Will Ferrell delivers his penultimate farewell to President George W. Bush tonight on Broadway, and perhaps it is no coincidence that at approximately 9:11 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, HBO will face its own decision during the first ten minutes of its live broadcast of You're Welcome America: A Final Night with George W. Bush. Dick or no dick. And we don't mean Cheney.
If you read earlier press reviews of Ferrell's smashing Broadway debut (directed by longtime SNL and Funny or Die collaborator Adam McKay), then you know that the duo decided that their version of W. would be so carefree and full of confidence upon exiting the White House that he could do anything in his own one-man show, including showing the audience a photo of his own penis. Of course, it's not actually a photo of W.'s reproductive organ in action, or inaction, as it were. Because even on the big screen above Ferrell, as he describes the "shock and awe" from the audience and declares "that's my stimulus package," the sight itself is not all that impressive. Which, of course, is part of the point. A few audience members reportedly left the theater in early shows during the eight-week run. I was in attendance at Friday night's show and no one raised a fuss, just lots of gasps, giggles and guffaws.
Will anyone complain, though, if they see the reputed prick live on their TVs this Saturday night? And will HBO dare to go full-frontal during the live broadcast? They'll have more than one opportunity during the 90-minute performance to be TV or be HBO.
When stand-up comedian Ari Shaffir unexpectedly dropped his pants to reveal his ultimate punchline during a taping last-summer of HBO's Down and Dirty with Jim Norton, it caught everyone in the theater by surprise, including the network. Shaffir even walked offstage with his pants still around his ankles to make sure everyone saw his manhood. When Shaffir's episode aired, however, HBO had made some quick edits and chose judicious camera angles so the home audiences never really got a good glimpse of his full-frontal nudity.
HBO sources were tight-lipped about whether they'd show the "Bush penis" photo during tonight's telecast. But they did acknowledge that Jason Segal's baring turn in last year's hit movie, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, may have softened their stance on the matter. So to speak.
What do you think HBO should do? And if you're reading this after Saturday night's broadcast, do you think HBO made the right decision?
Further reading: My review of Will Ferrell's Broadway debut based on the performance from Friday, March 13, 2009.