Remembering John McCain and the One Night When He Sang Streisand

Remembering John McCain and the One Night When He Sang Streisand August 27, 2018

When I was about 12 or 13 years old, my grandparents gave me a birthday present that completely changed my life.

It was a 5 inch black-and-white TV.

As I’ve told you before, I was raised in a repressed, somewhat fundamentalist, homeschooling  Southern Baptist household, in which I wasn’t allowed to watch movies filmed after 1968, or watch TV shows other than major-league baseball or Wall Street Week with Louis Rukeyser.

As generally happens when you completely deny your children something that most of their peers have access to, I found many ways around all the rules. But the hope that welled up inside each time I clicked on that miniature set was nothing short of life-giving. As I honed in on the UHF frequencies that would deliver the best of syndicated entertainment, it seemed like I discovered something new every day. Finally, I was no longer the only person in my circle of friends that had never experienced the comic gold to be mined in shows like Friends, Seinfeld, or The Simpsons. Often, I would feign a self-imposed bedtime just as the local news ended, instead falling prostrate under a billowing blanket to practice my daily liturgy of irony and meta humor along with The Late Show with David Letterman.

But on Saturday nights I began observing a ritual that I would keep for years. Saturday Night Live was the funniest, edgiest program you could find on broadcast TV in those days, and I hardly ever missed it.

I don’t remember the day or the year, but the SNL celebrity host was Senator John McCain, who I’m sure you’ve heard passed away on Saturday at the age of 81. McCain was, to put it mildly, not particularly skilled as a performer, but just this once he struck comedic gold in an unforgettable musical sketch aimed at a political rival of sorts.

Though my personal convictions as a pacifist and somewhat apathetic independent have led me to different political positions on many issues, I’ve continued to respect John McCain for his courage, candor, and the personal integrity that emboldened him to diverge from his own party when his conscience compelled him. Most recently, the fortitude required for McCain, stricken with cancer, to stand up against bully Donald Trump and the morally-bankrupt administration was nothing short of heroic. Many evangelicals, especially those who persist in aligning with the so-called “religious right,” could learn a thing or two from this example.

But today, let’s also celebrate the Maverick for the luscious, peated baritone he displayed live from New York that one Saturday night. Rest in peace, Senator.

O God, whose mercies cannot be numbered: Accept our prayers on behalf of thy servant John, and grant him an entrance into the land of light and joy, in the fellowship of thy saints; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.


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