Brave New Workshop finds humor in politicsby Jessica Mador, Minnesota Public Radio
The presidential candidates are talking about a slew of issues that are nothing to laugh about, from worries about the economy to the housing crisis to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But a new comedy show at the Brave New Workshop in Minneapolis is built around the idea that laughter is best for what ails us, no matter which candidate you plan to vote for this November.
Minneapolis, Minn. — The 50-year old Brave New Workshop is famous for political satire. The theatre stages regular political shows and puts on a presidential election special every four years. This one, called "The Lion, the Witch, and the War Hero: or is McCain Able?," opened earlier than usual because of the Republican National Convention.
Actor-writer Mike Fotis said having the RNC in St. Paul gives this year's show a special significance.
"Sometimes the conventions and all of the sort of political warfare that takes place seems like its far away and that's because it is far away," Fotis said. "So, just the fact that it's here for however many days it's here, and we are going to be at the heart of it, to me, that added an immediacy to the writing."
Fotis said opening before the convention also made it harder to write. Some things that are usually nailed down, like vice presidential picks, were still unknown when they started production. A big part of the show takes aim at how the Twin Cities will handle the swarms of delegates, protesters, traffic and news media during the RNC.
"St. Paul bars and drinking establishments - long known for closing just when the party was getting started," says a Brave New Workshop performer in the show. "But with the Republican convention coming to town, bars in close proximity to the Xcel Energy Center will be able to stay open until 4 a.m., prompting a new civic slogan: if you're rich and white you can drink all night."
In this scene, the owner says he plans to change the name of his bar from Kennedy's to Reagan's to attract more Republican drinkers.
Writer-actor Joe Bozic said audiences seem to be taking politics more seriously than ever this year.
"We sort of have a saying around here that everyone loves satire until it's pointed at them. You can always tell where the Obama supporters are sitting and where the Republicans sitting throughout this show. They will be laughing one second and deadly quiet the next and that's the fun thing about this show is that we do hit everyone a couple of times," Bozic said. "Everyone gets their moment of self-reflection."
Bozic plays Sen. Obama in the show. He said showgoers' loyalty to Obama runs so deep that they often have trouble taking a joke.
"We, the people of America, are in desperate need of change," says Bozic in the show. "Change in every way. We must seek out change and catch change as it runs down the streets of change. We will hold out our ever-changing hands to embrace this change. And as I look around the room at the changing faces desperate for change, what do I see? It's change."
But Obama isn't the only candidate who gets lampooned. The improv comedy uses skits, music and video to take shots at almost everyone. It opens by recapping the primaries and reminds us of how long it took to get to McCain and Obama. The show also makes fun of cable news, bloggers and snarky political ads, like this spoof of Hillary Clinton's Red Phone spot.
"Somewhere in the world, something is happening. The phone rings in the White House. But John McCain is already up."
The ad implies that McCain is up late because he's in the bathroom.
"Paid for by me, John McCain."
The parody is not lost on Mark Heitkamp, from Plymouth. The self-identified conservative says he appreciates the take-no-prisoners approach.
"I think the political humor seems to be pretty even handed. They are not taking any one side. They are making fun of both political parties, which is all in good fun, if you just take it in good humor because that is the way its portrayed, it's just for fun," Heitkamp said.
The RNC starts Monday. You can catch the show at the Brave New Workshop until after Election Day.
- All Things Considered, 08/29/2008, 5:52 p.m.