Next week in a small theater roughly the size of dormitory lounge, a local middle-school teacher named Kimberly Cox will magically transform herself into the most powerful image in the free world. "I already have the bangs and the glasses," Cox says, "so I just put the blazer on." Every American with at least a Commodore 64 and a 14K dial-up connection knows that this Holy Trinity of costuming equates to one Sarah Louise Heath Palin, governor of Alaska, Republican vice presidential nominee, and reigning queen of YouTube. (Bow down before her, O barely exposed nipple of Angelina Jolie!)
So how did the actress get the weighty responsibility of inhabiting Palin? Says Cox: "I'm the only girl in the group." The group being, less obviously, Cine-Improv, a collection of three Miami comedians that performs a combination improv and sketch show once a month at Miami Beach Cinemateque. The October 29 show is their first "politically themed" performance, and during the height of the election season, it promises to be their best attended. So surely for such an important component of the show, there's some resemblance between performer and Palin?
Cine-Improv: Wednesday, October 29. Miami Beach Cinematheque, 512 Espaola Way, Miami Beach. Show begins at 8:30 p.m. $10 for members, $12 for nonmembers. 305-673-4567, www.mbcinema.com
But, as Cox points out, not even Tina Fey, master of All Things Mocking Palin, has the bone structure to match that of the governor, and that's the beauty of Cox's version. She proves that imitating Palin is just as easy as being Palin: Speak in a Northwestern accent, throw in some folksy phrasing and a wink (or several), and you've become her.
"It doesn't half-matter what you're saying," Cox notes. Perhaps that's the reason Palin has found a new level in the streaming inferno of modern American politics — she's not a lack of function disguised by an over-indulgence in form; she's all form, all surface. On a linguistic level, Palin is Roland Barthes's El Dorado — a pure signifier that has no signified. In other words, she's Hulk Hogan. She's Randy "Macho Man" Savage. She's the lost sibling in the Dudley family — a walkin', talkin' poem that exists only to be recited.
Unless of course you vote Republican, in which case she might mean an end to Roe v. Wade, the estate tax, and the hubris of all of those snooty, silver-tongued neighbors with the big "O" stickers on the backs of their Priuses. Which raises the question: Is Palin parody funny to her supporters? Or only to Dems?
Perhaps liberals are inherently funnier than conservatives? Maybe, says Cox, but it's more complicated than that. "I think for a majority of [comedians], acceptance is the principle that drives their political viewpoints." Meaning that she must first and foremost be true to the audience's desires, which then determines her content. This practice leads many funny-types such as her to the Democratic party, where there's a government-sponsored program for everyone.
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But that's not why Cox is imitating the VP candidate for this show. "Us parodying Sarah Palin isn't because of our political views," she says. "Obama is just not as funny to make fun of."
She points out that everyone, regardless of political stance, took whole-hearted shots at Bill Clinton when he was in office.
Her partner in Cine-Improv, Michael Murray, agrees. "Sarah Palin is a comedian's wet dream," he says and then admits he constantly thinks about Palin sketches during his day job as — cue drum roll — an immigration attorney. "When I saw her rhinestone broach in the shape of Alaska, I immediately wanted to do a sketch in which Palin shaves her private area in the shape of the state."
That sketch, sadly, will not be performed Wednesday night. Instead, Cine-Improv, in an effort to differentiate its show from Saturday Night Live parodies, will transport the Palin signifier to nonpolitical situations: for instance, a sixth-grade homeroom in Wasilla, where an 11-year-old Palin will campaign for the class presidency, and a movie theater where a 17-year-old Palin is on a first date. "We're taking it to a more absurd place," Murray explains. More absurd than Palin? This should be worth seeing.