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2020: A POLITICAL YEAR AT BOOM CHICAGO

The year of the US presidential election is upon us. It’s the chance for America to end its experiment with Donald Trump and see what normal feels like. Or an opportunity to let the experiment continue, and the world can look on like Star Trek’s Mr Scott, warning that ‘We can’t hold on much longer…!’

My worry is that even if Trump loses, America’s split is so wide that it’s like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy’s hometown, Sunnydale, was built over a ‘hellmouth,’ a gateway to demons and monsters and yes: vampires. (This is why, for Buffy fans, Helmond is the best city name in the Netherlands.) Every week Buffy would defeat some of them, but next week… Sunnydale was still sitting on that hellmouth. That’s America right now. Even if Trump loses… we’re still sitting on that Hellmouth, or as the Dutch would say Helmond.

Much of that Hellmouth is stirred up by Fox News. Whenever you wonder, ‘How can people still support him after [INSERT LATEST OUTRAGE],’ the answer is, ‘Because propaganda works!’ Don’t believe it? Compare (as the Daily Show did) how Fox TV and North Korean State TV covered Trump meeting’s meeting with Kim. I mean, twenty years ago when Fox News first launched its Orwellian motto, ‘Fair and Balanced,’ snooty liberals like me were like, (cocktail party voice) ‘Have you seen this new Fox News? It’s basically right wing propaganda! But Bill Clinton is president… we’ll be fine.’ Then, ten years ago, we were like, ‘Hey, this Fox News IS right wing propaganda, and it’s the most popular news network in America! But Obama is president… We’ll be fine.’ But now it’s like, ‘Hey, Fox News is very successful right wing propaganda, Trump is president, and half the country believes that global warming is caused by the warmth of Jesus’ love.’ Not so fine anymore.

And once folks start watching Fox, they’re hooked. You hear story after story of people who say they have “lost their parents” to Fox that sound a lot like the way parents complain they have lost their children to meth. Which makes sense, since in both cases the addiction causes the person addicted to buy drugs they don’t need. (editor’s note: Fox has a lot of commercials for medicine… God Bless America!)

But it’s more than Fox. It’s America’s love affair with being outraged, and it’s not limited to the right (See: cancel culture). My mom came from Chicago to visit me for the holidays. While she loves being in Amsterdam, she had one big worry: that she wouldn’t be able to watch her favorite MSNBC newscasters and hear not just daily, but hourly updates on how upset she should be about Trump’s latest. It wasn’t enough to be up to date on the news, like a junkie looking for a fix, she wanted it now.

Now let me admit: I am biased here. I believe Trump and the right are outrageous and awful. There is good reason to call out the constant lying and their agenda to help the rich and powerful. It’s worth getting angry about. But being angry all the time doesn’t help anyone except the cable news networks who leverage that anger and outrage to sell pills to old people.

So what’s the best way to stay sane and keep informed? Comedy.

One of the weirdest effects of this era is the rise of comedians as truth tellers. Lots of people go to comedians to hear a synopsis about what’s happening. I never miss Seth Meyers’ Closer Look, while others swear by Stephen Colbert or Trevor Noah or Samantha Bee. (I understand Jimmy Fallon has a show too. Oh, did we not include a link?)

Why? Comedy can be self-depreciating and honest about our shortcomings in a way politicians and pompous newscasters can not. And we comedians can pursue the truth no matter where it leads. Or maybe it’s just that the two choices we face are best summed up in the classic comedy and tragedy masks from ancient Greek theater.

a drawing of a face

With the current state of affairs, you can either cry about things or laugh about them. We recommend the latter. I mean: still vote. Still write or call your representatives. Still have debates and discussions with people you disagree with. But at the end of the day, if you can, choose laughing over crying.

All this year we’ll be helping at Boom Chicago. Until the summer, Greg Shapiro and I will be performing, Trump Up the Volume: Impeachment Edition. We’ll help you make sense of the news and the Democratic candidates trying to take on the Donald, with plenty of jokes about Orange Man himself. We will use jokes to explain the primaries process as the Democrats debate whether to be run by the Joe Biden/Pete Buttigieg moderate wing of the party, the Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren progressive wing of the party, or the Michael Bloomberg/Tom Steyer billionaire wing of the party. We’ll even talk about the Andrew Yang/Amy Klobuchar who-the-hell-is-that wing of the party. Greg will unleash the Trump impression that went viral in the Netherlands Second video back in 2017 when we first said goodbye to our old President, Barack Obama, and said hello to our new president, Vladimir Putin.

 

In the fall, we will launch a new show, whose title is yet to be determined. Here are some ideas:

Trump Piñata
Dump Trump
Electoral College Dropout
2020 Hindsight: Let’s pretend 2016 never happened
Superpower Gone Wild
Trumplestilskin: he spins shit out of gold
Election 2020: Can Shit Lightning Strike Twice?

Okay, that was clearly just spitballing. In fact, please email me any show title idea you have. If we choose yours you will be my guest at the premiere AND I will buy you a drink.

On November 3rd, Election Day for Democrats (Republicans remember to vote on November 4th this year), our theater will be a polling place for Democrats abroad. We will once again host an election night party until the wee hours. We will hang out until the election is called and we either pour bubbles or poisoned Kool-Aid, depending on the outcome.

Join us for this exciting political year at Boom Chicago! And hey, we know there are mixed feelings about the 45th president, and we respect them all. So at our show, we welcome and respect your opinions and beliefs whether you don’t like Donald Trump or, whether you fucking hate Donald Trump.

Pep Rosenfeld


PepPep Rosenfeld

As Director of Creative Content, Pep does it all: He’s a high level event host & facilitator, writer, stand-up comedian, public speaker, coach, and developer of innovative corporate programs. A co-founder of Boom Chicago, Pep’s passion is using comedy to make hard-to-communicate messages land and stick, as featured In his 2012 TED talk, ‘Fight, Flight or Make Your Opponent Laugh.’ Pep hosts events like TEDx Amsterdam, The Next Web Conference, The Nordic Business Forum, and the Spin Awards to rave reviews, and he was nominated for an Emmy for his writing on America’s long-running television show, Saturday Night Live.