So an FDL contributor and a photographer walk into a bar…… or more accurately the Midtown Theatre on 46th Street in NYC where Laughing Liberally – This Ain’t No Tea Party is having a 10 week run. The Laughing Liberally company is composed of about a dozen comedians, any 6 to 8 of whom appear at a given performance, so it’s rarely the same show twice. The format is kinda clever, each act is separated by a “commercial,” a series of video parodies that are in themselves worth the trip to Manhattan.
The hands-down best is a parody of a Planned Parenthood advocacy ad aimed at women a/k/a “vagina havers” and attacking the GOP Congress’s intention to strip funding from the medical care of vaginas, and that it’s up to the vagina havers to use those vaginas to fight back. It helpfully points out that it will be easy to do this because “there is nothing less hot than a man who doesn’t care about vaginas.” Honestly, if Planned Parenthood had one ounce of self-preservation instinct they would do a massive ad buy and put this commercial up, it’s a shame the Super Bowl is over because this tops any ad shown this cycle. And yes, I do realize that to put it on network TV would involve lots of bleeping out.
Now, back to the show, it kicked off with a parody commercial about vacationing in Somalia “the libertarian wonderland” where everything is arranged by “free market forces” and “enlightened self-interest.” It ends with a tourist contracting cholera.
Scott Blakeman drew the unenviable warm-up-the-crowd slot. Curtain was early, 7pm, and everybody was still sober. He had some cute one-liners: there’s “terror in the streets, taking away workers rights, and that’s just Ohio.” And he did a riff on the multiple spellings of Muammar Gaddafi, “there are almost as many spellings for Quaddaffi as there are for Chanukka” that set off the belly laughs.
Then came the Planned Parenthood commercial which left you sputtering.
That was followed by the only woman comic of the night, Negin Farsad, who describes herself thusly, “I am Iranian-American Muslim Female, I get to dump on the Middle East whenever I want.” The first part of her monologue was about the revolutions unfolding in the Middle East and suggested that Apple was missing a marketing opening in the “twitter revolutions,” and suggesting an ad campaign for them: “Are you trying to stage an opposition movement? There’s an app for that.”
She moved on to how difficult it is for Muslim women to explain to their mothers that they are sexually active, claiming there are no words for sex in Farsi. How do you say sex in Farsi? Inter-gender flesh relations. There is a skill to being edgy while using very polite terminology. It was perfect coming after the Planned Parenthood video.
The intervening commercial break was a series of man-in-the-street interviews with people on line outside a bookstore waiting for a Sarah Palin book signing. As far as I could tell, they were genuine, and it was more depressing than funny. They had no idea what Palin’s stand was on just about any major issue except “drill, baby, drill”- and they were generally ignorant of, well, most current events and public policy issues. It’s what you’d expect. Maybe it was like an emotional palate cleanser?
‘Cause next up was the frenetic musings of Citizen’s Radio’s Jamie Kilstein. With his mouth going a mile a minute and NEVER pausing to breathe, he rollicked through the war in Afghanistan, “We have killed 4,000 American troops and over 100,000 others all trying to kill one guy, Osama Bin Laden. We’re like the bad guys in the “Home Alone” movies.”
He suggested that instead of war, we should revive the practice of single combat by our leaders and put Obama and OBL into a cage match and sell the rights on pay-per-view. That’s a way to pay down the deficit we can all get behind.
Do you know what drones are? They are literally robots with guns. And that could never turn out badly, right? Except in every Sci-Fi movie ever made.
He switched topic to take on marriage equality and the insane notion that gay marriage somehow endangers hetero marriage or leads to other unfortunate results. “Every time a gay couple marries, a Muslim terrorist gets its wings.” Frank Capra may well be chuckling in his grave.
This was followed by a spoof video wherein an actor portraying Eric Cantor attempts to get the deficit down to zero by only cutting waste and programs that liberals like while leaving the military budget and tax cuts for the wealthiest intact, you already know how this ends: with the sale of the US Capital Building and Cantor’s own office turned into a Starbucks.
One of the highlights of the evening for me was the next act which combined two of my favorite genres: Dame Edna plus Mark Russell style political satire songs. Jamie Jackson came to the stage with a tea set on a tray, a Chanel style suit, a Maggie Thatcher hairdo, and very hairy legs encased in too small pantyhose (Uncle Milty would be so proud) and introduced himself to us as Lady Margaret Barnsley-Farnworth, a recently transplanted and very clueless member of the British aristocracy who has been attending “tea parties” all over the United States and has learned many fascinating facts from her new friends over cucumber sandwiches, chocolate sponge cake and marmalade fingers.
Her mullet wearing fellow partiers bring her up to speed on all kinds of facts she never knew about Barack Hussien Osama, semi-automatic weapons, taxation and the welfare state. The monologue is punctuated with lively ditties like entitle “Don’t Tread on Me” and “Guns Don’t Shoot People, People Shoot People.” You know when a song is coming by the recurring line, “I was inspired and I happened to be carrying a piano at the time.” There is a moment of pathos towards the end, but I won’t spoil it for you.
The next commercial break invoke the Texas succession movement and generally approved of the idea – “can we help you pack?” “Don’t let the Oklahoma panhandle hit you in the ass on the way out.”
Next up was Baratunde Thurston from The Onion who had the youngest, hippest, most accessible monologue of the night. He did the “everyman” starting with how could you not love unions “if you like weekends, you gotta like unions” and going off into an insightful look at racial insensitivity when people are trying to be nice to you. Just like white people came up to hug him right after Obama’s election “we did it!,” he finds that the revolutions in the Middle East make him want to hug his Middle Eastern deli owner and the guy at the Hallal Food cart where he buys his lunch, “we’re doing it!”. It was one part Laurence Fishburne’s “Thurgood” monologue and two parts mirror on the human condition. The young photographer I brought with me to take that picture up top thought he was by far the smartest person in the room.
The next commercial break was a parody of an Arizona tourism board “Arizona, it’s for Everybody!” ad, but with a Hispanic American getting his papers checked. It was a little to true to be “funny” funny.
The last act of the night sounded like he could have been a member of my family, if any of us had the ability to sell a joke. A product of Metro NY and Catholic upbringing, John Fuglsang knows his bible and knows how to do the impossible, turn the Book of Leviticus into 10 minutes of hilarity. I’m not even gonna give you a taste, I could never do it justice. I DO heartily recommend this to members of clergy of any faith, you will never have such a good time with the Bible and you won’t feel guilty about it either.
Of course, he had me early in the monologue with the best one-liner of the night, “Obama caved so many times, there’s miners trapped inside.” Yes, firebaggers, he’s ONE OF US. Actually, they all are.
There were a few zingers reserved for some of my favorite targets “Chris Matthews can have a panel with 5 people that lasts 40 minutes and nobody but him gets to talk.” You have to hear the impression of Matthews that comes after that, in person.
There’s one I may have to needlepoint on a pillow: “Sarah Palin is like a female Ann Coulter.”
Because the lineup of cast members changes from night to night, you can come to the show more than once without seeing the same show twice. The venue is appropriately gritty for a comedy review and on the same block with Rosie O’Grady’s and Havana Central. You’ll get out early enough to have a bite and listen to some music afterwards. You can get tickets and information about future venues at www.laughingliberallynyc.com
Oh, I almost forgot Jesse Eisenberg, the actor from The Social Network, was there in the audience –it looked like with his family- but he was not interested in posing for a picture.