This is one of the oddest, marginal entries in the YDD canon. Jonathon ‘the Impaler’ Sharkey, born John Albert Sharkey, is one of those oddball eccentrics who pop up from time to time, half-seriously claiming supernatural powers (and a blood-drinking habit) and serving as funny fillers on talk shows, vaguely publicising whatever it is they’re doing. In Sharkey’s case, running for President of the US in 2012 on behalf of his own Pagan Vampire Party (in previous races, he’s been a Republican). He’s legally changed his name to Jonathon Tepes Sharkey and sometimes claims descent from Dracula.
Filmmaker Richard Mullenax takes an unusual approach to making a documentary/comedy about Sharkey’s one-man campaign – almost the mirror image of the Sacha Baron Cohen format. Here, the ludicrous weirdo is apparently the only person in the film who isn’t in on the joke as Mullenax brings on a variety of ringers whose sole purpose is to show up or tick off his showoff but sulky star.
Sharkey makes all sorts of claims about his past as a wrestler and martial skills, but also says he has a cadre of ex-special forces ‘Death Dealers’ on call to take out his enemies and that he’s told the Secret Service that he’ll snap the necks of any terrorists he meets ‘like a twig’. When he appears (on Fox News) he makes claims about then-candidate Obama being a Muslim that even Fox feel a need to retract and his policies are a mix of libertarian stuff (legalising prostitution), redneck populism (bringing the troops home) and tough-on-crime blowhard nonsense (impaling drug dealers, rapists, etc) … at one point, he mentions Donald Trump as a role model, which is now a bigger deal than it was as a 2009 throwaway.
Some routines to which Sharkey is subjected blur ethical lines as well as taste. He has a first date with a teenage girl he’s met (groomed?) on MySpace (Jennifer Anderson) and she eventually mentions she’s transgender but also dumps him to take off with the Muslim runner Nick Hassant (Nikita Hasis) who’s been getting on his nerves throughout production and whom he eventually insists be fired (he also draws a pentagram on and then burns a doormat he’s been told is Nick’s sacred prayer mat). A Hugh Jackman-as-Van Helsing-type dude (Jeffrey Thomas Hayward) turns up at all Sharkey’s gigs and sets up a final battle that doesn’t come off to anyone’s satisfaction (including the filmmaker); it’s a shame Mullenax didn’t call in Britain’s vampire hunter minor celeb Sean Manchester to take this role … and a black activist (Scott Nimrod) deliberately and persistently misconstrues every statement Sharkey makes, from the most conventional to the most outrageous.
Mullenax pops up in a few Allen Funt/Candid Camera-like asides explaining what is going on, and declaring that his intention is to make his subject’s life hell – which is close to the way Cohen often stages scenes that make unlikeable phoneys like Rudy Giuliani look bad, but directed entirely at one subject. At the outset, I had concerns about this but Sharkey occasionally flashes a chilly, unamusing nastiness that makes him less ridiculous and more troubling a character. An epilogue recounts an episode of his later career that landed him in legal hot water and seems to have involved abuses more serious than posing with a cape and a guitar. Not all of the skits work and some are extended beyond workability, but I did find myself laughing uncontrollably at some of the crasser moments.