Alternet, the collective of alternative weekly newspapers. Durst will appear for one show at the Cal Neva in Reno on July 30 at 8 p.m. His Alternet essays can be read at www.alternet.org/authors/781/
Have you been to Reno before?
I haven’t been there in maybe eight, nine years.
What were you here for last?
I think it was Catch a Rising Star. But when they had the Improv at the Reno Hilton or Bally’s or whatever it was, I used to do that two or three times a year.
Mort Sahl said that the real stuff is the funny stuff. You seem to agree. I saw you quoted somewhere saying, “You can’t make stuff up like this.”
Yes, well, you know, I have the best writers in the business, I guess—535 members of Congress, 18 cabinet members, I have the presidents—
Oh, for those of us going cold turkey on George Bush, she’s like a double dose of methadone.
So is there such a thing in this world as a Harry Reid joke?
Only in Nevada—Sharron Angle. I mean, she’s going to be his wet dream.
Do you tailor your material to the places you go to?
Not really. I understand where it is that I’m going. And of course, every audience is different. … If they’re not laughing at something, and they don’t think it’s funny, I’ll move on, and I’ll find something else. My job is not to prosthelytize. My job’s to make people laugh out loud against their will.
So we shouldn’t expect a lot of Reno jokes, Nevada jokes?
I love Reno! I really do. I’d live there if it weren’t for a little thing called August. … To me, Reno is America. There’s money everywhere.
What should people expect you to talk about besides politics?
There’s so much going on. I don’t know if you would include Toyota or BP, you know that mess—I don’t know if you would call that politics. Whatever’s going on at the time. You know, the fact that BP’s Tony Hayward, the CEO—you haven’t heard much from him because the last time we heard about him was on a yacht watching his yacht in a yacht race. He wasn’t even on his yacht that was in the race. He was on his other yacht watching his second yacht in a race. So I think they came to realize the PR problems. And now BP keeps getting more and more localized. You know, first it was an American Guy, then it was a white guy with a Southern accent, now it’s a black guy with a Southern accent. Next it’s going to be Conway Twitty for BP.
So you’re going to miss BP when they finally cap the thing?
I think we’ll all be relieved. It sounds like they’re just making stuff up. I mean, hats and mud and faucets and golf balls and panty hose filled with human hair. I just think they’re just making stuff up.