Consultants hunt for humor in politics…
Look out Jon Stewart. A crew of political consultants is launching a campaign to win over your audience. Zolitics.com, a network dedicated exclusively to political entertainment, is the brainchild of political-insiders John Brabender, a Republican media consultant; Leslie Gromis-Baker, a former McCain advisor; Tad Devine, a leading Democratic strategist; and Sara Taylor, ex-Bush White House pol.
With an initial slate of four shows launching this month, the Zolitics team hopes to follow the successes of the infotainment that powers
“The Daily Show” and “Saturday Night Live.” “There’s a tremendous appetite for political commentary and news, so we’re tapping into that,” says Brabender, who spearheaded the project. “We wanted to create a network for people who enjoy politics but are not hard-core politicos,” says Gromis-Baker. “There was somewhat of a political entertainment letdown after the 2008 elections, so we thought,
Zolitics features everything from an of%uFB01ce dramedy titled “Moving Numbers,” a behind the scenes romp through a dysfunctional
U.S. Senate campaign to “My America,” a political version of “The Simple Life,” in which two polar opposite politicos road-trip around the country. Also in the works is a reality-show for political reporters called “Scoops.” Then there’s “Bloodsport,” an insider-exposé of taboo campaign topics like opposition research. [Ed. Note: Politics magazine’s publisher, Jordan Lieberman, is slated to host “Bloodsport.”]
“Some of the funniest situations you can ever imagine pop up during the campaign,” says Brabender and that’s where he sees Zolitics
succeeding. “Moving Numbers”—think “The West Wing” meets “The Of%uFB01ce”—peeks behind-the-scenes into the neurotic war room of a %uFB01ctional senatorial race between Republican Rep. Bob Sanders and moderate Democrat Patrick Doyle. “This show will give you an insider look at what drama and decisions go into a political campaign,” says Brabender. “It’s crazy.” But, Brabender says, it’s not unbelievable, especially for people who work in the business.
All of the campaign shenanigans in “Moving Numbers”—from the Red Bull guzzling boss to staff freak-outs over a candidate’s
gaffe—are based on “a composite of some of the most famous people out there.”
“We’re making fun of everyone in politics,” says Brabender. “We’re not bi-partisan, but a-partisan. In many cases, we’re making fun of ourselves.” Zolitics is also taking a page out of Steven Colbert’s book, mixing political %uFB01ction with real-world issues. Brabender says
an event is already scheduled in which the mock-candidates from “Moving Numbers” will get coached by Democratic debate adviser Robert Shrum and then %uFB01eld questions from a live audience on hot-button issues.
All of the consultants on the project are still actively working on campaigns for the upcoming cycle. “Being a political consultant, you have a lot of time in the off years, when you’re not working 24 hours a day,” says Tad Devine, who collaborated on the Zolitics launch. “We thought this would be a good way to spend a chunk of time and show people the mechanics of elections.” He’s excited about the prospects of “Moving Numbers” and has already masterminded an attack ad against the show’s Democratic candidate. “People would like
Dems and Republicans to get together and be on the same page, and I think there’s room for that—both on this project and in the broader world of politics,” Devine says. “But really, what drew me in, was that it’s just plain fun.”
Zolitics is only on the web for the moment, but Brabender says is already talking with broadcast and cable networks about jump-
ing on board if the shows catch on. “People are seeing that this is an interesting concept and seeing the type of big numbers this type
of media is bringing in,” says Brabender. “This show will give you an insider look at what drama and decisions go into a campaign.”
Consultants hunt for humor in politics…