Award-winning left-wing humorist and former National Lampoon editor, Steve Brykman, has infiltrated the Republican Party, working as a UX Designer & Strategist at Mitt Romney's headquarters in Boston's North End. For the hilarious inside story on one of the most insane, error-prone presidential campaigns in recent history, keep reading I'm with Mitt: Adventures in Amercia! Coming soon to a bookstore or eBook reader near you, assuming someone out there possesses the gumption to publish it.
Disclaimer: this blog will not be dictated by fact-checkers.
VIII. Steve gets to flex his comedy muscles, in a manner of speaking
Friday - May 18
Still no paycheck.
Things are looking up, however. My boss called me into her office with a "comedy writing project... a real one." Ah, I thought, So the folks here have decided to use my comedy powers for good rather than evil (or evil rather than good, depending on how you look at it). They needed a name for a new contest they were running, so they were pulling me in on a brainstorming session with Zac Moffatt, head of digital. The premise: enjoy a hot dog from a New York street vendor... with Donald Trump.
I don't think I did myself any favors in the meeting. I didn't hold back. I couldn't help myself.
My first reaction was: "Seriously? Trump? Does anybody even still like Donald Trump anymore? What happened? Was Ted Nugent unavailable?"
Again, they were inexplicably patient.
"Steve," my boss explained, "this is what the people upstairs have handed us. It's supposed to be a spoof of the Dems' Dinner with Clooney contest."
Right. Let's see... who would I rather eat with: an Academy-Award winner and the first African-American leader of the free world or the guy who fires people on TV and a dude who refuses to drink coffee for religious reasons? Hmmm.
"Yeah," I said, "but that doesn't work. The parody of having dinner with a famous, rich white guy is not having a hot dog with another famous rich white guy, just because he happens to be a Republican. The parody would be eating roadkill with a homeless guy in an abandoned subway tunnel."
"Yeah," my boss said, "we can't do that."
"Again, this is what they gave us," Zac said.
"Why does it have to be a hot dog," I asked, "Who's going to believe Donald Trump eats street
vendor hot dogs, anyway?"
"It has to be a hot dog," Zac said, "Because Trump would only give us twenty minutes. And it has to be a street vendor because he didn't want to have travel any farther than 100 feet from his office. Now, I know this is tricky, but can you help us out here or not?"
"Okay, okay," I said, "I get it. Win one with the Donald. Give me ten minutes."
"What did you say?"
"I said, 'give me ten minutes.'"
"No, before that."
"Um, one with the Donald?"
"Perfect! I'll send it right over."
Let me take a moment here to talk about "the people upstairs." Remember back to the other day, when I was asked to put together a Spanish version of the website? So I diligently gathered together all the existing Spanish content currently on our site (there actually is some -- videos and articles and whatnot) and organized it into what I thought was a darling little mini-Spanish site. I tried to craft my copy to be warm and inviting to align with what my research indicated was appealing to Latinos.
My boss angrily Skype-chatted:
"I'm confused as to why there is still video content... we are only having certain content translated... videos are not those things... no videos, not my call."
"Ah," I typed, "That one video is in Spanish though."
"It's already in Spanish..."
"Steve, no videos. Strategy has made that decision...the video content is not our decision to make, i'm telling you what the content that has been approved is... get off the content train."
"I'm trying to put some blog content together, there's not a whole lot..."
"You don't have to do that... that's not what you do... you say four blog posts go here."
I get it now. It's all up to the people upstairs. The people we never see, who alone possess the wisdom to determine what Spanish content would ultimately prove most effective for the Romney campaign. Me? I'm just the box man.
That's just how it is in politics. One day you're flying high, working out the details of a Donald Trump promotion and the next you're back to being a lowly box monkey. Get back in your cage and organize the boxes like a good little box monkey!
My boss once again tells me to think of Romney's association with Targeted Victory as "legally laundering money." Apparently it's a running gag.
