The Coen brothers were struggling to come up with a treatment (Hollywood talk for the outline of a planned production) on their next weird movie.
"How are we ever going to top 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' or 'Miller's Crossing' when it comes to grotesque political skulduggery?" asked Joel.
"I have it!" said Ethan. "Instead of writing a fictional screenplay, let's just borrow a few things from what's actually going on these days."
"Terrific," said Joel. "Here's how I see the opening scene."
Workers are putting the finishing touches on a fortified bunker on the Pennsylvania-New Jersey line. Actually, it's in the middle of the Route 22 Easton-Phillipsburg Toll Bridge above the Delaware River, and regular traffic has been diverted.
Two 30-foot-long limousines pull up to the bunker, from opposite directions, and a politician emerges from each, played, respectively, by Charles Durning and Leslie Nielsen. (For the moment, let's pretend they're still alive, because they're the only ones who could do justice to these parts.)
"Gov. Corbett, how did you decide on this location for our meeting?" asks Gov. Chris Christie (Durning).
"I took a page from your book," replies Gov. Tom Corbett (Nielsen). "Just look at the mess in Easton. Everybody's trying to find a way to get across the Free Bridge."
"Serves them right," snarls Christie. "I hear this town is lousy with Democrats — the mayor, the whole city council. Voters need to be taught a lesson."
Both men have a good laugh and go into the bunker's oak-paneled interior to light their cigars. Then Christie turns serious.
"For heaven's sake, don't let them tie you to it," he warns. "Ridicule reporters if they ask about it at press conferences, then act indignant and blame the whole thing on your flunkies. Worked great for our hero, Richard Nixon. … By the way, you're not taping any of this, are you?"
"Heck no," says Corbett. "Golly, it feels good to be in the Lehigh Valley. This was the site of one of my major triumphs, when I was attorney general and whitewashed a fatal police shooting. Law enforcement has been bloc voting for me ever since."
"You gotta play hardball," agrees Christie. "My enemies say I'm a ruthless bully, but I've proudly painted myself as a bipartisan statesman. I even got President Obama, that Democrat wimp, to act like we're pals."
"Listen, these two states have to work together as neighbors," says Corbett. "You have no idea how much grief I get because people think I want to slash funding for education, I'm selective on which promises to keep about taxes, and I'm only interested in serving the interests of gas industry bigwigs from Texas and Oklahoma."
"Yeah," replies Christie. "Adversaries like Allyson Schwartz and Rob McCord got a constinchency. How are you doing with your constinchency?"
"I ain't got a constinchency!" bellows Corbett, furiously whacking a nearby flunkie with his hat (in a role reversal from 'O Brother'). "My constinchency is all in Texas and Oklahoma."
"It would be great if they could vote in Pennsylvania," says Christie.
"You may have hit on something there," says Corbett. "We need to let those out-of-state millionaires vote here. How hard could it be? I'll persuade the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to rule that it's right there in the Pennsylvania Constitution, somewhere. They certainly have a record for doing that sort of thing."
"You're my kinda guy," says Christie.
"How about your political problems?" asks Corbett. "It looks like your presidential choo-choo has run off the tracks a bit."