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Broadway Street With Two Left Sides: 'Avenue Q'


My friend Jane Shaffmaster gave me a call. Jane’s loved musicals since she was young enough to play the lead in “Annie” and spends a greater percentage of her annual income on Broadway than most heavy-duty Christians tithe every year. She was perusing the latest news on Playbill and was quite dismayed that political satire wasn’t affected by The Change. Like most on our side, Jane is fairly good humored about Republicans being the butt of jokes, but she expects those jokes to be distributed evenly across partisan lines. A play called “Avenue Q” was rewriting its script to reflect the new administration but like most satirists*, they refuse to mock the new President.

“Avenue Q” is a puppet show for adults. A song called “For Now” has the puppets reassure each other that most things in life are temporary, like hair and sex. Until recently, one of those temporary things was “George Bush.” Knowing that Obama was to be shortly inaugurated, the producers and writers were perplexed for a replacement. I know it should be obvious to everyone else, but Broadway producers don’t think like you and I. So they threw a contest to decide a better verse.

Since there were prizes involved, Jane entered and offered the suggestion (in perfect meter): “Bar-ack.” And in a world where fairness was more than rhetoric, she would have been the winner.

The prizes involved were somewhat substantial, especially to a Broadway geek like Jane. According to the original release:

The winner will be announced Jan. 15, 2009…

The winning entry … will receive a prize package including an autographed program and poster from Avenue Q, a cast recording, a copy of the Avenue Q coffee table book and an autographed copy of the revised script with the contest winner’s lyric included.

“I’d like to know who won,” Jane told me. “For the money I’ve spent there, you would think I’d win SOMETHING!” But according to the official press release, Jane’s suggestion never even happened:

The broad range of topics suggested by contest entrants include politics (“bailouts”), personalities, the economy (“your bank,” “your debt”), sports, fuel prices (“cheap gas”), the Internet (“Facebook”, “MySpace”), television (“reality TV”), health (“Botox”), global warming (“ice caps”), automakers, Iraq (“the war”), Paris Hilton and life itself (“your youth).”

The four winners are:


“Prop 8”

“This show”

“Your mother-in-law”

Before I go on, let me dissect the thinking of a Leftist. If you don’t substitute one President for the next, you’re suggesting the humor of the joke only works when it’s a bad thing. Yet your “hair” and “sex” are good things. And are they trying to tell us Barack is not only “for now?” That he is with us forever? (In the novel “1984,” the original Big Brother existed longer than most humans are capable of living.)

I also take issue with the idea that “Prop Eight” is “for now.” It’s no longer a proposition; it’s an amendment to the California State Constitution. I know some people believe Constitutions are only “for now,” but the truth is, they are supposed to be stone-tablet solid. On my Black Helicopter Creep Scale, the idea of a temporary Constitution is only superseded by an eternal President.

So I dug in, and tried to find out who won, and what had happened to Jane’s suggestion. I contacted John Gilmour at Allied Live, the PR firm responsible for handling the contest.

Gleefully, he informed me that there are now FIVE replacements. One more was added in the month since the contest ended. Apparently, some of the productions reverted to using: “George Bush (was only for now).” Funny. Much like the late night talk shows, the old ways are dying hard.

When I asked him why Barack Obama was not chosen as a replacement lyric, he made a sound reminiscent of Mister Mistoffolees with a giant hairball: after a very long pause, he responded, “It wasn’t submitted.”

Well, that’s simply not true.

He continued, “Well, the creative team just didn’t think it was appropriate.”

“Well, isn’t Obama only for now?”

“Yes, of course… let me direct you to someone else.”

He directed me to Sam Rudy at Media Relations where I talked to someone named Bob.

Bob also tried to claim that nobody submitted Barack. When I assured him I knew people who did, he rushed me off the phone.

“So who won the contest,” I asked.

“The four lyrics in the press release.”

“Yeah, but who WON?”

“All four.”

“I know that when “Avenue Q” held a Walk-on contest they had no problem announcing the name of the winner. Are there any plans to announce the winners’ names?”

“Not at this time.”

I guess the new era of “transparency” does not extend to Congress OR “Avenue Q.”

Blogger extraordinaire and local expert Stage Right speculated that there probably never was a contest, that the whole thing was a stunt staged to gain publicity.

Nothing new. Fake elections are often held to give the illusion of democracy in single party dictatorships like North Korea, Cuba, and Chicago. Jack McLamb once said, “When tyranny comes to your door, it will be wearing a uniform.”

Perhaps it will have a puppet on the end of its arm, as well.

*Check out for some fantastic Obama jokes

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