SAN FRANCISCO — Will Durst has been making people laugh with his political satire for over 40 years. The San Francisco resident has performed in front of multiples Presidents, done stand-up on “Letterman” and traveled the country with his witty jokes. The 65-year-old is at The Marsh Cafe in San Francisco tonight to perform his one man show “Durst Case Scenario,” which is an 80-minute show featuring material about President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and former White House staffer Anthony Scaramucci.
Durst talked to CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith about political satire in the Trump era, his new one man show and the most memorable moments of his comedy career.
DJ Sixsmith: How did you get your start in comedy?
Will Durst: It was in college. I always wanted to be a comic. My mom told me that when I was seven or eight years old, I asked her where I could go to school to become a stand-up comedian. I went to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and it was hard to find showcases when I first started. Everything was political when I started in 1974. It was all about the war in Vietnam. My Dad read three newspapers a day, my step-dad read three newspapers a day, so I just grew up thinking everyone did. I didn’t have a lot of relationships, so I couldn’t talk about that and instead I talked about politics. I moved to San Francisco and I got very lucky that I caught the crest of the comedy wave. It was like old rock and rollers who wanted to sit down and hear the lyrics. I always had that niche of politics. I’m a third generation factory rat, so I use that as my lens and I translate what’s going on through that lens.
DS: You’ve performed your stand-up routine in front of President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton. Which Presidential performance stands out the most?
WD: I’ve performed in front of three elected presidents, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Al Gore. George H.W. Bush was great. I did one of his Points of Light benefits and I had a great time. His son was running for President at the time, so they told me no Bush material. I did my routine and then George W. Bush came up and wanted to know what I would’ve said if he wasn’t in the room. I yelled from the back no you wouldn’t! I got the biggest laugh of the night. Also, I used to do a Dick Cheney joke and Bill Clinton put his arm around me and told me why he thought it was so funny.
DS: How does your political satire in the Trump era compare to past presidencies?
WD: It’s a double-edged sword. Trump is a gift from comedy heaven, but how do you parody a parody? It’s a travesty of a mockery of a sham. President Trump is like saying Pope Charlie Sheen or something. It’s hard to keep up. I’m not like Jon Stewart or any of those guys who do jokes every night and have a staff of 14 writers. I have to hone my jokes myself. I can’t afford writers. I had 10 great minutes on Anthony Scaramucci and it’s like medieval history because it feels so far in the past. It’s clanking around in mesh armor right now. Trump is keeping me on my toes.
DS: You are performing at The Marsh Cafe in San Francisco tonight. Where are your favorite places to perform in the Bay Area?
WD: I’m trying to do little theaters now. I always work a club once a year, I do the Punch Line San Francisco and Cobb’s. I do a little one man show now. I’m doing a show called Durst Case Scenario and it’s all about Trump and I do it every Tuesday at a theatre in the Mission District called The Marsh. I’ve been working there since 2012. I take the show out on the road on weekends.
DS: How did Durst Case Scenario come together and what can people expect tonight in San Francisco?
WD: I’ve been working the comedy clubs for a long time. When you do a comedy club and you’re a headliner and it’s a three act show, you always have to follow the other guys. They can turn a room by doing more salacious material. It was hard to do my political wit after that. I decided to do my show and it allows me to write an 80 minute show. I can control every aspect from the music, when they audiences come in and what the audience sees before and after the show. I really like theaters because the people are not drinking and smoking. They come to see me on purpose and they know they’re going to get political stuff. It’s a way to cherry pick your audience.