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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Will Ferrell = genius. Okay, not all of his stuff works (note the disappointing returns for Semi-Pro and Land of the Lost), but when he hits the bullseye, few people are funnier than he. Never was this more apparent than as when he played George W. Bush on "Saturday Night Live." Ferrell has always specialized in playing blustery guys with unearned confidence, so Bush was the role of a lifetime. In January of 2009, the comedian took the act to Broadway for a show called "You're Welcome America: A Final Night with George W. Bush." The performance was taped for HBO and is now available on DVD.

The premise of this 90-minute special is simple: Ferrell appears as President Bush, who is offering candid thoughts about his presidency for the live audience. Over the course of the evening, he takes us through his life, talking about family relationships, cabinet members, and public policies. These "reminiscences" offer Ferrell the opportunity to crack jokes about Bush's tenure in office as well as its many controversies. Of course, the character himself has no clue he's being funny or making no sense, which is why we have fun laughing at him.

It's understandable to wonder whether "You're Welcome America" will play like an extended "SNL" skit that wears out its welcome. Thankfully, it does not. By breaking Bush's life into sections - and having some interactions with audience members, a faux Secret Service guy, and "Condoleeza Rice" - the special constantly re-invents itself.

I also think it is really funny. You never know where "Bush" is going to take you. At one point, he flashes a picture of his penis on the wall and announces, "this is the real Shock and Awe!" Later, he profanely chews out a shoe-throwing audience member. Perhaps the biggest laughs come from the segment which makes fun of those rumors of passion between Bush and Condoleeza Rice. A Rice look-a-like wanders out to bump and grind stripper-style against Bush as Michael McDonald's "I Keep Forgettin'" plays.

”You're Welcome America” is more than just a chance to shoot fish in a barrel. Ferrell and McKay aren't just mocking George W. Bush; instead, they are mocking the kinds of policies that confused so many for the eight years of Bush's presidency. This isn't a character assassination so much as a satiric reflection on how our country was led for two terms.

The DVD comes with a bunch of bonus features, including a trivia game (surprisingly easy, as most of the correct answers refer to Bush’s gaffes) and some behind-the-scenes features showing how Ferrell and McKay conceived and put together the show. Among the notable highlights: talking about the search for a Condoleeza, and McKay's observation that Ferrell was often physically exhausted after rehearsals from having to maintain Bush's "squinty" face for 90 minutes.

Regardless of what you think of Bush, this is a solid testament to the talents of Will Ferrell. Say what you will about his hit-or-miss movies, but the guy has a genuine sense of comic showmanship as well as an uncanny knack for comedic caricature.

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