Earlier this summer we presented the nation with some helpful tips on how to fix the presidential debates by choosing better, far more qualified moderators.
If you’ve seen the latest announcement of who would actually be hosting the debates, than you will see that our advice was completely ignored. And, if you’ve read any of the reviews of Matt Lauer’s recent presidential interviews, than you will see why the nation needs our suggestions more than ever.
The presidential debates are like some gross vegetable your great-aunt made on Thanksgiving: You don’t really want to consume them, but you ended up doing it anyway out of a weird sense of obligation. And spectacles like last night’s three-hour test of human willpower only underscore a big problem: Traditional news outlets have made presidential debates—arguably our country’s most important televised forum and exchange of ideas—into mind-numbingly boring talk-a-thons, where a bunch of rich, powerful people needle each other for hours about past career decisions while dodging any question of substance.
This is a job far too important for “seasoned professional broadcast journalists.” We need some personalities to ramp up the entertainment value. Watching TV shouldn’t feel like a homework assignment.
Something’s got to change. In an effort to fix this mess, we have a few suggestions of moderators who should take over for the next presidential debates—to make things much more interesting. We present a few humble (updated) suggestions:
Tina Fey & Amy Poehler
Let’s be honest, most presidential debates are almost completely humorless and super boring. Thankfully, there is literally nothing that Amy Poehler and Tina Fey can do together that isn’t both funny and wildly entertaining. Fey’s Sarah Palin and Poehler’s Hillary Clinton were instant SNL classics, so the two obviously have the political chops to get some good responses from the real candidates. And, even if the actual debate was dud, at least we’d get some of that back-and-forth that made the Gold Globes so fun to watch.
Stephen Colbert (In Character)
Since he’s taken over as host of The Late Show, Colbert has landed some serious interviews with presidential hopefuls and leaders, showing a much more thoughtful side than in his Comedy Central days. The intellectual Colbert serves the one-on-one setting for visiting politicians and leaders well, but the “character” of Colbert would have a blast at a debate. His take-no-prisoners conservative bombast lets him literally get away with asking—and doing—anything. Also, we’d really like just one more “Tip of the Hat, Wag of the Finger” for old times’ sake.
Bell & Driscoll: The Two Mars Hill Pastors
Admit it, you’d totally watch this one. The former pastors of (unrelated) churches called Mars Hill are two of the most polarizing and controversial figures in modern evangelicalism, both on different ends of the theological spectrum. Between the two of them, we’d get every conceivable Bible question asked to the candidates, probably a very interesting whiteboard lesson and maybe even an arm wrestling match.
Steve Harvey is an emotional wrecking ball, capable of bringing people to tears in one breath and whirling the entire Family Feud studio into a belly laughing fit with a single incredulous look.
With one question, Harvey would have a candidate choked up recounting a story about his childhood, the next, he’d drop one of these death stares on some politician trying to skate around an actual answer.
This one would probably only work if the debate was held in the late afternoon and broadcast during a public radio hour bookended by film reviews from David Bianculli. The laid-back pace of the exchanges—on topics ranging from “Thought for Your Thoughts” to the migration habits of squirrels—would be a great fit for an audio experience, not TV, though. It’d be too weird to see Terry Gross’ face actually speaking, I am right?
Sure, his background in liberal talk radio may make him more of an obvious choice for the democratic debates, but as he’s shown many times on his WTF Podcast, Maron’s raw honesty draws depth out of even his most ideologically different guests. As anyone familiar with his podcast probably knows, with 10 possible candidates, the only downside of the debate would be that it would stretch out for more than 30 straight hours as Maron thoughtful inquired what each of the candidate’s fathers did for a living.
Instead of the typical format of presidential candidates standing behind podiums taking turns answering questions on policy matters (SNORE), there’s no reason not to get survival expert Bear Grylls to hike the candidates to some remote rainforest where they must each hunt, field dress and devour some wild beast in order to be able to speak. Nothing elicits true honesty like dangling off a sheer cliff face held up only by a cord made from grizzly bear entrails while being pressed by Bear Grylls about flip-flopping on tax reform.
The Daily Show senior correspondent is one of TV’s most underrated comedians. She could make a three-hour debate marathon fly by.
Calling all fellow Perdverts: We need to figure out a way to make this happen.
Zach Galifianakis (In ‘Between Two Ferns’ Mode)
Drag out a couple of ferns and let Zach Galifianakis do his thing: creating the most awkward Q&A sessions imaginable.
Brian Williams and Ryan Loche
Watch as the candidates must decipher fact from fiction, as newsman Brain Williams and swimmer Ryan Loche embellish or completely fabricate actual events and international episodes.
Burt Macklin, FBI
Yes, it’s another Parks and Rec reference. But, if there’s one person who won’t put up with any non-sense about email servers or tax returns (likely, because he doesn’t know what either are), it’s Burt Macklin, FBI! Remember that time he interrogated that punk kid on Halloween? Macklin puts up with ZERO sass.
OK, so this one doesn’t really make any sense. We just want to see more from Stranger Things.
Jesse Carey is a mainstay on the weekly RELEVANT Podcast and member of RELEVANT's executive board. He lives in Virginia Beach with his wife and two kids.