A Black Guy, a Priest, and a Rabbi Walk into the White House...

Tuesday  November 25, 2008



Don't worry, an Obama presidency won't mean the end of comedy

by adam baer

Five months after the news broke that Obama’s cholesterol level was a low 173, D. L. Hughley responded with a fried-chicken-smoothie joke. On CNN. Without flinching. Embarrassing? Sure. But you had to feel for ol’ D.L.: Now that a black man is The Man, no one knows what flies anymore. “The old jokes have suddenly become archaic,” says David Alan Grier, whose Comedy Central show Chocolate News was planned two years before the Obama inauguration. “My white friends say, ‘Ooh, this must be great for you.’ And I’m like, ‘Why? I’m only half happy, because he’s only half black. Give me a real black man, a scary one. Then I’ll be happy.’ ”

So, fair enough: One comic may have figured it out. But that doesn’t mean the road’s been smooth. There’s a reason the entire election cycle was dominated by “McCain is old”/“Palin is dumb”/“Biden can’t shut up” cracks. Since the dawn of civilization, outsider rage has driven comedy, and the new president’s public image ranks somewhere just below “messiah” but above “pretty, pretty unicorn.” He doesn’t offer low-hanging fruit like Bush’s marble-mouthed idiocy or Clinton’s womanizing. And as Hughley found out the hard way, the road to failure is lined with musty chitlin jokes. So what to make fun of?

The sizable black comedy community seems to be testing the waters. Just four days after Obama was elected, Tommy Davidson performed an act in L.A. with a unique impression of Obama’s inauguration. (Hint: It involved a gunshot.) Tracy Morgan took a page out of White Chicks and dressed up as a pasty blond trannie on 30 Rock to prove that even now, it’s still easier to be white. And The Daily Show’s Larry Wilmore e-mailed this in: “Some said that if Obama was chosen, it would show America is not racist anymore. I don’t agree: If we had elected Flavor Flav that would have shown America is no longer racist.”

But Wilmore (who covers some of this ground in his new book, I’d Rather We Got Casinos) does see change on the horizon. “I think, in the future, we’ll see more black comics doing smart political humor and more white comics complaining about The Man keeping them down,” he says. “Any white comic who is afraid of being offensive by doing racial jokes about Obama, you’re right. Don’t ‘nappy-headed ho’ yourself out of showbiz.” If that sounds like an acidic memo to Seth MacFarlane, whose urban Family Guy spin-off, The Cleveland Show, premieres next fall, you may well be right; Fox picked up a full season before a single episode aired, a testament to its faith in MacFarlane to deliver some politically incorrect funny in the age of O. (Hopefully, some of that youth cred will rub off on that network’s news team. “During Obama’s victory speech,” Garry Shandling says, “Fox News looked like a bunch of white guys looking for a job.”)

Talk to enough comics and they’ll tell you that it’s as simple as this: Funny is funny. Let our POTUS be himself and he’ll inevitably fuck up in all kinds of entertaining ways. “Think about it as postracial humor,” says Comedy Central roastmaster Jeffrey Ross. “Barack isn’t hard to make fun of. It’s going to be about his wife running things, his big ears, bad jump shot, long speeches, and cheap suits.” Adds Lewis Black, “In this country, even though it appears white people have cornered the market on stupidity, stupidity isn’t racial. You make jokes about whatever’s there.” Even if that means turning on yourself.

“I know exactly how comedy will change,” says Louis C.K. “First of all, I personally have forty-eight hundred jokes in my act that begin with ‘The president is so white that…’ So all those will have to go. Although I will probably get at least six months where I can say, ‘Wow, remember all the presidents before this one—before the black one? Well, they sure were white. Weren’t they? In fact, they were so white that…’”

We Are Experienced

Monday  November 24, 2008


Photographs by Danielle Levitt

Here, in an exclusive GQ Radio segment, photographer Danielle Levitt talks to GQ's Adam Rapoport and Brett Martin about her new book, We Are Experienced (powerHouse Books)—a series of photographic portraits of adolescents that took her across America's towns and cities. Listen here:

Or click here for a free download of the segment via iTunes.



Audio Backstory: The Barack Obama Cover Shoot

Friday  November 21, 2008



Mark Seliger took on the daunting task of photographing, over the course of two months, all twenty-three people in our Men of the Year portfolio—from Leo DiCaprio to Michael Phelps to the world champion Boston Celtics. There were atmospheric location shoots (Danny McBride, igniting a stuffed-animal bonfire in the woods), along with F/X extraordinary (Aaron Eckhart, fleeing a flaming automobile) and not so extraordinary: “I flew to Philly with the Obama-campaign press corps,” Seliger recalls. “On the flight, I asked an aide for two minutes with Obama. She found me a slot. When we got off the plane, I hung a white sheet in a doorway and photographed him; they actually gave me a minute and forty-five seconds.” The photographer’s impression of the candidate? “He’s got this look where you just know: That’s the guy. He’s gonna do it.”

Here, in an exclusive GQ Radio segment, Seliger gives GQ deputy editor Michael Hainey the complete backstory on the making of the Obama cover. Listen here:

Or click here for a free download of the segment via iTunes.


Photographs by Mark Seliger





Barack Obama at a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, October 2, 2008.

