Chris Christie’s "bridgegate" affair has already generated lots of jokes. But none may sting the governor of New Jersey as much as a skit on the most recent “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” that lampooned the subject with a parody of a Bruce Springsteen song.
Why might it hurt? Because Governor Christie loves Mr. Springsteen’s music. He has been to more than 130 Springsteen shows. He knows all the Boss hits by heart. He dances. He famously cried after finally getting a hug from Springsteen after a show.
And Springsteen himself appeared on Mr. Fallon’s stage to sing the “Stuck in Jerseyland” song. Triple ouch.
That’s right. The skit opened with comedian Fallon, dressed in Bruce-like jeans and a sleeveless denim shirt, carrying an acoustic guitar. He played the familiar opening notes to “Born to Run.” But the words were different.
“In the day we sweated out on the streets stuck in traffic on the GWB,” fake Springsteen sang. “They shut down the tollbooths of glory ’cuz we didn’t endorse Christie.”
And so on. You get the idea. Then about a minute or so in, the real Springsteen comes walking out of the dark at the back of the stage, dressed in identical clothing. (Did we mention Springsteen has a new album out this week, coin-ki-dinkally? Surely that had nothing to do with this politically charged appearance, since Springsteen is a well-known opponent of the corporate machine.)
Bruce began with a bipartisan nod.
“C’mon and let me in/I wanna be your friend/there’ll be no partisan divisions,” he sang.
But no, the target here was just irresistible. Springsteen rocked into the chorus, singing, “I really gotta take a leak/but I’m stuck in Gov. Chris Christie’s Fort Lee New Jersey traffic jam!”
OK, as we said, this might actually offend Christie. He is quintessentially a Jersey boy, after all. He was born in Newark, went to the University of Delaware (which is pretty Jersey-oriented since Delaware is the Garden State’s kid brother), and has worked as a New Jersey lawyer and politician his whole adult life.
Springsteen is New Jersey’s most famous product, excepting perhaps traffic. He is such an icon of his generation that Millennials now generally don’t like him because he’s emblematic of older folks.
After years of rejection, Christie finally met Springsteen when the rocker agreed to participate in charity concerts to raise money for victims of superstorm Sandy. Now the estrangement may rise again.
But the biggest trouble sign here may just be the comedy. As we’ve written before, one of Christie’s biggest obstacles to overcoming the political effects of the Fort Lee scandal is that it’s funny. Take traffic jams, tollbooths, Fort Lee, and put them together, and you have an endless array of material for Fallon, Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show," "Saturday Night Live," and so forth. The New York media machine is just over the George Washington Bridge, after all, and it’s always desperate for new comedic material.
Right now, the public isn’t really interested in bridgegate, per se. That’s seen in a recent Pew poll that shows voters followed it less, as a news item, than the winter weather that swept the nation last week. As a result, it hasn’t changed opinions about the New Jersey governor that much.
But if David Letterman, Jay Leno, et al., make it a running gag? That could effectively prolong the story and publicize it, making it more difficult for Christie’s favorability ratings to escape its effects.
[Editor's note: The original version of this story misconstrued the audience's reaction during the Jimmy Fallon show.]