Make no mistake about it– the comedy duo of Bush and Blair (or as they’re known across the Pond–Blair and Bush) will forever be remembered in the annals of humor. While their roots go back to the great duos of the 20th century — Hope and Crosby, Martin and Lewis, Ren and Stempy — detractors claimed that B&B in fact lifted their material from Pinky and the Brain.
I say nothing could be further from the truth. While Pinky and the Brain did originate the “try to take over the world” routine, Bush and Blair made it something that none but the most cynical would deny was truly unique. Who can ever forget skits like “Bring It On” and “Shock and Awe?” Classics to be sure, and while they weren’t popular in France, they certainly played in Peoria.
Bush and Blair have always been an unlikely team, at least supercially, and perhaps that’s what has kept us laughing for the past three years. Who would have thought that a bumpkin urban cowboy and a soft-spoken, Savoy Row Brit could have clicked so well? And yet, they did. It was percisely their public personnae that struck a nerve, albeit a raw one, in our collective pop mindset. That simple formula of Bush misspeaking with arrogance and Blair playing straightman with a conciliatory, but equally meaningless, turn of phrase had us rolling time and again.
But of late, the rumor mill has been in overdrive with reports that the duo may be going their solo ways. Call it the changing tastes of a fickle audience or maybe the material is merely growing stale, but Bush and Blair’s fortunes have been on the wain these past several months. Their attempts at touring seperately–Bush in the States, Blair in Britain–have been savaged by critics and audiences alike.
Their appearance in Washington last Thursday did little to dispel the gossip that the duo of Bush and Blair are nearing the end of their career as a comedy team. Indeed, it was reminiscent of the break-up of Martin and Lewis in some ways– both members going through the motions of a routine that both had lost all interest in but went through performing nonetheless.
Though they opened in classic fashion, with Bush setting Blair up for the inevitable straightman fall, their much-touted reunion quickly deteriorated into a series of one-liners that had none of the punch of their heyday. Bush, hoping to play on what has now become a cliche in comedy circles, said that maybe he should have been more “sophisticated” when he used his immortal line “Bring it on!” What?!? Mr. Bush, don’t mess with a classic punchline, if I may be so bold.
While one expects Mr. Blair to play the foil to Mr. Bush, saying that we should have been more “conciliatory” in the “de-Baathification” of Iraq simply had no zing, straightman or no. In the past, one could always count on Blair, in his stiff upper lip composure, to laugh along with Bush.
During Thursday’s performance, Blair seemed, if not embarrassed by this cohort’s, one-liners, vaguely disinterested.
To his credit, Bush did introduce us to a new buzzphrase — “I sowwwwy.” Whether it was Abu Ghraib or American fatalities or Iraqi civilian casualties, he merely shrugged his shoulders and did that little nervous chuckle we’ve come to love and muttered, “I sowwwy.” Even that little gem, however, did little to elicit applause. I think it may be the line for which he is most remembered in retrospect.
After the show, Bush was asked what he would most miss about Blair when they do go their seperate ways. “I’m going to miss his red ties,” he said flatly.
Then he added, “Tony, can I buy you dinner?”.
We can only hope that that is not the epitath of the first great comedy team of the 21st century.