By Jenny Neyman
Part of the humor in a good satire piece is being able to emulate those you’re skewering. For Triumvirate Theatre’s election-season campaign spoof, “Lame Ducks and Dark Horses,” that meant Chris Jenness growing a Joe Milleresque beard, Carla Jenness donning the red power suit and up-do hairstyle of Sarah Palin, Josh Ball channeling the amped-up, arm-swinging animation of Glenn Beck, and Randy Daly adopting the mouth-full-of-marbles drawl of Joe Biden.
For Mim McKay’s spoof of Lisa Murkowski, which recurs in song and sketch throughout the show, she brushed her hair into a bob and donned a trim business suit embellished with an ivory swan pin of the sort the senator often wears.
How well the spoofers do in pulling off their renditions of the targeted spoofees typically is measured through audience’s reactions. For McKay, one member of the audience at Saturday night’s show was particularly qualified to judge the accuracy of her imitation.
Turns out, the pin sealed the deal.
“What was a little bit disconcerting was to see Mim come out,” said Sen. Murkowski, who made a surprise appearance at the theater with a handful of campaign staff and local supporters to catch the last 15 minutes of the show. “She was me, but I actually have that exact same ivory swan pin she was wearing on her lapel. And Rachel, who works with me, was like, ‘She’s wearing your pin.’ I thought it was planned, but Mim didn’t know (I have that pin), so they did nail it.”
Murkowski was in Soldotna on Saturday for a campaign rally, followed by a visit to the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce’s pie auction fundraiser. She said she was told about the election satire show, which Triumvirate writes and performs in midterm and presidential election years, and was asked to sign a poster promoting the show. She figured it’d be just as easy to stop by and see for herself what humor was being generated this eventful campaign season, even if some of the jokes were at her expense.
“It was like, ‘For 15 minutes we’ll just pop in on our way to the airport,’ so we left the chamber a little early and, my goodness, I haven’t laughed like this in quite awhile, so it was great. It was wonderful, I really enjoyed it,” she said.
Murkowski and her entourage came in during a soap opera parody, “All My Palins,” staring a constantly Twittering Sarah, a snowmachine-garbed Todd depressed over relinquishing the title of First Dude, a dancing Bristol, a desperate-to-stay-on-the-fame-train Levi Johnston, and fence-climbing neighbor/writer Joe McGinnis.
Most of the Murkowski-centered sketches and songs had already been performed, but Murkowski was there to catch a few barbs, including an ad-libbed riff in a 21st-century predictions skit where one of the psychics foretells of Murkowski launching a successful write-in campaign to win “Dancing With the Stars,”
And during the finale song, “Primary Nights,” a takeoff on the “Grease” song “Summer Nights,” Joe Miller and Sarah Palin croon back and forth:
“Murkowski was sleepy, I took the lead.”
“It took forever for her to concede.”
“Now she’s back with her money and fame.”
“Don’t you worry — voters can’t spell her name.”
At the show’s end, Joe Rizzo, Triumvirate’s executive director and one of the authors and performers of the show, pointed out Murkowski to the audience and thanked her for her attendance. She was quick to walk onstage and shake Joe Miller’s/Chris Jenness’s hand, which drew a laugh from the audience.
Not one to let a potential comedic moment go unmilked, Rizzo then called McKay back onstage to reprise her song, “It’s My Party And I’ll Cry If I Want To,” where Murkowski bemoans her Republican Senate primary loss to tea party-endorsed candidate Miller.
“I thought the audience would all leave but nobody moved,” McKay said. “It was just fun. I figured she had to have a pretty good sense of humor to come at all, knowing that we’re making fun of politicians and her. She was a good sport and it was just fun, and then she was so gracious about it all.”
Murkowski said there was no offense taken.
“You know, we take ourselves so seriously, and particularly in campaign season there’s just so much negative stuff that’s going around,” she said. “So to be in an environment like this where everyone is just kind of laughing at the humor that is apparent out there. In fairness, I don’t cry a lot, but I did think it was quite funny.”
Rizzo said he kept glancing at Murkowski to see how she was reacting, and saw her laughing the entire time.
“I think that it speaks well of Lisa to come down, see the show and people having a little fun at her expense and to laugh along with everybody,” Rizzo said. “I wouldn’t be worried about any politician worth their salt coming in and watching this show, because you have to have a thick skin to be in that business, and there’s nothing that happened on this stage that is cruel or hateful or anything like that. It’s all light and great fun.”
Carla Jenness, who plays Sarah Palin and co-authored the script, said she was a little nervous to have one of the sources of the show’s material actually there to hear it.
“I tell you what, those lines in that silly ‘Summer Nights’ song never had so much meaning,” Jenness said. “In my little brain I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, here comes the line about Murkowski conceding her candidacy.’”
Ball wasn’t worried about causing offense with his off-script embellishment to his line about Murkowski campaigning for “Dancing With The Stars,” particularly because he didn’t realize there was anyone out of the ordinary in the crowd.
“I had no idea that she was here,” Ball said.
“Even when you said she had two left feet?” Chris Jenness asked.
“Yeah. No idea that she was here,” Ball said.
Ball recently graduated from college in Arizona with a degree in theater, and said it wasn’t uncommon for politicians to come to performances. But it was uncommon for them to be as accessible as Murkowski was at Triumvirate. She stayed for about a half hour, shaking hands, visiting with people and posing for photos.
“I’ve done shows in Arizona where John McCain showed up and they just leave after the show,” Ball said. “It’s really cool that they (Murkowski and her entourage) schmooze and they sit and hang out, and the campaign people were there, but it was a just-in-case sort of thing. Whereas the politicians I’ve seen in Arizona, the campaign manager people are the ones that talk with the crowd.”
The interaction did get a little confusing, though, in an art-imitates-life-imitates-art sort of existential eccentricity, when McKay and Murkowski were introduced to each other, both as “Lisa.”
“It was all just great fun,” McKay said, “She was gracious. I just can’t believe she came.”