The GQ Men of the Year Party

Wednesday  November 19, 2008

Last night at the Chateau Marmont hotel in Hollywood, GQ threw an exclusive party to celebrate its 2008 Men of the Year issue. Leonardo DiCaprio showed up. So did Megan Fox. Here, a selection of photos from the event (click to enlarge):


GQ editor-in-chief Jim Nelson and actor Leonardo DiCaprio


Actor Jon Hamm with actress Megan Fox


Actresses Rashida Jones (left) and January Jones


Megan Fox


Comedian Sarah Silverman and late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel


Actor Aaron Eckhart and GQ creative director Jim Moore


Designer Thom Browne


Leonardo DiCaprio


GQ editor-in-chief Jim Nelson with comedian Russell Brand


Family Guy writer Seth MacFarlane and actress Eliza Dushku


January Jones


Actor Jason Statham


Jon Hamm and Leonardo DiCaprio


Megan Fox and Brian Austin Green


Comedian Danny McBride


Actress Emmanuelle Chriqui


Aaron Eckhart


Left to right: Actor Matthew Fox, Jimmy Kimmel, and Sarah Silverman


Megan Fox


Left to right: Actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler with Entourage castmates Jerry Ferrara and Kevin Connolly


Musician M.I.A.


Jon Hamm


Actress Nikki Reed


Aaron Eckhart


Actress Summer Glau


Jimmy Kimmel and Sarah Silverman


The Wire writers George P. Pelecanos (left) and David Simon


Megan Fox


Jon Hamm


Seth MacFarlane


Actor Zac Efron


Russell Brand


Megan Fox and Brian Austin Green


Artist Shepard Fairey


January Jones


Former NFL star Keyshawn Johnson


Actors Zachary Quinto (left) and Chris Pine

Game Changer of the Year

Monday  November 17, 2008

Senator Edward M. Kennedy tells us why Barack Obama was the change we were waiting for—and the man we can believe in


Photographs by Mark Seliger

As I write this, Barack Obama and John McCain have just completed their final debate, and the country is a few short days away from a historic election. Of course, I’m doing all that I can for my candidate. But whether he wins or loses, Barack Obama has ushered in a new era of American politics with a limitless vision of a better future that will endure for many years to come. Through his candidacy, Obama has provided a glimpse of a stronger, better, fairer America, where change comes from the bottom up, where we all come together to meet the great challenges of our time. He has inspired millions of new voters of all ages, races, and incomes to lend their voices for real change. For in this man, Americans can see not just the audacity but the possibility of hope for the country that is yet to be.

I had not planned to endorse anyone in the primaries. The Democratic candidates were my friends and colleagues—some for many years. I knew them well and could support any one of them enthusiastically as our party’s candidate for the White House. But I had to admit that one stood out. I had already come to know Barack as a Senate colleague who was gifted with a rare combination of talent and principle, vision, and a capacity to transcend divisions of party, ideology, and race. Once he announced his improbable campaign for the presidency, I listened as he spoke to the heart of America, and moved the young in spirit as well as age, by challenging us to think of something bigger than ourselves, something more powerful than the incremental politics of caution. I sensed a deep yearning in our people for the kind of person he is and the kind of president he will be: a fighter who cares passionately without demonizing those who differ, a leader who sees the world clearly without being cynical and shows the world the best of America, a president who will not shred the Constitution but uphold it.

As he moved from victory in those first snowy days in Iowa, to a setback in New Hampshire that revealed both his grit and his grace, to the intensity of South Carolina, I found myself stirred by the power, the poetry, and the authenticity of his call for change. I had not felt this way about a candidate since the 1960s. I talked with my wife, Vicki, my family, and a few close friends. I heard from my niece Caroline that wherever she traveled, people told her that the last leader who had inspired them in this way was President Kennedy. It was time again, I had decided, for “a new generation of leadership” and I could not stand aside.

I rejected the argument that he was too young, too inexperienced. I learned long ago that what counts most in our leadership is not years in Washington but reach of mind, strength of purpose, and that most essential quality of all—the judgment Barack Obama showed in opposing the Iraq war from the start as others pushed ahead or simply went along and then refused to admit they were wrong. I knew as I endorsed him that as president he would never commit young Americans in uniform to a mistake, but only to a mission worthy of their bravery and priceless service.

I also rejected the argument that Senator Obama was too cool, too steady. Those are qualities that can serve us well, even save us—in a Cuban Missile Crisis or an economic crisis. Nor could I accept the notion that the capacity to inspire a nation and a world—whether in John or Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., or Ronald Reagan—is just words. Their words, and Barack Obama’s, can be the great engine of change that transforms history itself.

That is what I saw when I enlisted in his campaign. I saw new hope for a way out of the economic wilderness and for a just and fair prosperity that rewards the many and not the few. New hope that this nation will at last lead the world to turn the tide of global warming and turn aside from an energy future that threatens the future itself. New hope that we will teach all our children well. New hope—and this is the cause of my life—that we will guarantee for every American quality affordable health care as a fundamental right and not as a privilege. New hope—and this is the great cause of America itself—that we shall overcome once and for all the setting of race against race, gender against gender, ethnic group against ethnic group, and straight against gay.

Win or lose, with the Obama candidacy the torch has been passed, and I hope I made a difference.

edward m. kennedy (d-mass) is currently serving his eighth term in the U.S. Senate.


Barack Obama at a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, October 2, 2008.

Local Hero of the Year: Leave No Child Behind

Monday  November 17, 2008

In the early '90s, children with AIDS were shunned by fearful communities. Neil Willenson created a safe haven where they could enjoy a basic rite of childhood: summer camp. Fifteen years later, he's taking his mission global

by sarah goldstein


Photograph by Michael Edwards

In 1991, Neil Willenson was studying film at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and making plans to move to Hollywood. Then he crossed paths with a 5-year-old.

Sounds like a setup for a movie, yes. But this is really a setup for something larger.

