Erich McElroy's Imperfect Guide To Picking The Perfect President | Review by Jay Richardson
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Erich McElroy's Imperfect Guide To Picking The Perfect President

Note: This review is from 2015

Review by Jay Richardson

So intense is US media coverage of next year's presidential election already that Erich McElroy seems positively tardy in performing this show a mere 15 months before the vote.

His excuse, of course, is that last August, he was busy talking about the Scottish referendum. And while that may have proved divisive, US politics represent an altogether different problem for a comic.

With no shortage of eminent right-wing nut jobs shooting themselves spectacularly in the foot on television, yet still vying for the top job, an attuned comic like McElroy would be remiss not to exploit the footage. But it means the self-declared Democrat doesn't attempt to dodge the charge of bias.

While he flags up vice-president Joe Biden's gaffes and Hilary Clinton's shady emailing, these are token examples against a lengthy parade of loud, right-wing blowhards like Donald Trump, Rick Santorum and Todd Akin voicing the most staggering opinions on race, homosexuality and women's bodies.

Moreover, they're all a product of a system that demands huge amounts of money and strong positions on contentious issues like guns and the death penalty. So McElroy focuses on this system more than the personalities, presenting these ambitious men and women as foot-in-mouth soundbites rather than individuals worthy of scrutiny, easily digestible reinforcement for his arguments. Which is logical, given the scant time he has to introduce all these players on a foreign stage and reflect on the future of the free world.

Despite living in this country for 15 years, he retains a dual US-UK perspective, an immigrant wary of his Chelsea-supporting son. And his comparisons of the varying approaches to elections in the two countries are light but effective. Barack Obama is relatively absent from his analysis, seen more through the judgement of his avowed enemies, so you won't emerge from this show with a deeper understanding of his presidency.

What McElroy does offer is a point-by-point, comprehensive summary of the media and candidates' preoccupations – abortion, immigration, same sex marriage, personal relatability etc. Again, invariably through the prism of the most extreme examples.

So incisive satire it isn't, but he's an assured, likeable guide and he keeps it peppy. The funniest moments tend to come when he includes the UK in his critique, acclaiming the NHS with sly wit at his son's expense.

That's not to say there's not enjoyment in seeing Trump or Rush Limbaugh squirm, or huge chuckles at the bigoted Santorum's apposite comeuppance. But anyone with a passing knowledge of US politics will already be aware of their blunders, so reiterating them is shooting fish in a barrel.

Review date: 20 Aug 2015
Reviewed by: Jay Richardson
Reviewed at: Assembly George Square

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