The poetry of Donald Trump. Pause. The rapping rhythm of Theresa May. Pause again. Brexit the musical. Ah, no, surely someone’s having a laugh.
Well, yes. This is a good time for satirists, though there’s no clear line between farce and tragedy in the real life script written in the words of our political leaders.
Let’s not spend too much time on Trumpian verse. But hats off to McSweeney’s writer, Rob Sears, who has done that murky work for us, delving into the depths of the Trump Twitter Archive and much further back. So far back, before the dawn of Trump tweets, that Sears found a Trump call in 2009 for co-ordinated global action to save the planet.
Sears displays a surgical skill in excising gobsmacking soundbites unearthed from 30 years of the Donald’s deadly simple prose. The result is The Beautiful Poetry of Donald Trump. It sounds a painfully painstaking task, but it is executed with a drummer’s ear for ‘staccato rhythm’. And as the Guardian review reveals, Sears meticulously includes the source for every single line. The ‘Hot little girl in highschool’ title comes from a 1997 chat show where he described how he lost his virginity. The second line of the verse quoted below is what he said to two 14 year old schoolgirls, according to the Chicago Tribune in 1992:
Hot little girl in highschool
I’m a very compassionate person (With a very high IQ)
Just think, in a couple of years, I’ll be dating you
It must be a pretty picture, you dropping to your knees
Come here, I’ll show you how life works. Please
Sad, sad story
According to the Guardian report Sears finds something close to poetry in the ‘very compact, distilled phrases that tell you a lot about who he is, in a small number of words’. Oddly, thanks to Sears, I now find an almost eerily Trumpian simplicity to the words of Springtime for Hitler, from the classic spoof musical in Mel Brooks 1968 film The Producers.
Germany was having trouble
What a sad, sad story
Needed a new leader to restore
Its former glory
Where, oh, where was he?
Where could that man be?
We looked around and then we found
The man for you and me
While Trump makes poetry great again (so far there are two books with that title, including one in Norwegian which sounds more enjoyable), Theresa May’s election campaign gave irony a new meaning. The inspired Cassetteboy mix clocked up more than a million views on YouTube in the run up to the May catastrophe. Like Sears, the Cassetteboy duo wield the surgeon’s knife with satirical skill.
Barely four months on, there’s a double-edged irony in the catchy mash up of May’s own words, with perhaps a little extra twist in the reference to ‘the many and the few’.
I don’t know why
People vote for me
And let’s not forget
If it’s me you elect
It means a harmful far-right Brexit
Everything we do
As we leave the EU
Will be not for the many
But for the few
Bugger the economy
So to Brexit the musical. ‘Springtime for Hitler’ it is not, but political economist Will Hutton sees hope in the farcical antics of the Brexiteer buffoons portrayed in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe hit.
In a high spot of the show, the Brexit dawn breaks with Leave campaigner, now Britain’s foreign secretary, singing in horror:
Leaving Europe will be a catastrophe
Overnight we’ll bugger the economy..
The musical is the product of Chris Bryant the EU lawyer (not the Labour MP of the same name). Intriguingly, this Chris Bryant, with 15 years experience of advising clients in Brussels and London, is also a songwriter.
‘It seemed obvious to put the two things together to pen a musical about Brexit’ he says in a Legal Cheek interview describing how he wrote the song lyrics in his spare time, ‘even writing song lyrics on my phone on the tube!’
The resulting 70 minute musical was a sell-out at the Fringe. It made Will Hutton laugh despite his passionate rage against what he described to an Edinburgh University Business School Fringe show as the ‘devastating self-harm of Brexit’. Speaking at the Business School Media Series at the Fringe in August, Hutton was movingly frustrated by the seemingly impossible task of communicating the full catastrophe of Brexit to the Leave voters who have most to lose.
Now, in a retrospective review, Hutton sees satire as the best way of bringing Britain to its senses, making an ‘EU case full of hope – and on top a carnival of fun and mockery.’
Bryant hopes to take Brexit the Musical to London. Hutton wants to see it go much further:
There must be multiple versions of Brexit the Musical mounted in every pro-Leave constituency in the country, continually revised as every twist and turn in the story becomes ever more incredible. Every old people’s home, every ex-mining or ex-steel town, every seaside resort fearful of immigration should see the show and laugh at Brexit. Let’s smile our way to victory – and use satire, that most British of reflexes, to consign Brexiters to history. Guardian review
Better get the show on the road.
Featured image is a screenshot from Wotchit video promoting Brexit the Musical