An Ambien Thunderdome

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If the first round of Democratic Party debates were distilled into five words or less, it would be “pass the No-Doz please.” Vini, vici, dormeo. They came, they saw, they slept. Ambien Thunderdome: “20 go in, 6 remain awake.”

There were two seperate two-hour debates between the twenty frontrunners for the Democratic nomination for president Four of their twenty-four major candidates weren’t included, and those lucky innocents would have to be considered the big winners.

Also winningish were Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, Kamala Harris, Donald Trump, maybe Elizabeth Warren, but definitely the entire viewing public that had better things to do than watch potential opponents to the current occupant of the Oval Office argue over who dislikes him more.

24 candidates. Literally, dozens of Democrats. Which sounds like a Sondheim song. “Dozens of Democrats, all in a row. Most of them chasing some guy they call Joe.”

The two ways to qualify for the Miami debates were 65,000 unique donors or 1 percent support in three sanctioned polls. 1 percent?! That’s only 1 percent more than you or I currently sport. And with such crowded panels, the goal was simple: find some way, any way, to stand out from the pack. Meaning that belligerent, argumentative and contentious ruled the day. Luckily enough, the Democrats’ default state.

A couple candidates strove to be noticed visually. Senator Warren wore purple and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, red. Governor Jay Inslee wore a green tie because he’s the environmental candidate. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang didn’t wear a tie because he’s cool. Congressman Eric Swalwell wore an orange ribbon to honor victims of Parkland. And New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio was tall.

Others tried to stand out by their statements. Marianne Williamson announced her readiness to fight the 45th president with the Power of Love. It was a performance that attracted numerous donors anxious to keep her in the race. Many are suspected to be Republicans. Or Russians. Or both.

Congressman Beto O’Rourke, Senator Cory Booker and former HUD Secretary Julian Castro spoke Spanish in varying degrees of fluency. Castro also defended a transgender woman’s right to have an abortion. Warren hinted at more plans than there are blueprints to the Pentagon. And MSNBC was confused by the concept of microphones.

Senator Kamala Harris jumped on former Vice President Joe Biden so hard she runs the risk of having an aggressive prosecutor charge her with elder abuse. Then Vermont curmudgeon Bernie Sanders piled onto Biden in a grisly example of Grey on Grey crime.

There was shouting, finger-pointing, accusations, elbows, head butts and a couple kicks to the groin but not a single authentic moment over two nights. Most of the time was spent ignoring moderators’ questions and responding with soggy snippets from canned stump speeches. The only thing everybody agreed on was Donald Trump needs to be a one-term president. Although, its hard to imagine any of these lightweights helping accomplish that task.

The Democratic National Committee is teaming with CNN for the next round of debates at the end of July in Detroit, and 21 candidates are nearing qualification standards. So tie-breakers might need to be employed to get down to two nights of ten each. The least they could do is make the cut-down interesting. A competitive round-robin of Indian wrestling or axe-throwing might raise ratings.

Copyright 2019, Will Durst, distributed by the Cagle Cartoons Inc. syndicate.

Will Durst is an award-winning, nationally acclaimed columnist, comic and former sod farmer in New Berlin, Wisconsin. For a calendar of personal appearances, including his new one-man show, “Durst Case Scenario,” please visit

Comedy For People Who Read Or Know Someone Who Does

As the sacred cows set themselves up for slaughter each night at six, America cries out for a man with the aim, strength and style to swat the partisan political piñatas upside their heads. Will Durst is that man. Sweeping both sides of the aisle with a quiver full of barbs sharpened by a keen wit and dipped into the same ink as the day's headlines, Durst transcends political ties, performing at events featuring Vice President Al Gore and former President George H.W. Bush, also speaking at the Governors Conference and the Mayors Convention cementing his claim as the nation's ultimate equal opportunity offender. Outraged and outrageous, Durst may mock and scoff and taunt, but he does it with taste.

A Midwestern baby boomer with a media-induced identity crisis, Durst has been called "a modern day Will Rogers" by The L.A. Times while the S. F. Chronicle hails him as "heir apparent to Mort Sahl and Dick Gregory." The Chicago Tribune argues he's a "hysterical hybrid of Hunter Thompson and Charles Osgood," although The Washington Post portrays him as "the dark Prince of doubt." All agree Durst is America's premier political comic.

As American as a bottomless cup of coffee, this former Milwaukeean is cherished by critics and audiences alike for the common sense he brings to his surgical skewering of the hype and hypocrisies engulfing us on a daily basis. Busier than a blind squirrel neck deep in an almond sorting warehouse, Durst writes a weekly column, was a contributing editor to both National Lampoon and George magazines and continues to pen frequent contributions to various periodicals such as The New York Times and his hometown San Francisco Chronicle.

This five-time Emmy nominee and host/co-producer of the ongoing award winning PBS series "Livelyhood" is also a regular commentator on NPR and CNN, and has appeared on every comedy show featuring a brick wall including Letterman, Comedy Central, HBO and Showtime, receiving 7 consecutive nominations for the American Comedy Awards Stand Up of the Year. Hobbies include the never-ending search for the perfect cheeseburger, while his heroes remain the same from when he was twelve: Thomas Jefferson and Bugs Bunny.

Look for Will's new book "The All American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing" at bookstores and

Will Durst's performances and columns are made possible by the First Amendment.