That fall, Willenson had gone home for a weekend visit and heard about people in his old neighborhood outside Milwaukee trying to force an HIV-positive boy out of kindergarten. These were the days of Ryan White. Of Magic Johnson. Of communities being scared and ignorant about AIDS. The boy, Nile Sandeen, had contracted the disease at birth from his mother, who had been infected by her ex-husband.

"I didn’t have a plan,” Willenson says. “I called Nile’s mother. I figured I could help with child care. You know, be a friend.”

He soon became something more. When parents at the school tried to make Nile use a separate bathroom or eat with a plastic fork or sit alone on the bus, Willenson fought them. And when Nile wanted to play soccer, it was Willenson who made the call to a scared coach. “I could hear him shaking on the other end of the line.”

By the time graduation came around, Willenson was questioning his life. He ditched his Hollywood ambitions, took a job as a forklift operator at his father’s company in Mequon, and rechecked his priorities. “I couldn’t stop comparing my own youth to Nile’s,” he says. He decided to make a difference and set to work creating Camp Heartland, a summer camp for kids living with HIV/AIDS, a place where kids like Nile could be kids—and not endure the stares of fearful people. Willenson organized a grassroots fund-raising campaign and got Miller Brewing and Harley-Davidson to give grants. Within four months, he’d raised $60,000, enough to cover his costs for the first summer, 1993, and to support seventy-two kids, including Nile—who is now 22 and studying to be a minister in St. Paul.

“Camp Heartland was a feeling of normalcy in what was a very un-normal world,” says Nile, who nominated Willenson for this year’s Local Hero award.

Fifteen years later, the organization—recently renamed One Heartland—has an annual operating budget of $3.5 million and outposts in Minnesota and California. And this year, it began training people in AIDS-ravaged countries such as Uganda and supporting kindred organizations like Walking With Children, in Honduras, and the Living India orphanage, in Hyderabad.

The camp continues to be the center of Willenson’s life, and he says he cannot imagine doing anything else. Seven thousand kids are forever grateful. Most of all, perhaps, Nile: “Neil was a father figure to me. He changed my life.”

sarah goldstein is a gq editorial assistant..

Daredevil of the Year: The Man Who Can Climb Anything

Monday  November 17, 2008

Alain Robert, who sometimes goes by Spider-Man, has for fifteen years been known as a vigilante scaler of skyscrapers. And one morning this June, he grabbed an overhang, pulled himself up from the ground, and without aid of ropes or equipment, began climbing the fifty-two-story New York Times Building. Here he tells GQ how he once again turned the world into his gobsmacked audience

as told to devin friedman


I arrived in New York two days before the climb. On the first night, I was a little bit jet-lagged. I couldn’t sleep. I was staying in a hotel near Times Square, and I was awake, watching the buildings through the windows. I put some clothes on and went outside. It was June, a warm night, I felt good. I decided, Okay, I am going to go for a quick try on the building. It was nearly 2 a.m. The surface of the New York Times Building is covered by ceramic rods that look like a ladder that I could climb up, and I wanted to be sure that they were going to be solid, that they could hold my weight. I took care not to be seen, and I grabbed the lowest rod and climbed up a few meters. I was satisfied, so I went back to my hotel and went to sleep.

I had come to New York two months before the ascent to see the Times Building. I’d been wanting to do an ascent to raise awareness about global warming, and then I read about this building online—I saw that it was quite tall and very easy to climb. I needed it to be easy, because I would need to have my hands completely free so I could tie a banner in the middle of the building. So I scouted the site, and I met with my lawyer. Of course, he advised me not to climb. He said I might be jailed and at least I would be fined. Long ago, the U.S.A. was still a country of freedom. But after 9/11, everything became much more difficult. They have changed their laws. The people are so concerned with terrorists.

I climbed my first building in 1975, and I’ve climbed ninety since—the Empire State Building, the Sears Tower, the Taipei 101, which is the tallest building in the world—and most have been this way, without approval. For me this is much more interesting. I love everything that is a little bit on the edge. I always say I like to kick the ass of society. Because the way that the politicians are driving society now, everything has to do with money, everything has to do with safety. There is no more fun. There is a psychologist who commented on my way of living, in the documentary that was made about me, and he said that historically, life for humans has been dangerous. So humans are not especially looking for extra danger. But with passing time, we have reduced danger to a minimum, and for the majority of people, safety is exactly their aspiration. They don’t want to take any risks. But there is still a category of people, like me, who live on the edge.

The night before the climb, I went to dinner with some friends. But I was not in the mood to chat, to have fun. The night before an ascent you are always living a countdown. I left them at the restaurant and went back to the hotel alone. I slept very well. I woke that morning at five or six. At maybe 10 a.m., I gave a small press conference to some selected reporters at the hotel. I wanted to explain what I was going to do and why I was going to do it: because I believe that global warming is an immense threat that we’re not facing. We didn’t tell them what building I would climb. When we left the hotel, some of the reporters tried to follow us. We escaped by going down through the kitchen, and we took a cab and drove around to make sure we weren’t followed. I arrived at the New York Times Building at close to eleven.

Usually the first few meters of the climb are when someone will catch you, so you must begin quickly. But in this case, it was easy. There was no security nearby. There was no need even to jump to start the climb. The access to the first ceramic is right there. It’s like a ladder. I climbed to a small roof, two or three meters above the street. Then I grabbed the next rod and it’s a straight shot all the way to the top.

Once I start my ascent, I forget the cops or the security people. I am absorbed by what I’m doing, how to do it safely, what my next move will be. It’s mental as much as physical. I have been climbing free solo (no ropes or harnesses) since 1977. For some reason, I know how to deal with my emotions even though I am facing my own death. There is no space to think about fears.

