Inside the Soap Box

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In the second episode, which airs this week, Martel pits Texas governor George W. Bush against Florida governor Jeb Bush in a battle titled "Death Penalty 2000": Which brother has executed more prisoners during his tenure in office? Martel first travels to Florida, taunting Jeb at a press conference: "George is kicking your ass! Are you jealous?" It's no contest: George is the clear winner by some 115 executions--prompting Martel to go to Huntsville, Texas, with a cheerleading squad, a body-painted drunk waving a giant Styrofoam finger, and "a big-assed Texas-sized scoreboard" in tow: George 117, Jeb 2. "Here in Texas, every George W. victory gets its own monument," Martel says, cutting to a sprawling, well-appointed cemetery strewn with white, unmarked crosses. "These Texas fans have taught me something about team spirit."

Each segment is brutally funny--if, that is, you can manage to eke out a laugh in between pangs of shame. The Awful Truth offers satire at its most pointed and prescient: It's the guilt-free guilt trip, humiliation as humor. And some of it comes from a most personal place: Moore was vehement about doing a gun-control segment after a 6-year-old Michigan girl, Kayla Rolland, was gunned down by a classmate last March. Moore has a relative whose daughter attended the same school as Kayla (she was across the hall when the shooting occurred). But, more to the point, Kayla was killed on her way to computer class--and Moore and his wife had bought the computers for the school.

"If you knew me personally, I'm not out to just fuck with people," Moore says. "I'm really a very..." He pauses, then chuckles. "I know this is gonna sound like, 'Oh, right, fuck you,' but I'm serious. If you knew me, I'm actually quite introverted. We have a party tonight for the show, and I don't wanna go. My wife says, 'Why don't we ever go out dancing?' Oh, God, no. I just wanna stay home in the La-Z-Boy. I wasn't cut out to do this. Remember, this whole thing started when I was 35 years old. Roger & Me happened when I just couldn't take it anymore, and nobody else was doing anything about it. My town was dying, and I finally said, 'Fuck it. I don't care if I don't know how to make a film, I'm just gonna make one.' That's just what runs me, I guess. I dunno."

It may not sound like much of a manifesto, but it's the truth.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky