By Josh Lederman - 11/26/11 02:58 PM EST
The “fake Elizabeth Warren” has a challenge for the real Elizabeth Warren: Embrace campaign finance reform.
What started as a low-budget endeavor by a group of comedians to parody a campaign video has spread across the Internet and become the comic, exaggerated embodiment of everything liberals love and conservatives detest about this high-flying Senate candidate.
Now, its creators are using their newfound platform to goad Warren’s campaign into prioritizing a political issue they care about.
There was also no way to predict that Warren’s combative, no-nonsense approach to questioning Wall Street excesses — the basis of Erdman’s caricature — would lead to a proxy war between Republicans and the Occupy Wall Street movement and garner national attention.
Warren has attracted conservative ire ever since she championed a get-tough approach to financial regulation while working for President Obama. In the two months since she launched her Senate campaign, Warren has amassed thousands of volunteers, soared past her primary opponents in the polls and raised millions of dollars.
She has also inspired conservative groups to spend hundreds of thousands more attacking her as a class warrior bent on punishing the wealthy instead of promoting job growth.
“What struck me is I lived in Chicago before I came out here, when Obama was our senator,” recalled Erdman, a former Second City comedian. “It felt like a lot of similar feelings about people getting excited about a new person coming in. I was able to relate to it.”
After Geller saw how quickly people were falling for Warren’s message, he spotted an opportunity to have some laughs. He enlisted Erdman and rounded up a short, blonde wig with smart-looking glasses, and the two started improvising based on Warren campaign videos already circulating.
“We just kept playing those over and over, and trying to get the details just right,” Erdman said.
Their first video, which has attracted more than 150,000 views on YouTube, was shot in a single morning in Erdman’s apartment and mirrors Warren’s campaign announcement video with precise detail. It intersperses soft, white title screens with a serious-looking Warren deadpanning to the camera in front of a tree-filed window.
“We need to concentrate on education, construction and renewable energy, but we also need a focus on retribution” the fake Warren says without a hint of irony, calling for all Americans to be granted “revenge vouchers.”
The joke plays on the favorite Republican attack line against the consumer protection advocate: that she blames the wealthy for the nation’s economic troubles to score populist points.
“I want to apologize to Sen. Scott Brown, and I promise to replace the pair of pants he sh—when he found out he might have to run against me,” she says the parody.
“Seriously, though, I do want to congratulate Sen. Brown for starting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — Oh wait, that was me,” the fake Warren says, her voice dripping with arrogance as she cracks open a beer.
Since Geller released the video in October, it has spread virally through the blogosphere, even inciting one blogger to incorrectly report that Massachusetts Republicans put out the video as a smear. Although poking fun at the candidate and laced with profanities, Erdman’s impersonation comes with a clear, doting wink in Warren’s direction.
“I was blown away by the attention the first video got, and the thought crossed my mind: What if we could use the parody to raise an important issue,” Geller told The Hill.
The fake Warren asks viewers in the latest video to reach out by phone, email and social media to ask the campaign to make campaign finance reform a prominent issue.
“I’m going to win this race either way, but wouldn’t it be noble to lose to me in a fair fight, Sen. Brown?” she asks.
But while Democrats have tagged Brown with the label of “Wall Street’s favorite senator,” Warren too has taken money from the financial sector. Big-dollar PACs that support Democratic candidates are dutifully raising funds on Warren’s behalf.
Warren’s spokesman did not respond to a message asking whether the campaign enjoyed the videos and would take up Geller and Erdman’s baton on campaign finance. But Erdman said the videos are less about a grand political gesture and more about Warren’s infectious allure.
“It’s easier to do satire about someone you disagree with,” the actress said. “There’s a fun challenge to do satire about someone you like.”