Each building is different. On a scale of difficulty, 1 to 10, the Times Building is nothing, a 0.5. The Sears Tower is probably the most difficult building I’ve ever climbed. There are only small horizontal crevices. It’s nearly 1,500 feet tall—when you’re only halfway up, you already feel so high—and it’s tiring because you are repeating the same movement the whole way. It’s difficult to rest. And near the top, when I got near the air-conditioning machines, there was a lot of condensation. It was not something I was expecting, it wasn’t visible. I nearly fell. I experienced fear for a split second. It’s always for a split second, and then you are fighting. You fight because you are trying to stay alive. It took me an hour and a half to finish the Sears Tower.

I was enjoying my climb that morning at the Times Building. I looked down—I look down all the time, it’s no problem for me!—and people below were snapping pictures, pointing, laughing. And along the way, I could see the people inside the building. We communicated by signs, thumbs-up—you can’t hear anything, of course. The thing is, people who are working inside the building, sometimes they are not having so much fun. When they see you, it’s like suddenly they are feeling that something unusual has happened. They are seeing a small guy, completely alone, high on a flat surface—I guess they get inspired. There is something different about climbing in New York; 9/11 didn’t change the way the average person looks at buildings in other countries. This is only in New York; people are afraid of being inside a building. They feel like they are inside a target. That’s why I like to change the perspective, make them see a building as something other than something to be trapped in.

When I was about fourteen stories up, I took the banner from under my shirt and tied it. It said global warming kills more people than 9/11 every week.

When I got near the roof, I realized a policeman was waiting for me. He was shouting, telling me to surrender. He was sitting on a beam, wearing three safety lines, and he was still paralyzed by fear. I was very nice to him the whole time—I said I was sorry if I had created a little bit of difficulty. There were five or six other cops waiting for me, and the way that they grabbed me and handcuffed me—they treated me quite badly. With the police, everything depends on the country. I was arrested for the same thing in Moscow. The only difference is that in Moscow, the police commissioner was hugging me. They gave me vodka! Even in China, I taught the police the word freedom and they were shouting “Freedom! Freedom!” without knowing the meaning.

I was arrested at around noon, maybe a little before. I was lucky to have a brilliant lawyer when I went to see the judge that night. He’s defended people from Greenpeace a few times, so he knows what lines you must cross to commit criminal trespass and reckless endangerment, which I did not cross. I had taken plenty of precautions. Instead of climbing above Eighth Avenue, I decided to climb above the smaller side street, 41st Street, so I didn’t create a mess. I avoided rush hour. In the end, I was charged only with a misdemeanor, more of a violation than a crime. Like a parking ticket. I was released at two in the morning. It was too late to celebrate. But the next day, we went to a nice Japanese restaurant and drank a bottle of Dom Perignon.

I’m 46. I’ll climb maybe another four or five years. I have a climbing wall built into the ceiling of my house, where I train, and I can still be upside down for twenty straight minutes, same as I could ten years ago. I have to watch my weight because it’s easy to get heavy at my age—my optimal weight is 110 pounds. But if I could climb until the age of 50 or 51, that would be wonderful. If I can get people to think more about global warming, that would make me very happy. Before I retire, I would like to climb the Burj Dubai, which is going to be completed in 2009 and will be the tallest building in the world. I will be in Dubai soon, so I’m going to have a good look at it. New York I love because it is exhilarating, always alive, it’s like this alive, never-sleeping thing. For me the problem now is if I tried to climb again in New York, they would put me in jail for a year, which I don’t want. But I will find something new. I can’t tell you where; that would spoil the surprise. What’s the fun in that?

devin friedman is gq's senior correspondent..

Funnyman of the Year: Danny McBride

Monday  November 17, 2008

Danny McBride's 'The Foot Fist Way'—in which he played a strip-mall Tae Kwon Do instructor—was shot in 2005 and found an enthusiastic cult audience this year. An enthusiastic cult audience that included Judd Apatow, Ben Stiller, and Will Ferrell—all of whom were so high on the 31-year-old that he was cast in 'Pineapple Express,' 'Tropic Thunder,' and next summer’s 'Land of the Lost.' Here, McBride’s heavyweight friends recap his remarkable freshman year—and McBride responds in an exclusive GQ.com Q&A

by mickey rapkin


Photograph by Mark Seliger

Judd Apatow (Pineapple Express): “An agent gave me a DVD of Foot Fist. My first thought was, How can I get Danny into one of my movies so that people will think that I discovered him, even though I didn’t?”

Ben Stiller (Tropic Thunder): “He’s one of the most uniquely funny guys to come around since Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn.”

David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express): “My parents were on-set, and Danny was talking about eating Nerds out of strippers’ buttholes, and my parents were like, ‘Under most circumstances this would offend us, but somehow it seems sweet.’”

Jody Hill (The Foot Fist Way): “In Foot Fist, Danny says, ‘I’m so hungry I could eat a grown man’s ass.’ I don’t know what else to say.”


In an exclusive interview with GQ.com, Danny McBride responds to his friends’ accusations:

Where does one come up with the line “I’m so hungry I could eat a grown man’s ass”?
I think a line like that can only come from someone who has been truly hungry before. I have no idea where half of this shit comes from. Maybe it’s been my upbringing, I don’t know.

Your upbringing?
Exactly. Every Friday, that’s what we would have. That and bacon.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a town called Fredericksburg in Virginia. It’s kind of halfway between D.C. and Richmond. There’s a lot of Civil War action there; George Washington’s mom lived there. So there’s a lot to live up to.

