The GOP's comedy gap

But the Gridiron’s afterglow reflected mainly on Cruz because he had shown a side of himself that most of the political class in Washington didn’t know existed. Assuming he did the smart thing and sought some professional help, the search is on for the new comic genius in town. The shortage of joke writers on the Republican side is a problem says Parvin. “I tried to get some LA writers to help but they didn’t want to work for Republicans; they would work for some Republicans but not all.”

Writing humor for political figures is a high-risk enterprise which Parvin more than most understands. He came up with the skit that had President Bush searching everywhere for WMD (weapons of mass destruction) at the White House Correspondents dinner in the spring of 2006. It backfired making it seem Bush didn’t take seriously the loss of life that accompanied the futile search for WMD. “We thought it was self-deprecating,” says Parvin. “Humor is a risk. You go up to the line and you look over it and sometimes you go over it and you don’t mean to. We mistook self-deprecating—we didn’t get it right.”

Comedians get to try their material in small clubs, says Parvin. “Here you open and close in one night. You don’t have a chance to test the material.” And a mistake can follow a politician for a long time. “A lot of times when you’re sitting around with the president at the end of the day making jokes, it sounds funnier than it does the next day,” says Parvin. Whatever Cruz’s secret weapon is, he got the Gridiron formula right.