In the midst of a presidential election that has at best been like a Charlie Brookeresque farce, what better way to reconcile yourself to the imminent degeneration of US politics than through satire? I’ll be examining the best election-themed comedies to get you in the mood for the dystopic reality that will descend upon us on Tuesday.
An obvious place to start is Dave, a 1993 comedy about a look-alike for the president who is forced to stand in as his double after a stroke takes the president out just before a big conference. Although the politics are slightly hazy and the romantic sub-plot a tad predictable, its lighthearted presentation of an every-day guy being given the most powerful oﬃce in the world is hopeful and cheery, the perfect antithesis to the sad reality of the rise of Trump. With a 93 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and several cameos from senators and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dave is the perfect ﬁlm if you want a nostalgic view of politics in which being friendly is more important than any understanding of how to run a government.
For a slightly less rose-tinted depiction of the world of politics, In the Loop is solid. A spin-oﬀ from long-running satire The Thick Of It, In The Loop combines the biting satire of the original TV show with the ambition of the ﬁlm industry, shifting focus from the workings of Westminster to a darkly comic portrayal of the politics surrounding the invasion of Iraq. While the comedy is perhaps slightly more obvious than the TV show, the central plot, a strained US/UK relationship, characterised by miscommunication, is as relevant as ever, packing a punch while prefaced as dark comedy. Oh, and it also contains some top notch swearing from Peter Capaldi, if any further convincing was needed.
For a more direct focus on the canvassing and public side of the election, The Campaign is a refreshing 2012 ﬁlm about a North Carolina senator whose campaign for a ﬁfth consecutive term is challenged by a local tour guide and comparative nobody. The focus of the ﬁlm is on the varying PR tactics used by the two opposing sides, including smear campaigns that involve Al-Qaeda, the release of a sex tape, and an incident of punching a baby. The humour may be base, but Will Ferrell and Zach Galiﬁanakis are convincing as the rival statesmen, and sometimes a bit of slapstick comedy is what you need to distract from the fact that the legitimate presidential candidates for 2016 wouldn’t seem out of place in this farce.
My ﬁnal pick is the 2004 cult classic Napoleon Dynamite, the story of a nerdy high school kid campaigning to get his best friend elected Class President. Although not technically about the presidential election, the stereotypical high school dynamic acts as a microcosm for wider scale US politics, and so this quirky ﬁlm is a good bet. Shot on a budget of less than $400,000—the main actor, Jon Heder, was originally paid only $1,000—the ﬁlm was picked up by Fox at the Sundance Film Festival and went on to win various Teen Choice awards, so as an option for a night in you’re very much in safe hands with this one.
It leaves me to say only “enjoy”, and let’s all hope that, whatever happens, America makes the sensible decision.