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Switching Sides — A Speech

The below is a speech given by Roger L. Simon, PJ Media CEO, to the Roanoke Conference — the annual gathering of Washington state Republicans -- on January 25, 2013.  The other keynote speaker at the conference was Bob Herbold, former COO of Microsoft.

Thanks for having me here. When my friend Todd Hermann emailed me to invite me to speak to this group, he directed me to Steve Buri, whom I suspect many of you must know. Anyway, by way of advice, Steve me told this audience was depressed by the election. (No surprise there.) They need cheering up. So I thought — oh, great… a group of Republicans in the northwest during the dead of winter need cheering up from a disastrous election, Obama’s inaugural speech announcing the installation of socialism in America followed by Hillary testalying about Benghazi. That’s going to be a real walk in the park…

All right, here are five words that should make you smile:  You don’t live in California…. I would imagine that saves many of you ten thousand dollars a year or more right there. There’s something to be happy about. Speaking of which, since I live in L.A. but spend a lot of time in this state, I’ve always been perplexed why everything seems to work better up here… the roads are better, the services are better… but we pay the ridiculous amount of state income tax. I don’t have to tell this crowd — don’t ever go there.

So I will try to cheer up you up, but I’m not going to make any false promises.  Years ago I wrote a movie for Richard Pryor who was then supposed to be the funniest man in America and I never met anyone gloomier — unless it was Woody Allen with whom I worked several years later.

But Pryor did tell me something interesting when I asked him why he never cracked a joke in person during our meetings. (BTW, I was always trying to make Pryor and Allen laugh… probably to prove myself in some way, kind of a guy thing… I never did get even a smile out of Richard, but finally did get one out of Woody.  You won’t be surprised to know it was a dirty joke.)  Anyway, Pryor said the secret to his standup is he just got up and told the truth and that, by itself, made everybody laugh.  Somebody should to tell that to Bill Maher.

Anyway, Steve and Todd also thought I should tell you something of my personal story, my evolution from standard issue Hollywood lefty to the reviled mouth-breathing right-wing often libertarian co-founder of PJ Media I am today — maybe as a “Yes, it can be done.  Even in Hollywood, kind of thing.”  Fights post-election depression syndrome.

I have already discussed this at length in my memoir Turning Right at Hollywood and Vine:  The Perils of Coming Out Conservative in Tinseltown, but it’s been a few years since I wrote the book and this speech gives me an opportunity to reexamine the subject of political change.  Actually, I haven’t ever really deserted the topic because that is partly the theme of The Party Line, the just-published play by Sheryl Longin and me that is set in Moscow in the thirties and Amsterdam in more recent times.  The subject fascinates me.

One of the most interesting aspects of political change is that most of us who have experienced it don’t feel as if we have changed.  We still see ourselves as the same person, live in the same skin.  To us, it is the world that has changed — at least for the most part.