Is Kristin Chenoweth a covert conservative? Or is she what used to be called, back in the Cold War days, a “useful idiot?”
In terms of the former, I kind of doubt it. Best known for her roles in “Wicked” and “Glee,” the Broadway regular is a liberal Christian who openly criticizes That Kind of Christian — you know, the ones who believe the Bible still means something.
She’s a former girlfriend of liberal Hollywood scribe Aaron Sorkin, best known for “The West Wing,” “A Few Good Men,” “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” and “The Newsroom.” (If none of this is jogging your memory, you might remember “The Newsroom” for that one infamous, facile clip your liberal friends never got tired of sharing where Jeff Daniels’ character talks about how “America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.”)
She’s a supporter of liberal candidates — including, unsurprisingly, Joe Biden.
A “useful idiot” of the right? Probably not in the accepted definition of the term, although she might manage to technically fit the bill.
Idiot may be a bit harsh, but one wouldn’t accuse her of occupying terrain on the opposite side of the battlefield, either. Useful? Well, this week, she’s certainly managed to be.
Chenoweth was one of a slate of celebrities taking part in a virtual concert fundraiser this past weekend for Biden’s campaign. The event was called “Celebration for Change: 100 Days to Go,” although a more apt title might have been “Night of a Thousand Stars Your Parents Know and Love.”
I suppose this is the safe way to fundraise, but I’m not particularly young and the only performer on the docket who’s made a decent, relevant album in the past decade was Andra Day.
Barbra Streisand received top billing, because of course she did. If you’re the kind of millennial who doesn’t mind sonic mediocrity and just realized they have an American Eagle gift certificate from a decade or two ago you totally forgot to spend, Dave Matthews and Sara Bareilles were there.
John Legend has never made a fantastic album, but he definitely hasn’t made anything resembling acceptable in almost 15 years — and to be honest, I’d be more interested to see if his wife, Chrissy Teigen, took the stage and launched into a profane rant. (She didn’t, alas.)
To be honest, I don’t even like Kristin Chenoweth’s singing and she was definitely among the most interesting performers there. Oh, and to punctuate this whole hot mess of indifference with a shrug emoji, it was hosted by Jay Leno, according to Billboard.
And there were politicians, too; Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, along with former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg were all in attendance.
Then there was Hollywood star power. Tituss Burgess of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” made an appearance, as did Julianne Moore, Andy Cohen, Rob Reiner, Jane Krakowski and Rosie Perez.
Point is, there were plenty of big names at the Joe Biden fundraiser from all walks of stardom. But one was conspicuously absent: Joe Biden.
And that’s where Chenoweth’s useful idiocy comes in. Speaking of mediocrity, one of the most popular songs from “Wicked” is, well, “Popular.” If you’re not familiar with the play, it’s a retelling of “The Wizard of Oz” from the point of view of Glinda, the Wicked Witch of the West, in which she really wasn’t that bad.
It was the one of the first of these sweeping retellings of a cultural touchstone in which the villain is turned into a tragic hero. “Wicked” may be junk, but it opened the door for my work-in-progress musical “Live Softly,” a retelling of “Die Hard” in which Hans Gruber is actually a sensitive, Robin Hood-like figure who merely wants to take money from from the evil Nakatomi Corporation and give it to the impoverished people of East Germany. I’m still working on the lyrics to the showstopper, “Someday They’ll Make a Great Christmas Movie About This.”
Anyhow, Chenoweth (or someone with songwriting chops) reworked the lyrics to “Popular” to make it about Biden — but the new version inadvertently drew attention to the fact that the candidate she was stumping for has to be dragged out of his basement like he’s Punxsutawney Phil and the campaign is like a certain Bill Murray movie where every day is Feb. 2.
🎶”Don’t be hidin’ out! Bring Joe Biden out.”🎵
During a Hollywood fundraiser Biden failed to show up for, Kristin Chenoweth sang a plea to his handlers to let him out of the basement. pic.twitter.com/D2eNCCLRvO
— Trump War Room – Text TRUMP to 88022 (@TrumpWarRoom) July 27, 2020
“Don’t be hidin’ out / Bring Joe Biden out!” Apparently the campaign was too busy vetting vice presidential candidates to vet the lyrics to Chenoweth’s contribution on Sunday.
Here’s the full version, which was supposed to be a shot at Trump but, well, wasn’t.
Kristin Chenoweth preforming another original song — I think it is called Popular — with some biting lyrics. pic.twitter.com/FWS61poJbZ
— Ted Johnson (@tedstew) July 27, 2020
“I’ll tell you what ties to wear / Maybe dye your hair / Everything that really counts to be popular,” Chenoweth sang, presumably a shot at the president’s hair and his choice in ties.
“You see I’m adorable / I’m deplorable / Well Joe, you can be that too / Be like me and let’s turn all of those red states blue,” she continued.
“True, I hear folks with blue collars trust you to increase their dollars / As you’ve always done on their behalf,” Chenoweth sang. “But think of certain current heads of state who think they’re great communicators / Did they have brains, heart or courage? Don’t make me laugh, they’re just popular.”
Just so we’re clear, this was supposed make Biden look good. I know you might be confused.
So you had Kristin Chenoweth being arch in her delivery and failing. To make things worse, I hear Dave Matthews was actually serious.
Biden didn’t give the keynote speech at the event, of course. That fell to Barbra Streisand.
“Donald Trump has failed us. And we cannot survive four more years of his incompetence. I’m sad and embarrassed by his lack of humanity,” Streisand said, according to the U.K. Daily Mail.
“But Joe Biden understands the anguish we’re feeling right now. He will listen to people rather than greeting them with guns. All they want is justice. It’s as simple as that.”
Right. See if he remembers what they say two minutes later.
That’s the invariable problem with Biden. You can turn out Barbra Streisand, and Kristin Chenoweth and the whole celebrity retinue.
Eventually, if Biden is to remain, well, popular, he eventually has to emerge from his basement.
An idiot? Kristin Chenoweth certainly makes more money singing than I do criticizing her, so I suppose there’s that. Useful? Without a doubt.
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