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Can the political left laugh at itself?
S.F. comedy troupe tests whether humorlessness is an Occupation-al hazard
Nato Green spent 14 years working as a union organizer. He was arrested for protesting on the first day of the Iraq War. He’s a native of San Francisco, a city he readily acknowledges is nationally perceived as “the center of the liberal intifada.”
Specifically, he grabbed a bullhorn and started making fun of people.
“I joked about how I’m really excited about the idea of the 99 percent, but that it’s also a lie, because that’s a lot of people — including a lot of [jerks],” said Mr. Green, a 36-year-old standup comic. “If we were really being honest, we would have ‘We Are the 99 Percent’ with an asterisk for all the people we would want to exclude.
“Personally, I would like it to be without Human Resources, the yoga people and Jessica from high school, because she broke my heart.”
Can the Occupy Wall Street movement and those who sympathize with it laugh at themselves?
Can a polarized electorate ticked off about the economy, bank bailouts, Solyndra, the Koch brothers — you name it — do the same?
Mr. Green aims to find out.
Looking in mirror for laughs
Alongside fellow Bay Area comedians W. Kamu Bell and Janine Brito, Mr. Green is a member of Laughter Against the Machine, a touring trio bringing pointed political humor to the D.C. Arts Center on Thursday night, part of a coast-to-coast tour they dub a “comedic peacekeeping mission to the most polarized quagmires” in the country.
Translation? While all three comics are (Mr. Bell’s words) “lefty, progressive people,” their self-professed goal is to provoke — read: offend — audience members of every political persuasion.
“The whole idea during our show is to get people to shout out and disagree,” said Mr. Bell. “That happens often.”
Mr. Bell, who is black, has the distinction of being perhaps the first comic to make an Obama joke: In 2005, he announced on Comedy Central that Barack Obama would never be elected president because “his name was too black.”
Win some, lose some.
“On the left, if you’re truly progressive, you can’t help but be disappointed and uncertain about Barack Obama,” Mr. Bell said. “As much as people on the right are like, ‘Obama is a leftist, Muslim militant,’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, I wish. That would be awesome!’ “
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About the Author
Patrick Hruby is an award-winning journalist who holds degrees from Georgetown and Northwestern. He also contributes to ESPN.com and The Atlantic Online, and his work has been featured in The Best American Sports Writing. Follow him on Twitter (@patrick_hruby) and contact him at PatrickHruby.net.
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