With a guy like Al Franken in the U.S. Senate, or Jon Stewart being the most trusted newsman in the nation, it may not be as far-fetched anymore for a comedian to take to politics.
And that's just what Pete Peterson of Boise aims to do. "Politics and comedy are not mutually exclusive," Peterson said.
Peterson ended a four year dry spell a few months ago, returning to the Torch II, a Boise bikini bar and setting up shop at various downtown and North End coffee shops and corner stores to plot out his campaign strategy. Which amounts to courting high turnout for the 2010 GOP Gubernatorial Primary and not spending a lot of money doing it.
We went up the hill to the Torch II out of curiosity this afternoon and met with Peterson, who was staging a 12-hour campaign launch party. We were a bit disappointed with the show—must have been during a shift change. But intrepid Spokesman-Review reporter Betsy Russell, who showed up at the beginning of the party, got a shot of Peterson with one of the girls, Tawni, to be specific.
Russell did some real reporting on Peterson last week as well, discovering past arrests and some history of mental illness.
But we did not find Peterson to be crazy, just a bit hard to pin down. But look at his competition. Also running for governor are Rex Rammell, a veterinarian who was radicalized when his domestic elk herd escaped from its pens and had to be exterminated by the state, an organic strawberry farmer who changed his name to Pro-Life, and Ada County Commissioner Sharon Ullman, whom we are not totally sure how to describe in a one-liner. We should ask Pete for a good one-liner.
Peterson has been performing standup on stage since his retirement in 2006, including three trips to London and the United Kingdom, he says, where he even performed at the London Comedy Store. He used to do standup at the Funny Bone in Boise as well, he said.
Peterson traces his involvement in politics back to a 1994 People Magazine article asserting that Larry Echohawk, now head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, was poised to become the first Native American governor. Peterson said he was pissed off that People Magazine would declare a winner in the Idaho race like that, so he signed up to work for Phil Batt, who ended up winning. Peterson rode the Idaho GOP campaign bus, which in past elections has traveled the state with a slate of Republican candidates.
"The Democrats, they don't have a bus, they have a Volkswagon Bug and there's room for three more people on it," Peterson quips.
But then, as Peterson tells it, Batt double crossed him and did not allow him to appear on stage at the inauguration. Now Peterson says it's Gov. C. L. "Butch" Otter who's crossed him, appearing "disconnected" and "arrogant" as Peterson puts it.
A manager at the Torch II made it clear that the bar was not endorsing anyone in the governor's race and that Peterson was just another customer. But maybe if he becomes governor, he'll let the ladies take their bathing suits off. If they want to.