The great Mort Sahl is alive and well and performing near San Francisco.
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Sahl prefers Sarah Palin to Tina Fey. “One is a dame and the other is ambitious. I think Sarah Palin is a girl” — his highest compliment for a woman; “I like women who are girls first.” He adds, “This whole thing with Palin, among comedians, is class discrimination. ‘How dare she raise her voice?’ It’s not what Palin says. It’s that she doesn’t qualify — they qualify. It shows the desperation of liberals to single her out. She’s not the enemy but they divert you with their disdain of Palin.” He snorts, “The female liberationists won but they didn’t get anything they wanted.”
Not that conservatives can take much solace from Sahl: “Rush Limbaugh becomes more and more bombastic. As for Glenn Beck, Roger Ailes has gotta be desperate.” Sahl overrules the Supreme Court: “You can’t even discuss it — it’s totally irrelevant. The Chief Justice was a third-rate lawyer for Reagan.”
Sahl’s comments are laced with more lethal toxicity than before, with an occasional tendency to rant. His tone swings between bewildered dismay and outraged disgust. “Liberals destroyed this country. Nader is very much on target about Obama — he’s a concessionary president, very passive, too measured. He’s addressing me from behind a lectern. He’s a cutout liberal. But liberals are totally confused by Obama.” With surgical precision, Sahl says, “Obama knew that liberals would feel ignoble if they didn’t vote for a black man, so when he came to office half his job was done for him — but he hasn’t done the other half. Think what he might have accomplished if he had a birth certificate!”
THE ASTONISHING THING about Sahl is that he calls himself an optimist despite his disenchantment with America and his ups and downs professionally, politically, and personally (his son, Mort Jr. — “My best pal” — died at 19). He relishes putting on the gloves for ideological combat for its own sake — and for his, and our, amusement, accompanied by grimaces and chortles at cherished lines preserved in mothballs. Indeed, he compares current left-right politics to “a boxing match promoted by Don King. The champion is a bum so you put up another bum and you pretend it’s gonna be a struggle. It’s a fake reality show, like Keeping Up with the Kardashians.‘ ”
Yet for all his satirical venom and tough talk, he doesn’t come off as a hater. Mainly he’s a disillusioned romantic, politically and, well, romantically. Sahl’s favorite theme after politics is love — the loss of it, both for America and in women, few of whom met his standard of female excellence (“I kept lookin’, pal, I kept lookin’ ”). Sahl went out with actresses he called “female impersonators,” but now calls them all “scared small-town girls.” Among his regrets, “I’m sorry I divorced Kenslea; I’m still in love with my wife. If you love a woman it’ll make her a better woman.” His second wife, China Lee, the first Asian Playboy foldout, whom he twice divorced, always said Sahl thought of America as a woman who had betrayed him. That sounds about right.
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