Mark Cuban almost loses it.
Shark Tank returns from commercial. A twentysomething appears on screen, driving around on an off-road vehicle, but wearing pressed khakis and a bowtie. The land is muddy and ripped up because it has been hydraulic fractured so many times.
DUKE KIP: My name is Duke Kip and I’m a young, ambitious, talented conservative who loves launching companies as much as I love America. During the day I work as a lawyer for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. During the night I sleep four hours, sometimes less, and then invent products that will be manufactured exclusively in America. By people who pass drug tests and don’t use welfare.
My product is the Town Hall-ogram, a hologram for Congressional town halls. Donald Trump inspired a populist rebellion, the first of its kind since Andrew Jackson, but some people hate that. Members of Congress can use the Town Hall-ogram to avoid and distract liberal crybabies while they get busy dismantling the deep state and also undoing Obama and Hillary regulations that choke growth and stifle innovation.
[DUKE holds up his phone.] It’s simple. Members download the app, assign a staffer to launch it, and a hologram in their image displays on the stage.
A middle-aged white man appears on stage. The crowd boos heartily. Someone off camera tosses a soiled, full diaper onto the stage. The diaper slides directly through the Member’s left leg.
DUKE appears inside the Shark Tank television studio. He presses a button on a boombox, and the first chords of U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” begin blasting.
DUKE: My name is Duke Kip and this is a Republican congressman [gestures to HOLOGRAM] and we’re seeking a $100,000 investment in exchange for a 10% equity stake in my company, Town Hall-ogram.
LORI GREINER: Hi Duke. How did you come up with this idea?
DUKE: After I read Donald Trumps’s The Art of the Deal, I moved to Washington, because the best way to unshackle the markets is to work in government. But so much of Congress’s time is wasted talking directly to constituents. How can we be capitalists when all our time is spent responding to the problems of those we represent?
BARBARA CORCORAN: That’s a good question, Duke. But I’ll tell you what bothers me. You said in your package that you want to manufacture exclusively in America. I find that the labor here is too expensive given how unskilled it is. I moved to New York in 1971 with fifty dollars in my pocket. Today that couldn’t pay for the back surgery of even one displaced American factory worker. That’s why I manufacture primarily in China and Vietnam. I’m afraid I’m out.
DUKE: Can I —
BARBARA [to LORI]: These factories are not re-opening. [LORI doesn’t care. Her investment, Scrub Daddy, is the Tank’s most successful product, and she has no idea where they’re made. Supply chain management is nation agnostic.]
KEVIN O’LEARY but please call him MR WONDERFUL: Why don’t you tell us what your product does?
DUKE [proudly]: Sure. Well, in case you didn’t notice, this guy next to me isn’t really a congressman. He’s a hologram. [DUKE presses something on his phone.]
HOLOGRAM [in robotic voice]: The Democrats can talk about impeachment all they want. We’ll be over here cutting two regulations for every one we add. Regulations stifle God-given growth. Now who would like to buy an American made gun? [HOLOGRAM makes a gun with his fake fingers.]
MARK [running up and hitting the HOLOGRAM, his fist flying through the projected image]: I’ve always wanted to punch a politician.
ROBERT HERJAVEC: You mentioned Andrew Jackson. Isn’t your product by nature anti-populist? What’s a town hall but a group of people?
DUKE: Andrew Jackson did inspire me, and Andrew Jackson would’ve never listened to a bunch of whiny liberals before he decided to act. He was the antebellum Donald Trump.
MARK [witheringly]: Yeah right. [MARK pulls out a twenty dollar bill from his extremely thick wallet]. This guy had great hair. [The camera zooms in on MARK’s finger tapping Andrew Jackson’s mane.] Your guy? Not so much.
BARBARA [Greek chorus-like]: Andrew Jackson was a genocidal psychopath, guys.
[MARK sighs so loudly that LORI, seated three sharks away, rolls her eyes.]
