Vol. 3, Issue #18 Sept. 26th - Oct. 9th, 2008

Tiger Bear From Hell at NONzine.com

By: Wilhelm Murg

Where Is Pat Paulsen When You Need Him?

“All the problems we face in the United States today can be traced to an unenlightened immigration policy on the part of the American Indian.” -Pat Paulsen, 1967

There are those sketches from childhood television that were so funny that it seems like you laughed for days. I remember a lot of Jonathan Winters and Don Knotts sketches hitting me that hard, back when the networks would give them a shot at a summer show just to see how they would do. Of course, they always failed, as much of their humor was twenty years ahead of its time.

One of the funniest men to walk the earth was a rather ugly, shriveled, deadpan Zen master who went by the name of Pat Paulsen, he came to fame on “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.” Paulsen was equally adept at slapstick physical comedy as he was at creating satirical, double-speak, political, commentary. He did one of his classic physical pieces on “The David Letterman Show” in the early 1980s where he came out and explained that he had been in India learning levitation. Every time someone laughed he would give them a dirty look that was equal parts annoyance and hurt. After the build-up he approached a giant water tank, asked for complete silence, meditated for a minute or so, and put one foot out; SPLASH! His whole body fell into the water.

In 1967, Vice-President Hubert Humphrey (“Herbert” as Paulsen called him) refused to say whether he was running for president when it was obvious that he was campaigning. Paulsen made an announcement that there was a great groundswell of support for him, Paulsen, to run for office; which office, he was not at liberty to say, however, if he was drafted to run for President of the United States, he would not run, and if elected, he would not serve. From that point onward, it became a running joke that Paulsen was not running for President, though he continued to make speeches on the show amid his constant denials.

You must remember this was 1968, the height of the hippie and student protest movement, the year of the police riots at the 1968 Chicago Democrat Convention, where MC5 was kicking out the jams outside in the tear gas while Dan Rather was getting punched in the stomach inside. Hunter S. Thompson and William Burroughs were both sent as reporters. Yippie leaders Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin bought a pig at a farm, “Pigusus,” and were running him for president.

“The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” was a hotbed of controversy itself. Because it was a hipper version of a comedy-variety show that had bands on like Cream, The Who, The Doors, and Jefferson Airplane, it became the only show CBS could put up against NBC’s western, “Bonanza,” and still come out with a reasonable share of viewers. The Smothers Brothers were sympathetic to “counter-cultural” causes, like civil rights (yes, putting an end to racism was seen as a crazy liberal cause,) ending the Vietnam War, and getting President Johnson out of office. The show became a battle between Tommy Smothers and the network censors, who cut everything from the legendary Pete Seeger singing an anti-war song to editing a Joan Baez dedication to a song for her husband who was in jail for refusing to serve in the armed forces - they cut out why he was in jail so that it sounded like the guy was a hardened criminal. The entire show was a delicate balance, as Smothers knew he had a certain amount of power and the censors were hell-bent on cutting out anything they didn’t like. (For a full summery of The Smothers Brothers battles with the network, check out the excellent documentary “Smothered.”)

In the middle of all of this you had Paulsen, whose joke campaign took a more serious note when he was giving one last chance to decide whether he was running or not. His answer was “Hell, Yes!” and with that he became a comedic sideshow throughout the campaign. He released a book, a record, bumper stickers, buttons, and posters of “Pat Paulsen for President,” some of which are still available at Paulsen.com.

“Without censorship of television, how else can you, the American public, have the protection you want from vulgar scenes, over-exposed bodies and all the other sights you like to see?” -Pat Paulsen, 1967

What’s interesting is that when an old clip from the 1968 election night is shown, there behind Walter Cronkite’s shoulder is a list of the candidates names: Nixon, Humphrey, Wallace, and Paulsen. It should also be noted that, by today’s standards, Paulsen’s point of view is nowhere nearly as bizarre as George Wallace running of a segregationist platform.

Paulsen ran in for president in 1968, 1972, 1980, 1988, 1992, and 1996. He died in 1997, he’s still funnier than Stephen Colbert and he actually got on the ballot. We need another Pat Paulsen in this day and age. I would vote for him.

“A good many people feel our present draft laws are unjust. These people are called soldiers… We hear that it is unfair, immoral...discourages young men from studying, ruins their careers, and their lives ...picky ...picky ...picky. Actually, there is no place like the Army for building character...seeing worthwhile places...learning a trade...and just being with fine, stimulating people. Everyone knows that -- well, not everyone or we wouldn’t need a draft, would we?” -Pat Paulsen, 1967

For more on Pat Paulsen, go to Paulsen.com and click “Old Site” for his full commentaries, and also visit YOUtube.

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