The last time Will Durst counted, he'd had 108 jobs in his 53 years. "I've been a bartender," he says over the phone from San Francisco. "A busboy. A truck driver. A deejay, of course. Clerk in a porno bookstore for a day. Oyster shucker for a day. Wrote a Christmas play for Gimbels. Had a car break down at the Grand Canyon so was a dishwasher at Bright Angel Lodge for two weeks. That was great. The only thing I never did was cab driver."
For more than 30 years Durst has also been a political commentator/satirist/columnist on television, radio, in print and out in cyberspace. Now, this summer, William Tell Bruce John Henry Durst, Jr. has a new occupation: star of a one-man Off-Broadway show, The All-American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing.
"I'm a third-generation blue-collar factory rat from Milwaukee," he says over that phone from SF, some weeks before heading east for the gig here at New World Stages. "My people all worked making tractors for Allis-Chalmers. I'm kind of a moderate, middle-of-the-road guy. Bush, Reagan and Clinton kept moving the center to the right. Now I'm a Commie pinko yellow rat bastard. How'd that happen?
"Bush? He was The Decider. Now he's The Commuter. Bush is pure gold. The worse it is for the world, the better it is for us in this business. He said 30 months was excessive for Libby. The rest of us are in the middle of a 90-month sentence. Supreme Court? I've said that the most important man in America today is John Paul Stevens's doctor." You know, Mr. Durst, Justice Stevens hasn't been all that great either.
"It's all comparative."
Durst has had a couple of Op-Ed pieces in The New York Times and does a regular weekly column for WorkingForChange.com that often gets picked up by small-town papers he never hears about "until I get scathing e-mail letters" from Podunk, USA. The columns "either flow out in 20 minutes or you agonize over them for four hours — you know how it is."
He has, he says proudly, been fired twice by the San Francisco Examiner, three times by PBS. "I clawed my way to the middle." In his performance here he may come on carrying that day's newspaper, à la Mort Sahl, "but I'm not going to be wearing a red V-necked sweater." His wife, actress-comic Debi Durst, "is much funnier than I am." They have no kids. "We're kids."
Mr. Durst, do you think this country could have a worse president than the one we've got?
Silence. Then, all the way from San Francisco, hysterical laughter.