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number 5

How to Speak to Republicans

by Adam McKay

Ever notice how there are no funny Republicans? Dennis Miller used to be funny, now he’s not. He also used to be a left-leaning moderate and now he’s a reactionary right winger. Leno used to be cool, but now even my parents know Leno isn’t funny. Of course, there are many unfunny lefties and progressives but I really can’t think of one single funny conservative.

You have to be in touch with reality or have a grasp of at least a sliver of some kind of truth to be funny. But as creators and consumers of mass art, lately there has been a tendency to distract, deflect, disassociate. A new demented psychological twist has emerged in our elaborate and cowardly denial of the Bush administration’s systematic looting and dismantling of the United States. Rather than confront the frankly horrifying reality of what these traitorous neocons and dickheads are doing to our beloved country we are instead projecting our collective outrage onto pop scandals and lurid pulp true crime stories. Instead of marching on the White House and demanding Bush’s criminal associates be imprisoned we make jokes about Martha Stewart’s illegal trading of 4000 shares of IM Clone. And rather than fall out of our chairs and mobilize impeachment proceedings against Bush for misleading our country into an unnecessary war, we hold hands and pray that Laci Peterson’s husband will get the chair.

I truly believe people are a thousand times more perceptive and receptive than this. Most people know, deep down inside that this neocon-led corporate takeover of democracy may be the end of us (I’m not exaggerating, it literally could be). But these same people also remember the imagistic warnings of the past fifty years: blacklists, protestors with bloodied heads, strong and compassionate leaders shot dead by enigmatic assassins, hijacked elections, sexual witch hunts. Recently comics and artists have experienced talk radio backlash, cancelled shows, and record burnings for daring to express an opinion. Whether conscious or not, many of us have chosen to retreat into a Matrix-like world of pop two-dimensional construct. "Did you see who the Bachelor picked?”

This is unforgivable among those with the stage to speak truth to power. Our country is drifting nearer and nearer to a dangerous reef and irreparable damage. And all of us dance on the deck to the sounds of the hull scraping against rock, convinced out of fear that it is the most lovely of tunes.

“But political comedy doesn’t play to a mass audience.” “But you’re just preaching to the converted.” So what. I have written and performed political humor that has worked for a mass audience many times. It’s much harder than the “men and women are different” stuff but it’s incredible when it hits.

Comedy is a challenge to the status quo. The right wing is in essence a defense of the elite status quo. That’s not an idea. It’s fear. Budget deficits, rising unemployment, racism and nationalism are the hallmark of the modern-day Republican party. If someone told you they were using blood-letting as a medical treatment would you be expected to respect that opinion? States are going bankrupt, the market is flat because the Bush White House had no response to the Enron loss of faith, a whole new generation of Middle Easterners hate the U.S. with a passion never before seen, and the environment is being eviscerated. And it’s particularly sad to see even one improviser or artist defend this dangerous perspective.

Improvisational theater was founded on a healthy and fearless questioning of the powers that be. Spolin created theater games as a socialist tool for the working man to be able to put on theater. The greatest Second City shows had the biggest political content and Saturday Night Live has always flourished when they address the White House with healthy skepticism. Lenny Bruce, Bill Hicks, Richard Pryor, Monty Python, Carlin, Mort Sahl, Nichols and May, the Marx Bros, Janeane Garofalo, the Kids in the Hall, The Onion, Mr. Show, early Jay Leno and so on. If you’re a right-wing improviser or stand up doesn’t it make you wonder... just for a second? If you claim to be apolitical, what are you doing here?

Just tell them if they want attention they should try riding a unicycle or juggling. Tell them that supporting this thuggish criminal leadership is no fashion statement. It’s like praying to Satan to get a job at Kinko’s, more spiritually damaging than the situation requires. Tell them to be careful and read an account of the secret bombings of Cambodia or the collapse of Enron. Then give them a hug.

The next Presidential election can send a message to the world that we’re not violent greedy creeps and end the dismantling of the 20th century that has been happening 24 hours a day since this snide motherfucker got into office and opened the gates to every rat and leach imaginable.

Register to vote. Get five friends to vote. Get out there and make some good comedy. Demand it of others. This isn’t a PSA. It’s triage.

Adam McKay is a writer for film and television such as Saturday Night Live, Michael Moore’s The Awful Truth, and the upcoming feature Anchor Man: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, which he will also direct. He has also performed at the Second City in Chicago as well as being a founding member of the Upright Citizens Brigade. He currently resides in Garrison, New York.

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