Everyone knows the joke — “Washington DC is Hollywood for ugly people.” But having done time in both places, I thought I’d offer up my impressions on how the two compare:

HOLLYWOOD: Lives and dies on boxoffice. Sometimes a filmmaker (like Danny Boyle) throws caution to the wind and says “screw it, I don’t care if it doesn’t have any stars, I’m going to make the movie I want to make,” and you get Slumdog Millionaire.

DC: Lives and dies by the polls. Sometimes a politician (like FDR) throws caution to the wind and says “screw it, I don’t care if I don’t have any Republicans, I’m going to pass the bill I want to pass,” and you get Social Security.

HOLLYWOOD: Loves a hero. Mr. Smith goes to Washington DC to challenge the cynicism of corrupt politicians and fight for ordinary Americans.

DC: Loves a hero. Mr. Obama goes to Washington DC to challenge the cynicism of corrupt politicians and fight for ordinary Americans.

HOLLYWOOD: The villain is a guy who pretends to be helping the hero fight for the public good, but is secretly cutting back room deals that sell their interests out in order to enrich the company and increase their own power.

DC: The villain is a guy who pretends to be helping the hero fight for the public good, but is secretly cutting back room deals that sell their interests out in order to enrich the party and increase their own power.

HOLLYWOOD: When the villain’s misdeeds are exposed and they fail to achieve their objectives, the audience feels good that justice has triumphed and order has been restored.

DC: When the villain’s misdeeds are exposed and they fail to achieve their objectives, the DC press hails them as heroic “pragmatists” and calls everyone a dreamy-eyed fool with their head in the clouds for ever thinking that anything else was possible.

HOLLYWOOD: Knows the difference between a hero and a villain. Not surprised when a movie fails because the audience finds it emotionally unsatisfying.

DC: Populated by political stenographers who can’t seem to tell the difference between a hero and a villain. Stunned when the general public can.