Monday - May 21
Now that the team has grown, we're having an all-staff meet-and-greet meeting, and Zac Moffat (who, again, is a brilliant dude) has the following to say: "I know most of you pretty well, I'm digital director here, obviously digital is kind of the new department in this cycle, we have a lot of things under our jurisdiction...if you look around this room, this is probably thirty, thirty-five people, we'll be 110 probably in the next forty-five days, so if you can imagine this thing's going to explode pretty quick, and that's just within digital. One of the things that's going to happen as a result of us exploding with this growth is that people are actually going to have to stay in their lanes a little bit more...just so you guys understand at a very, very topline what we're responsible for: I would say, the website, the building of the website, the building of the digital elements that support the website, online advertising, email marketing, all the design and branding for the campaign, fortunately, and low-dollar fundraising. Those are kind of our key mandates ... I just want people to realize this is a monster product and we will as a department probably spend close to a hundred million dollars in the next couple months and a lot of times it doesn't really seem like what you're working on has that much importance because we're talking about hash tags, but we can't get caught up in the minutia of the one percenters of our time."
And he closed the meeting with this: "It sounds counter-intuitive that we're the digital department and we don't want you tweeting or posting to Facebook but we're doing it for your own protection, I promise you you have nothing valuable to add that will fundamentally change the way the campaign will be won, but you can definitely hurt us and do something to hurt Mitt, and you've got to think of it like that. Like there's a reason that there's stuff like this...no one here should be thinking that they want to add their two cents, you're just held to a higher standard...You're more than welcome to have an opinion. Any day you want to quit and go have one, knock yourselves out. You let me know, I will be more than willing to help you find something else. But we are here to protect Mitt Romney on every front. And someone getting liquored-up and doing something stupid on Twitter or on Facebook or adding their two cents on something does make a huge difference. Goff(?) tracks 650 overpaid staffers, he knows when they swear at people, they know when they say Mormon references, we keep a little file and I promise we will make someone's life miserable...our job is to not be seen...We are not going to be successful individually, we have to be a hundred people, but all going in the same direction. Don't feel you need to be a hero...our job is to execute every day so that Mitt Romney can be the next President of the United States. We can't do anything that takes away from that and Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, whatever it is you like to take photos of and share, just put it on hold, wait six months and then you'll be able to do all of it yourself...and if your cloud score goes down, we'll get the Gov to give you a follow-up Friday, the day after the election so you can get lots of popularity back and everyone will like you, don't you worry about a thing. We'll hook you all up and make sure it's taken care of...we're hiring 400 people very quickly, a lot of onboarding, I just want to make sure you have lots of fun. Plan on being here six days a week now, seven days a week probably starting July. If you have a loved-one or someone else, get FaceTime, get Skype, figure out how to make it work. We'll try and buy lunches and dinners and take care of people, but on the flip side you have an opportunity that is awesome. I did ten years of campaigns before I got to do this on a Presidential. You are very, very lucky. There are thirty-five people here. There are about four thousand people in DC who would take your job without even looking at it ... You have got a huge opportunity here. So, take advantage of it, have a great time. When we win in November we can tell everyone how smart we were, we were the team who took down Obama."
Question is: do I feel lucky? Well, do I? Punk!
Actually, yeah, I kinda do. Just a little bit. But probably not for the reasons he's thinking.
Tuesday - May 22
Because it took so long to vet me, (turned out it wasn't so much my Cali taxes, as it was my naked standup), my check won't be coming until the 30th of the month. Let's hope none of my kids eats a nut.
And then there's this. We don't get Memorial Day off. So, get ready for that, America! Apparently, if Romney is elected president, NO holidays will be observed! Except maybe Mormon Day, whenever that might be. Okay. That's not fair. It's not right to make fun of somebody's religion just because it's crazy. Besides which, all religions are crazy when you really look at them.
Spreaking of which, a totally batshit-crazy thing just happened: I'm sitting here, wrapping up my work for the day (wireframing the Romney iPhone app) when two guys approached. They're talking not five feet from me when I get a weird feeling. One of the guy's voices is really familiar... could he be a brother of someone I know? I keep listening. No, it's definitely him. It's that dude I went to school with! I approach him, and tentatively ask, "Hey, did you go to UMass?"
"Steve Brykman?!" he immediately replied. Which was impressive in its own right. I couldn't recall his name that quickly, though we were good buddies, even lived on the same floor for a couple years. Then again I don't remember anyone from college. They didn't call it ZooMass for nothing.
It's only as I'm walking to the train station that my glee at being reunited with an old friend is replaced by this thought, "Oh hell. J__'s a Republican!"
Stay tuned for the next Official, Full-Time installment of Steve Brykman's 'I'm with Mitt: Adventures in Amercia!' Coming soon!