“A Holiday Greeting” – Jon Fleischman’s Satirical Masterpiece Revisited.




[Hopefully, the beginning of a series of reviews of the OC’s surprising stable of underrated comic filmmakers.]

Comic legend Jon Fleischman gets the last laugh again.

Last month as I’ve mentioned, I finally got to meet the vastly underappreciated performance artist Jon Fleischman, Orange County’s answer to Stephen Colbert and Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat/Bruno) at a Costa Mesa City Council meeting.  Not breaking character the entire night, he pouted to me how much he detests the Orange Juice Blog and Art Pedroza because we occasionally post this photo of him (to the right) – which just happens to be an actual disguise he occasionally uses when playing his Repuglican toady character.

For those of you who may not be in on the joke, Fleischman plays a character also known as “Jon Fleischman,” who is the ultimate obsequious Repuglican political hack.  Part of Jon’s shtick is a “blog” he runs named the “Flash Report,” a wickedly clever local parody of Matt Drudge.  The amazing fact that so many Orange County GOP politicians haven’t caught on to his act yet, taking him at face value and playing right into his game, is a testament to his supreme craftsmanship.

That particular night he made a great show of being there to discipline Councilmember Wendy Leece for her lack of total adherence to the Baugh Doctrine, sitting in the front of the audience directly facing Wendy, sporadically filming her, and conspicuously giving her the “Costa Mesa stink-eye,” sometimes with his pig nose on, sometimes off.  It was hysterical watching Wendy – who obviously isn’t familiar with Jon’s performance art – squirm uncomfortably in her seat for the whole meeting, trying to avoid his stubborn gaze.  And whenever there was a break Jon would run out to the front steps of the building to make giggly cell phone calls (ostensibly to some GOP superior) reporting on Wendy’s behavior or his altercations with Katrina Foley.

Well, with the holidays coming up, and the memory of meeting Fleischman fresh in my mind, I decided to take another look at his notorious gem “A Holiday Greeting,” which famously blew Linda Ackerman’s carpetbagging assembly candidacy out of the water earlier this year.  I have to say it really holds up well, and seems even more hilarious and well-constructed than ever.  Watch this once (it’s only six minutes) pretending you don’t know it’s satire:

It is only upon repeated viewings that you really grasp the pure brilliance of Fleischman’s portrayal of uber-hack “Jon Fleischman,” his utter disappearance into the character.  Take the way he manically narrates every little movement he makes in his breathless anticipation to visit the object of his worship, the crooked Senate Minority leader Dick Ackerman.  Or how he recklessly drives one-handed while filming himself with the other hand, all the while fretting that pretty soon the “nanny state” won’t let him do that any more.  And what a bold but truthful touch that there isn’t a cameraman with him – of course a character like this would have no friend willing to accompany him on such a goofy outing!

"This is not my beautiful wife..."

Then there are his constant worshipful remarks which would be stomach-turning if you weren’t aware of the savage irony intended.  Repeated hushed references to the Ackermans’ “secret gated community” which only an insider like “Jon Fleischman” gets to know about.  Only “the privileged few get to live” here, “deep in Republican territory.”  He pronounces with mock reverence,  “I guess you do all right in the legislature,” as he scans his camera across the Senator’s mansion.  Indeed.  This constant cutting undercurrent of class warfare and resentment places Fleischman solidly within the working-class rebel tradition stretching from Charlie Chaplin to Michael Moore.

When the unsuspecting Senator opens his door, with his right eyebrow arched in that urbane way of his, having no idea how badly he is being punked, Fleischman moves in for the kill.  (And SUCH a deserving target – the “Judas of the Fairgrounds” who illegally lobbied for the theft of our County’s crown jewels!)  There is now no way the Ackermans can pretend they don’t live in a “secret gated community” in Irvine, and as poor Dick innocently invites the trickster inside to film a silly “greeting” by his Christmas tree, Fleischman can’t restrain himself from joking about Dick’s “beautiful wife.”  (Perhaps the first time his humor veers a little toward the overly cruel.)

Finally, in case you’re wondering why you are viewing this gem not on YouTube but on “RuTube.”  Once Senator Ackerman realized how he had been had by Fleischman, and his wife’s chances at carpetbagging her way into a new Assembly seat in the North County possibly sunk by this prank, he pulled strings to have the clip removed from YouTube.  But NOT BEFORE Fleischman, with the assistance of allies from the Friends For Fullerton blog, managed to get it onto the Russian equivalent.  Hence the hilarious title of this clip, “Ackermans Babushka Har Har LOL Irvine,” where Fleischman really finally lets his rowdy sense of humor show.

This critic says, Bravo, Jon, More! More!  Two thumbs up!

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.