MR. WONDERFUL [to MARK]: Can I talk to the kid, please?
LORI: Hold on, Kevin. [KEVIN and MARK talk over LORI, who, as the most successful Shark, isn’t fazed by their disrespect.] Look, Duke. You seem like a good kid. I could get you into every big box retailer tomorrow. But I wouldn’t know how to market this, and so for that reason I’m out.
DUKE [desperately]: People go to big box retailers after they attend town halls. Or before. On the way. To pick up poster board and markers and snacks and lawn chairs because the lines — you should see some of these lines.
LORI [smiling fakely]: Your customers aren’t those people. Your customers are Members of Congress. I’m out, Duke.
ROBERT: Tell us about your sales.
DUKE: We’re pre revenue.
MARK: Five hundred thirty-five Congress people and you haven’t sold one hologram yet? You did learn economics from Donald Trump. [MARK opens phone and drags Donald Trump on Twitter.]
DUKE [pivoting]: The mainstream media only reports on the town halls where violence breaks out. Our town halls take places without all the drama. Reporters lose interest and don’t write anything. The Town Hall-ogram helpfully quiets dissent.
MARK: Your product is so good at what it does that you can’t recall your customers?
MR. WONDERFUL: What’s preventing me from doing this myself? Hiring a crackerjack developer to design holograms of every Member of Congress and then selling them at half the price?
DUKE: I mean. [The HOLOGRAM makes a sad face.]
MR. WONDERFUL: Or what if I just give them away? Stunt PR to drum up business for other uses. I have a lot of friends who are too busy to give TED Talks but want to because they really have something to say. They’d love a hologram version of themselves.
MARK: Yeah right.
LORI [still out, but genuinely curious]: Do you have a utility patent, Duke?
DUKE: I’ve applied for one, but at my day job we’re also dismantling the Patent and Trademark Office so —
ROBERT: I grew up in Croatia where my dad was arrested for speaking out against the totalitarian regime there. And now I’m Canadian where everyone works for the government. I’m skeptical, of course, that you’re destroying what makes your own nation great. But, more crucially, you’re doing so as a government employee. The government needs to be doing less, not more. For that reason I’m out.
MR. WONDERFUL: Is it only town halls you’ve tried using this?
DUKE: We once turned on the hologram in the Senate cafeteria. Senator Schumer appeared and announced the egg salad he was eating was spoiled.
MARK [to producers off stage]: Is this a prank? [MARK gets up again, and walks towards DUKE, menacingly.] Please leave the tank.
MR. WONDERFUL: Jesus, Mark. What if one of us still wants to make an offer?
MARK [realizing MR. WONDERFUL is not kidding]: Then make a [beep] offer.
MR. WONDERFUL: Duke, tell me. When you ride an escalator, do you walk up the stairs or stand and wait for it to pull you up?
DUKE: Honestly, I run up them.
MR. WONDERFUL: That’s what I thought. You seem like a go-getter. I’ll tell you what. I see why the hologram is useful. But five hundred customers won’t get me out of bed in the morning. I’ll give you an offer, but it’s contingent on you finding other uses for the product.
MARK [seizing an aha! moment]: Hold on. I’m back in. I like that you run up escalators. That reminds me of something I’d do when I was starting out. I’ll offer you two hundred thousand dollars. You have no sales and no IP, so it’s straight cash, in exchange for 100% of your company. I want to buy your company.
DUKE [excitedly whispering to the HOLOGRAM]: I came here to make a deal with Mark.
MR. WONDERFUL: I can’t believe this.
MARK [to BARBARA]: I actually have a TED Talk later this month. Win by Showing Up: How to Be Present in a Global Economy. Now I can just send my assistant to turn on the Town Hall-ogram.
DUKE: We have a deal.
[DUKE and MARK shake hands as the other Sharks murmur about how dangerous it is that the white working class now votes as a cohesive, Jacksonian bloc.]