Stephen King lobbies for a U.S. Department of Fun
I just finished swallowing my daily dose of doom from CNN (a morning ritual, like brushing my teeth, only nastier), and I have to tell you, things are not lookin' good. From the war in Iraq to poor Brit, world affairs suck like an Electrolux. The works have gotten so gummy we can't even bury our celebrities anymore; we just put 'em in cold storage while the lawyers wrangle about money, DNA, money, burial sites, and money. The best morning cable choice is starting to look like SpongeBob SquarePants. Too many of the people you see on the street look like their ma just died and someone shot their puppy. The country that invented the Three Stooges and elevated pie-in-the-face humor to high art has become an emotional fallout shelter filled with pessimists worried about terrorism, mad cow disease (how many times do I have to tell you this they are in therapy), secondhand smoke, and the possibility of Dick Cheney becoming president.
Here's what I think: Instead of FEMA and Homeland Security, what America needs desperately is a Department of Fun. I nominate Jon Stewart to run it, with Lewis Black the most engagingly pissed-off comedian ever as director of operations. William Shatner can be the press secretary and give briefings from such weirdo locations as the Dan Blocker Memorial head (O'Donnell, Tex.) and the World's Tallest Thermometer (Baker, Calif.). These briefings would be enlivened by musical numbers. I see the Miami Heat singing ''It's a Small World'' as they juggle dwarfs, or possibly Condi Rice (in wrap shades) banging out ''Pinetop's Boogie Woogie.'' I think Condi in wrap shades would be wacky.
There are any number of things the Department of Fun could do to lighten America's sad-ass mood. Here are just three patriotic possibilities to get started. After that? Sky's the limit, baby.
AIRPORT SECURITY Everybody hates it, so why not pay security personnel extra to dress up as Disney cartoons? Wouldn't you feel more cheerful if it were Snow White giving you the wand and the Seven Dwarfs telling you to take off your shoes? Wouldn't your comfort level jump if it were Goofy scoping out your bod in the X-ray machine? Sure, these costumes would be uncomfortable for the staff, but even that would cheer up travelers; ''There you go, turkey,'' they'd think, ''now you know how we feel.''
TERROR THREAT LEVEL We'd keep the colors, but the DOF would be tasked with giving them a happier spin. Not just green for LOW, but Giggle Green (Kermit the Frog logo). Blue Hawaii for GUARDED. Mellow Yellow for ELEVATED. Orange Crush for HIGH. And Rudolph Red for SEVERE, accompanied on TV screens by Chuck Berry singing ''Run Rudolph Run.'' Because, dig, there's nothing like a little Chuck to cheer people up when it's looking like the end of the world. Some might argue that such new threat-level colors are tasteless. Maybe so. Nobody said working for the DOF would be without controversy. As Steve Martin once observed, comedy is not pretty. My own view: When the going gets tough, the tough get tasteless.
WASHINGTON CLOWN DAY All members of the House and Senate come to work wearing either a red nose, baggy pants made out of Reynolds wrap, or enormous shoes. Votes to be recorded via oogah horn. This would pump C-SPAN ratings, and...admit it: You'd love to see Duncan Hunter in a Bozo wig. It would complement his worldview so perfectly.
Other possibilities would include the C-SPAN Fun Channel, the July 4th Missile Roll on the White House lawn, Supreme Court Nixon-Mask Day (all Nixon-for-a-day justices chant, ''We could declare the death penalty unconstitutional, BUT THAT WOULD BE WRONG!''), and the Presidential Cabinet Polar Bear Swim (on Groundhog Day). This event (and the Missile Roll) would be carried live on C-SPAN's Fun Channel.
These are only ideas to get you started. Here's one even Fox News might dig. I call it the Department of Fun's Extreme New Orleans Makeover (TV coverage on ABC, naturally). The DOF would bring all the troops home from Iraq for one month and divert that month's war chest (my sources put that figure at exactly $28.7 zillion) to paint, fix up, and generally renovate the Crescent City. This would give us a chance to see how the Iraqis do on their own (and without press coverage). More importantly, at the end of 30 days no American boys and girls would have died in the desert and New Orleans would be spiffy again. That would cheer up not just Americans, but the whole world. I suppose at the end of that month, someone would have to ring the recess-over bell and the killing would start again, but we'd always have New Orleans: a monument to peace, teamwork, and the Department of Fun.
Also, the DOF could use those 30 days to mandate one other crucial change: All United States generals will now appear at press conferences dressed in spangly tights and Tinker Bell wings.
What could be cheerier than that?
Now it's your turn: Nominate your own candidate for the Department of Fun below.