I asked Jody Hill, the director of Foot Fist, to describe your on-screen appeal. He said you look like the kind of guy you’d see at Chili’s on a Friday night.
That fucker.

How would you describe Jody?
Jody’s the kind of guy you’d see outside an elementary school, just watching the children play.

Nice. Foot Fist Way was made for $70,000. How did it feel, then, to show up on the set of Tropic Thunder?
Just getting the crew to the set of Tropic Thunder cost more than all of Foot Fist.

You had to shave your armpits for Pineapple Express. Was that in the script?
David Gordon Green does this shit to fuck with people. That wasn’t in the script. That was David’s touch.

Tell me about the set. I hear you split your head open—with a bong.
It was that fight scene in the apartment. David’s initial intention was, “I don’t want this to seem like Bourne Supremacy or anything. I don’t want it to look like you guys can take a punch or throw a punch.” So we just found ourselves going for it. Someone said, “We’re going to hit you with this bong in the back of the head.” It was breakaway glass, so I was like, “That’ll be fine.”

Wait. Where does one get a bong made of breakaway glass?
It was custom-made. That’s Hollywood.

And then?
The bong cracked open and split my head. And then, literally, they were like, “Do you think you have one more in ya?” And I’m sitting here with my pupils are all dilated, and I have a concussion.

You’re part of Judd Apatow’s Jew Crew—which features Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, and Paul Rudd. You’re half Jewish, yes?
My mom is Jewish. Seth Rogen says I have all of their strengths and none of their weaknesses. I can eat pork and be funny.

What do you make of this year? Your cult film Foot Fist finally hit theaters. You were in two of the summer’s biggest comedies. And you’ve got a show for HBO in 2009.
It’s really, really hard to get my head around. I look back and think about all the years I spent in Los Angeles just trying to get into the deal and just writing around the clock and working shitty jobs. Me and Jody, we’re one of those stories of the guys that hoofed it and made their independent movie and actually got careers out of it. At a certain point, you just need to accept the fact that this is happening and stop being wide-eyed and crazy and just start getting down to the work. I want to make sure that while this opportunity is here, I make the most of it.

What kind of crappy jobs did you have in L.A.?
My first job in L.A., I worked at the Crocodile Café in Burbank. And then the girlfriend I was dating at the time cheated on me and dumped me. And so I have a vivid memory of crying at Crocodile Café and, like, telling the manager that I can’t perform my services today.

Did you have to dress up as a crocodile?
I didn’t. I just had to wear a white polo shirt and black dress pants, black shoes. I clearly remember not having totally black shoes and having to take a Sharpie one day at work and color in the shoes. It was like, Welcome to L.A. Put on an apron.

The Child King of Hollywood

Monday  November 17, 2008

Seth MacFarlane got paid $100 million to make jokes about 'Star Wars,' Nazi goldfish, and gigantic fighting chickens


Photograph by Jeff Minton

A few years ago, Seth MacFarlane had to endure the indignity of having Fox Television cancel his cartoon Family Guy not once but twice. And we all know how that turned out: In 2008 the network oered him one freakin’ sweet apology—a nine-figure deal that will keep the 35-year-old working until 2012 as a voice-over artist and creative overseer on Family Guy (currently thriving in its seventh season), the upcoming midseason spin-off The Cleveland Show, and the political spoof American Dad! And then there’s that deal with Google, which puts his Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy on every dude Web site in the land. GQ rang up the highest-paid writer of fart jokes in television history.—mark harris

What do you do to celebrate a $100 million contract?
I had drinks with my representatives at a Chinese restaurant.

Did you buy?
They wouldn’t allow it! [laughs]

What’s the lag time between when you conceive a joke and when people see it?
Nine months to a year. But there are instances where we put something in at the last minute. Like the one where Brian and Stewie find themselves in 1939 Germany, steal a couple of SS uniforms, and on one of them they find a McCain/Palin button.

It feels like you’ve outed your lefty politics a lot more lately than you did at the start.
I think it’s necessary—

The phone line goes dead. MacFarlane calls back.

The government?
[laughs] Well, look. If you watch 24, you’re gonna get a conservative viewpoint. If you watch Bill O’Reilly, you’ll get an insane viewpoint. If you watch Family Guy, you’ll get a liberal viewpoint.

Have you ever gone too far?
Sure. There was an abortion joke that was not intended to sound pro-life but came off that way. Something about Jessica Fletcher on Murder, She Wrote having gotten an abortion. And Peter goes, “Aha, so she’s the killer!” It wasn’t even that funny. But for the most part, there’s a self-policing system that works pretty well.

How much of an issue is the FCC?
It’s been a huge issue ever since Janet Jackson showed her sixty-five-year-old nipple on television. I sound like my grandfather here, using the phrase “John Q. Taxpayer,” but it’s John Q. Taxpayer who’s paying the bill for those guys in Congress to sit there watching an episode of That ’70s Show to make sure a masturbation joke is not unacceptable. Fucking ridiculous.

Next year you’ll debut a Family Guy spin-off, The Cleveland Show. Are you on solid ground, being a white guy at the head of a black cartoon sitcom?
I suppose no more or less than Norman Lear was with The Jeffersons. Let me put it this way: Cleveland isn’t gonna sound like he’s on a UPN show. We’re writing real characters.

Could Family Guy run ten, fifteen, eighteen years, like The Simpsons?
I would rather wrap it up before it gets stale. That’s going to be an issue in the not-too-distant future.

