What’s Congress Missing? A Laugh Track


The stars and extras of our national drama-turned-sitcom could use some canned chuckles as they hit their marks and deliver their lines in a show that needs to be cancelled

By Mark Cromer

Lee Strasberg must be doing something in his grave, though it may not be spinning, as the legendary originator of ‘method acting’ watches from whatever dimension he’s in now as a whole new wave of practitioners take to the stage.

For the second time in a week, Senate Minority leader Charles Ellis ‘Chuck’ Schumer stood in the well of the Senate and gravely intoned about America being a nation of laws and one that now faced another dangerous moment in its history as President Donald J. Trump seemed to be skirting ever closer to a Constitutional ‘crisis’ with his firing of former FBI Director James Comey and then spilling some more magic beans to the now ever-present Russians.

Sen. Chuck Schumer won’t support E-verify to protect millions of American workers from illegal labor but can still can nail his lines about the ‘rule of law.’

Then there was his Republican colleague in the upper-chamber, Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, who hit cable news shows to declare with the straightest of faces that Trump’s alleged disclosing of classified intelligence—which any president has the right to do at any time, whether advisable or not—during his White House huddle with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was disturbing because the Russians “don’t have our best interests at heart and can’t be trusted.”

Now there’s a line.

Millions of American viewers of the working class variety undoubtedly kept waiting for Schumer and Sasse to struggle mightily to suppress grins from spreading across their stone senatorial faces as they uttered their respective lines, much in the manner that Desi Arnaz often had to do in the live tapings of I Love Lucy as his wife’s shenanigans came close to getting him to break character while the in-studio audience ate it up with real hoots and guffaws.

Of course Arnaz was a brilliant artist (singer, bandleader, actor and groundbreaking producer) with an innately honest sense of class and dignity, while Schumer, Sasse and their troop of fellow governing elites are something more akin to soap opera ‘stars’ that seem content to vamp through their mid-afternoon timeslot that’s been rotated into binge repeats daily thanks to the now nonstop news cycle.

Schumer’s faux-somber advisory that America is once more facing a critical challenge to its foundational bedrock of the rule of law should have been, for the conscious viewer, a real knee-slapper, considering the source and the context. For here stood a senator of two decades that has refused at every turn to support the E-verify program that would ensure employers don’t hire illegal workers or face serious consequences if they do, no small measure with tens of millions of Americans now out of work and effectively replaced on the job by foreign workers who have no right to be on jobsites and the greedy employers who profit from them.

Schumer never has and never will lift a senatorial finger to enforce America’s labor laws to an effect that would seriously benefit American workers desperate for employment sectors that aren’t being overrun with illegal foreign competition that crowds them out and suppresses their wages.

And yet he will stand tall in the Senate well nonetheless and in his most polished professorial tone declare that “the rule of law” now faces a terrible challenge as a result of Trump telling Russian diplomats about the latest intel on Islamic terror groups perfecting laptop computer bombs that can apparently slip undetected through airport security.

That was a performance that deserved a loud, spontaneous laugh, though it didn’t get one.

Sasse’s straight-faced assertion that Trump’s alleged revelation to the Russians was somehow more unsettling because, well, they were Russians—a nation that is also fighting Islamic terror groups and having commercial airliners blown out of the sky and bombs detonated in their cities as a result—and Moscow doesn’t have America’s best interests at heart and can’t be trusted should have also been a surefire rib-splitter, seeing that Congress hasn’t had the American citizens best interests at heart and has somewhere just north of zero trust among the citizenry.

But again, there was little more than crickets.

These performances have been supplemented with dark comedy writ large by the breathlessly dramatic performances of Sens. Elizabeth Warren, John McCain, Bob Corker (a Tennessee developer whose construction empire milked every dollar it could by replacing American workers with illegal immigrants) and Reps. Maxine Waters (the ranking racialist member of the House Committee on Financial Services who has spent a career doing nothing to end the predatory practice of banks charging $35 ‘overdraft fees’ against consumers who are literally overdrawn by a dollar) and Adam Schiff who has held forth like a waxwork in the spotlight about Trump’s threat to national security while turning a studious blind-eye to the cold reality of America’s still open borders.

For best comedic performance in a dramatic series, the Emmy goes to…

As for Trump, for all the talk of a rocky start to his star vehicle he’s slipped rather smoothly into his role of a jerky Jerry Lewis rattling out his relentless one-liners that invariably are prefaced with the telltale disclaimer of “To tell you the truth…” while whoever is playing Dino next to him winces, grins and prays for a freshen-up of their drink to get through a slapstick of rapidly diminishing returns.

Strasberg once observed the actor “…must believe. He must somehow be able to convince himself of the rightness of what he is doing in order to do things fully on the stage.”

While ‘The Method’ has surely been perfected by many on Capitol Hill, its power to drive a dramatic performance becomes an absurdist goof when it is employed by transparent shills like Schumer expecting the American people to buy the unbelievable role he is selling: that of the august statesman genuinely concerned about the erosion of the rule of law and what it portends for working Americans.

And that’s where that long jarring siren of Hollywood anemia—the ‘laugh track’—could actually come in handy again. Developed to cue audiences to laugh when the writing of a show was so bad the audience didn’t know it was supposed to be funny, prerecorded laughter sugared now throughout the Congressional proceedings would add some much needed levity to the spectacle of actors so bad but so serious in their efforts that it’s perversely good.

So tragic that it’s funny.

So funny that it’s frightening.