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This Week in Schadenfreude: An Unwanted Erection

Readers who have followed Saturday Night Live through its entire run will recall Gilda Radner's Emily Litella character. For those who don't know the bit, however, Litella was a hard-of-hearing old lady who would deliver impassioned op-ed pieces on "Weekend Update" expressing her outrage over the issues of the day. The problem was that she had invariably misunderstood the issue, such that she delivered harangues on such subjects as violins on television, making Puerto Rico a steak, air fags in cars, endangered feces and busting schoolchildren. Once she had run out of steam, she would be informed as to the actual issue in question (e.g., violence on television, making Puerto Rico a state, air bags in cars, endangered species and busing schoolchildren) and she would withdraw the op-ed.

One of the best-loved Litella appearances started thusly:

What's all this fuss I've been hearing about the 1976 presidential erection? Now, I know they erected a monument for Mr. Lincoln and President Washington, but that's because they're DEAD! Hopefully, the 1976 President won't be DEAD! So he won't NEED an erection! If Americans are going to spend money to erect anything, why don't we tear down those nasty slums and erect luxury high rises for poor people and senior citizens! Not for presidents who can afford to pay for their OWN erections!

When legendary SNL writer Alan Zweibel originally wrote this piece, it was about a different sort of presidential erection, but the censors wouldn't allow that, even at 11:30 p.m., so they changed it to this. As per usual, when Litella was advised that the issue in question was the 1976 presidential election, she said: "Oh, that's very different. Never mind!"

We could not help but be reminded of this nearly 50-year-old comedy bit when we read about the latest appearance on Hannity by Georgia U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker (R). The host tossed the would-be senator a softball question about how he'd advance the Republican agenda, and this was the reply:

First of all, this election is more than Herschel Walker. This erection is about the people. And I said this is we the people, not we the government. That's what the left want to do is make it the government...

Walker was accompanied by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) during that appearance; they were clearly there to keep him from getting into trouble. But it didn't work, and since Walker made his gaffe just hours before Thanksgiving, Twitter users had all kinds of time to toss off bon mots, such that #erection was trending most of the day on Thursday. Here are the 10 best lines we saw:

  1. Herschel needs a dose of Lie-agra in order to deal with his electile dysfunction.
  2. Well, he is the chosen candidate of America's leading erection denier.
  3. I'm really looking forward to the 'Herschel Walker Loses Erection' headline.
  4. Herschel is flaccid at the polls, and he now is a schlong-shot at best.
  5. Erections have consequences.
  6. The record of abortion receipts and previously unacknowledged children makes it clear: Herschel Walker has never lost an erection.
  7. Unlucky for Walker, because Raphael Warnock is pretty stiff competition.
  8. How long until Herschel Walker is screaming his erection is rigged?
  9. "This erection is about the people." But the subsequent abortion is all about Herschel.
  10. Lindsey Graham: "I'm voting for Herschel's erection."

Obviously, people misspeak all the time. And swaps of "r" and "l" are so common that speech therapists actually have special tongue twisters to help people with that particular impediment (e.g., "reliability is being learned by Riley," "reading alone allows you to really relax," and "low rent allows regular lending"). Still, it's pretty funny that a guy with zipper problems would make this particular mistake. And since he's run a sleazy campaign, and has apparently led a fairly sleazy life, we think it's OK to experience a little schadenfreude when he has such an amusing tongue slip. (Z)

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