Do you run into stars Family Guy has made fun of?
Uh…yeah. From time to time, we’ll offer a part to a celebrity in which they’d be doing their own voice. And we’ll get the word back from the agent or manager that that person is not interested. And we’ll then run into aforementioned celebrity at a party, and they’ll say, “Oh, my agent didn’t tell me! If I’d known about it, I would have done it!” And then we’ll find out from the agent, after that: “No, no. They knew.”

GQ.COM EXCLUSIVE: MGMT featuring Jim Jones, "Electric Feel Remix"

Monday  November 10, 2008



1. Stream:

"Electric Feel Remix" (Dirty)

"Electric Feel Remix" (Clean)

2. Download: Right- or control-click on a link below

"Electric Feel Remix" (Dirty)

"Electric Feel Remix" (Clean)

Last week, GQ.com stopped by rapper Jim Jones's Harlem studio to preview his upcoming album Pray IV Reign, his documentary This Is Jim Jones, and his play Hip-Hop Monologues (which premieres in New York on November 12). Jones also gave us an exclusive premiere copy of his brand-new remix of "Electric Feel"—the psychedelic sing-along anthem by Brooklyn-based indie rockers MGMT that you can listen to and download above—and sat down (with blunt and Moët bottle in hand) to tell us about it.

When did you first hear MGMT’s "Electric Feel"?
Damon [Dash]'s assistant pointed the song out to Dame and I, talkin' 'bout, "It's a hot song." They downloaded it for me and let me hear a little of it in the car. I was like, "Damn! It is kinna hot." Then I got a chance to meet MGMT at one of their concerts. They did a show [at United Palace Theater] up in Washington Heights. The initial conversation was just that it was an honor to meet them, I think they’re kinna cool. And from there it lead into me saying, "It'd be crazy if I remixed 'Electric Feel.' " They were like, "Yeah, that would be crazy." So I said, "Let me get the beats and shit." We're on the same label, so that made it even easier. I got all the instrumentals and vocal tracks from them and went in.

What was involved in actually recording the remix?
I did it here at my studio. I sat with the song for a couple hours and jumped on it. I didn't flip the beat at all—I just jumped in all the empty spaces that they left. In the original song, they left 12-bar instrumental slots and 8-bar instrumental slots that were long enough for me to get off. So I didn't have to do anything to the original track.

Why this song in particular?
It's a really good-feelin' song, and—from where we at—when we hear a good-feelin' song, we can't wait to put it in the cars. We can't wait to put it in the clubs. Nah mean? Everything is not about hip-hop. I'll do a country song if it sounds good. I'm not forcing myself on nothin', but if a record sounds good it sounds good. You can't beat that with a bat.—will welch

A Closing Statement

Wednesday  November 05, 2008

A Closing Statement

This morning, George W. Bush strolled out to the Rose Garden—looking approximately five hundred years old—and delivered a statement congratulating Barack Obama on his victory. For all of you Bush-haters out there, take a look at the transcript, because it will completely screw up your mind.

This was the George W. Bush that not quite half of America voted for in November 2000. The man who said that he was a uniter, not a divider. The man who emphasized hope, inclusiveness, and compassion. That man seemed to disappear very early on in 2001. He resurfaced this year, as the lamest of lame ducks, during the financial crisis. Bush abandoned the my-way-or-the-highway bellicosity seen in his failed Social Security gambit of early 2005. He knew the country was in peril, and all he wanted was a deal. His Legislative Affairs team oversold the prospects of the initial bail-out package, and Paulson and Bernanke proved to be inept pitchmen. But Bush kept pressing, and in fairly short order he put his signature to a rescue plan. And today, with what sounded like heartfelt sincerity, the president saluted the man who had spent the last 21 months bashing him. "It will be a stirring sight to watch President Obama, his wife, Michelle, and their beautiful girls step through the doors of the White House," he said. "I know millions of Americans will be overcome with pride at this inspiring moment that so many have awaited so long. I know Senator Obama's beloved mother and grandparents would have been thrilled to watch the child they raised ascend the steps of the Capitol—and take his oath to uphold the Constitution of the greatest nation on the face of the earth."

If you feel a little cheated by this glimmer of what might have been—well, you're entitled. And you might even gross yourself out with wistful sensations when you read my piece about my experiences with Bush (while interviewing him for my book Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush) in the upcoming January 2009 issue of GQ.

But I digress, though not really. Because like every other American, my mind today is on the future occupant of the Oval Office. Already Obama has shown adeptness at learning from his own as well as other people's mistakes. I do not expect that we will see a repeat of the gays-in-the-military saga that crippled the Clinton presidency right out of the starting blocks. I do not think that he will defy the nation's centrist sensibilities with any Ashcroft-style Cabinet appointments.

Still, I hope that he studies well the experience of his immediate predecessor, who came to the White House having understood the vicissitudes of the office better than any man who had not previously served as president or VP. As governor, Bush talked to me incessantly about the executive "bubble," about changing the culture of Washington. He understood the pitfalls. He figured he had it all gamed out. I'll let tomorrow's tweedy eminences assess his overall legacy and go out on a limb on this particular matter: Bush did not make a serious effort to unite the country. Nor has he seemed particularly conscious of this failure—murmuring sadly, like a Beltway incarnation of Robert Oppenheimer, "I am become Washington." Instead, as he told me once, "I'm a results-oriented kind of guy." Well, the results are in. America is far more divided now than when Bush first took office. He now maintains that divisiveness is the residue of a leader making tough decisions for the future benefit of the country. George W. Bush wouldn't have bought that line of reasoning in 2000, and most of us don't buy it now.

