The Prime Minister of Comedy

Barry Weintraub's a joker, he's a voter, he's a Web-page stoker

As Weintraub said from the Punch Line stage, "We hope to make it a site where people can come for humor and commentary and be entertained and informed throughout the year, because we find that there isn't enough place to do that unless you happen to be a right-wing fan of Rush Limbaugh -- so, everybody from Rush Limbaugh alllllll the way over to the center and then to the left, this is for you. And Rush can come and sign on, and we'll take advantage of it."

He means it. Calling themselves "bleeding-heart capitalists," Weintraub, Leahy, and Morrissey plot to make money off the silent masses who follow the news more closely than just stumbling through the headlines and Doonesbury on the morning train.

Morrissey, hailing from an advertising/marketing background, insists that the Scampaign '96 Web page is a viable advertising sell, hoping that "socially aware commercial advertisers" -- like Ben & Jerry's and Working Assets -- will line up to "be present in a place that already has that cynicism" about politics -- as well as, oddly enough, advertising. "It's access to an audience that will appreciate [the advertiser's] support of that place," she opines.

Still in beta, the page features the Daily Dose, a pithy quote from that day's media which Weintraub phones in daily to Leahy; the Charade, long essays by Weintraub; the Comedy Ministry, free-lanced out to other local humorists; letters from Noah Fillmore (think bagels/Pacific Heights), a Weintraub alter ego whose funny-yet-worshipful letters ask the candidates for photos and political positions; letters to the editor; and the Scampaign poll, which asks readers to rate candidates by which one is capable of telling the biggest lie.

Digital Comet plans to implement the Real Audio program so Web visitors can listen to the comics' acts, a real plus since some acts don't translate well into print. And ultimately, Leahy says, he'd like to have a Web data base set up that would allow browsers to download, say, every comedic reference to Newt Gingrich, whether typed or verbal. (Weintraub declines to discuss how much money he and his partners have put into the crusade: "We're willing to spend money up front in order to create a Web site that will be unique and that will be an entrance into other media.")

The page occasionally taps the guy-humor that has recently been the bane of nightclub comedy, with a doctored photo of Frank Jordan showering with -- chuckle -- Willie Brown and Roberta Achtenberg, as well as a section listing "score hot sex" as a reason for ordering Scampaign buttons and T-shirts (Kris' idea). Asked about this last, Weintraub comments, "I'm not saying we're above [dick jokes] -- we just don't do them as a rule."

Comedian Johnny Steele says he'd like to put together another live Scampaign show for December, with the hopes of getting the format fine-tuned by February's New Hampshire and Iowa caucuses. "It's going to be a little campy," he says. "One gag we'll wind up doing is 'Great Moments in American History.' In one case we're going to go to Colonial America where Rush Limbaugh's great-great-great-great-grandfather is going on about how the Indians are ruining America.

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