President Bush's compulsion is to be consequential. Obama's is to conciliate. But President Obama will face enormous pressure from his party—from men and women who have been waiting a very long time for this moment of partisan dominance—to dismiss process in pursuit of results. If that occurs, and if inclusiveness is seen (to paraphrase our Veep) as some trifle of civic virtue rather than an end unto its own, then 44 will join 43 as children of Oppenheimer, destroyers of worlds they had themselves once envisioned.

That's it. Thanks for reading, everybody. I promise never to do this again.

McCain's Concession

Tuesday  November 04, 2008

McCain's Concession

What we saw was a very stricken man sucking it up and delivering a speech written by a very stricken man sucking it up. The book now closes on one man and opens on another. It's Obama's world now. And now, change.

McCain's '08 Legacy

Tuesday  November 04, 2008

McCain's '08 Legacy

Will McCain regret it?

That's the question I'm asked most frequently as people refer to the 11th-hour avalanche of Republican ads relating to Bill Ayers, Jeremiah Wright, appeasing Iran (with rippling footage and mosque music), and the confiscation of guns; as they listen to the Arizona senator wind down this epic campaign accusing Obama of socialism and lack of pride for America while proffering Joe the Plumber as an American emblem; as his running-mate, Sarah Palin, gallops through a laundry list of Obama's horrifying friendships.

Is this what John McCain wanted to be talking about in his quest for the presidency?

Of course not. He wanted town halls. He wanted to discuss Iraq's future. He wanted this to be about experience, integrity, American exceptionalism. He wanted Joe Lieberman by his side. He wanted Bush's name and record to be sub rosa. He wanted us to be reminded, again and again, that he had bravely fought his party on immigration. (Until he didn't.) He wanted to invoke and evoke Reagan, Teddy Roosevelt, David Petraeus. He wanted to blast the pork-barrel spenders. He wanted to implicitly remind voters, as one of his advisers told me four years ago, that "it's McCain's world we're living in."

But that was before Obama roared out of obscurity. That was before Iraq fell off the front pages, replaced by a subject that McCain had to some degree farmed out to Phil Gramm and Alan Greenspan. The world ceased to be McCain's. The kind of change he represented in this "change election" was never effectively explained to American voters. I personally believe that a President McCain would be quite different from President George W. Bush. Having said that, I'm not sure I could describe to you concretely how McCain's world travels and affection for William Trevor will make America a better place. If anything, the narrative spasms and internal disgruntlements describing the McCain campaign give one pause in considering how John McCain would run the White House.

Four or five months ago, I was having drinks with former Bush counselor Dan Bartlett. I allowed as to how the two presidential nominees were of such civic caliber that America could likely expect a high-minded campaign. Bartlett's expression was priceless—like that my dad wore when I was six years old, saw a spotlight go across the sky and asked if that were God. "Do you really think that?" the old Texas political hand asked with a grin. "Hey, we're still a divided country. I think it’s gonna be down and dirty all the way to the end."

McCain's insistence that a series of rolling town halls with Obama would've elevated the campaign's tone strikes me as dubious. Maybe they would've stood onstage arguing about the surge and tax cuts for the wealthy for ninety minutes once a week. The rest of the time would still have been devoted to Bush 2 vs. Wright/Ayers—and, of course, to merciless recapitulations of whatever gaffes had arisen from each town hall. Lincoln and Douglas didn't have to suffer the exhibitionistic, trivializing mania of the 24-hour news cycle. God, think about it! By the sixth or seventh town hall, the disgust with both candidates would probably reach toxic proportions.

But to return to the question: Will John McCain continue to fall back on Obama's town hall turnabout and thereby not look back on his campaign with regret? The answer is: It depends on how America regards him down the line. If McCain loses and thereafter is remembered not for his heroism, his senatorial rigors, and his free-wheeling campaign style, but rather for the intensely personal attacks on Barack Obama's character, then I don't see how he can avoid bouts of personal recrimination.

I would hasten to add, however, that John McCain exerts a fair amount of control over his destiny. Should he lose, then it will be up to him to determine his next act. Will he run for re-election to the Senate in 2010 at the age of 74 and strive to work across the aisle under the shadow of an Obama administration? If not, would a President Obama reach out to McCain and encourage him to take an appointment? (McCain as diplomat: Dig, if you will, the picture.) If John McCain goes neither quietly nor in bitterness but in a final burst of statesmanlike fervor, he'll be enshrined rather than vilified. And America will be the better for it.

Now I'd better commence my 112-mile drive to my polling station east of Capitol Hill.

When Obama Won It (If He Does)

Tuesday  November 04, 2008

When Obama Won It (If He Does)

If Obama wins this, the reason will be 2004. That's the year he gave his keynote address at the Democratic convention and thereby vaulted into the national consciousness. But that's also the year John McCain worked harder than any Republican to ingratiate himself with the party faithful and thus become Bush's heir apparent. A notoriously lackluster raiser of funds on his own behalf, McCain toured the country incessantly that election cycle on behalf of fellow R's, including Bush. His efforts marked the beginning of a party outsider's quest to be seen as a loyal GOP insider—culminating in his May 2006 commencement speech at Jerry "Agent of Intolerance" Falwell's Liberty University. (Though probably the oratorical flourish Mark Salter would most like to delete came during McCain's prime-time speaking slot at the 2004 Republican convention, in which the senator gave a shout-out to "the steady, experienced, public-spirited man who serves as our vice president, Dick Cheney.")

The fruits of that pursuit are twofold. McCain secured the nomination, but along the way the once-bright line separating the maverick from his unpopular party leader was all but obliterated. The greatest failure of the McCain campaign has been its inability early on to highlight the distinctions between their guy and Bush. Then again, the maneuvers required after McCain's cheerleading in 2004 would hemorrhage a crawfish.

Joe the Bloviator

Tuesday  November 04, 2008

Joe the Bloviator

A few minutes later, Joe corrects himself, saying the Reverse Bradley Effect was cooked up by people in an opium den in Hollywood or Greenwich Village.

Way to clean that one up, Joe!

At the Polls in Richmond

Tuesday  November 04, 2008

At the Polls in Richmond

Richmond, Virginia, 5:45 a.m. Election Day morning. East side of town, densely African-American. Dark, drizzly morning. At the polling booth on North 31st and M, a line of 138 waits under umbrellas—some in chairs, a couple in wheelchairs. The first four in line tell me they arrived at 3:30 a.m. "They said to get here early," one of them told me. Less than a mile away, at the recreation center on North 25th and M, the line wraps around the block. All the way around, at 6:08 a.m. The question is whether the long lines will deter others.

The voting official by the door tells me, "We've got extra people, extra machines. I used to work in theme parks. As long as you keep 'em moving, they're happy."

I tell him how many people I've counted: 503.

"My word," the official murmurs, going very pale.

Meanwhile, on "Morning Joe," Joe Scarborough is saying, "Anyone who says there's a Reverse Bradley Effect is smoking crack."

Jaworski '08

Monday  November 03, 2008

Jaworski '08

You might as well know which candidate I intend to support in this election. It's the Democrat: Joe Jaworski, running for Texas state senate district 11, which includes hurricane-devastated Galveston. Joe's my cousin. A great 3-term city councilman for the area, he's now running against a well-funded incumbent whose work ethic Texas Monthly recently compared to "furniture."

Here's Joe's latest ad—handsome fella, ain't he? If you're not in trouble with the law, please send him all of your money.

Even Laura Hardly Mentions George

Monday  November 03, 2008

Even Laura Hardly Mentions George

In Kentucky this afternoon, the First Lady gave an 11-minute talk at a GOP rally. Here is the sum total of what she said about her husband and the Republican presidential ticket:

"After months of primary elections, campaign ads, and debates, tomorrow is finally Election Day. (Applause.) I'm really looking forward to Election Day, partly because it seems like George has been on the ticket this entire year. (Laughter.) The Republican Party has a great ticket: a real American hero, John McCain—(applause)—and a strong executive and proven reformer, Governor Sarah Palin. (Applause.) I'm proud that John McCain chose a Republican woman, Sarah Palin, to run with him on our ticket. (Applause.) And I'm proud of all the impressive women who have served in my husband's administration—women like Labor Secretary Elaine Chao. (Applause.)"

Back to Peterborough

Monday  November 03, 2008

Back to Peterborough

You wondered why McCain spent yesterday evening in New Hampshire, a state he's unlikely to win. Nostalgia had something to do with it, but so did superstition. McCain tends to carry totems of the campaign trail with him—medals, feathers, pretty much whatever the hell people hand him—and is very leery of tossing them out, Mark Salter once told me.

The town of Peterborough, where McCain conducted perhaps the last town hall of his political career last night, also carries a certain significance. He kicked off his previous campaign there in the summer of 1999, in which the main draw was free ice cream. On the eve of the 2000 New Hampshire primary, McCain returned to Peterborough Town Hall, to a packed house that included giddy supporters heaving from the rafters like Yankee fans reaching out to graze the Babe's uniform. Eight years later, McCain experienced a similar arc: a poorly attended event in Peterborough after his campaign imploded last July, followed by a standing-room-only crowd the night before he beat Mitt Romney in the '08 NH primary.

McCain going back to Peterborough well proves one other thing: He's the one ultimately in charge of his campaign. No way Steve Schmidt would've put New Hampshire on the schedule with two days to go.

Old Dominion

Monday  November 03, 2008

Old Dominion

If Obama takes Virginia, it's over for McCain.

It may be over for him anyway. But even if the Republican sneaks off with Pennsylvania—and though the polls don't look good for him, PA's the one state where I think you can count on a lot of undecideds breaking Mac's way—McCain will have poured enormous amounts of time and money into picking off a blue, only to find red Virginia slipping from his grasp. If Obama adds the Commonwealth to his expected red-state haul of Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Iowa, and New Hampshire, he can ignore the returns in the Keystone State and further south in North Carolina. It'll be an early evening.

Not that McCain has given up here. He was in Newport News last Saturday and just finished up a rally in Blountville, TN, which reaches the Virginia markets. And anyone with a TV here can have the pleasure of viewing some of the most sharp-elbowed attack ads of the presidential campaign. These include the GOPTrust.org's airing of Jeremiah Wright's greatest hits (God Damn America, USKKK of A), closing with a framed photo of Obama with his "mentor"; an NRA ad suggesting that Obama will be an enemy to hunters (though I haven't yet seen in VA the "Where is this guy from?" ad the NRA's running in PA); and the McCain campaign's "Preconditions" ad in which a tape of Obama is made to look and sound like a bin Laden production.

And in any event, Virginia's not an easy get for Obama's ground game. There was no early voting here—only absentee, which Obama's state organizers didn't do much to exploit—so lines at the polls are going to be ferocious tomorrow. But here in Richmond, black churches are pitching in with buses and other forms of GOTV support. Obama state HQ is among the most vibrant I've seen. The symbolism of delivering Old Dominion to a black candidate is a potent motivator. Meanwhile, temperatures will be in the sixties tomorrow throughout most of the state.