Comedians John Fugelsang and Carole Montgomery on How to Make America Laugh Again
The best comics in New York take the stage in Laughing Liberally at the Theatre at St. Clement's.
Everyone could use a good laugh nowadays, and that's just what comedian John Fugelsang is trying to make happen. Fugelsang is headlining Laughing Liberally: Make America Laugh Again, an off-Broadway comedy event at the Theatre at St. Clement's. Featuring the best "progressive political comedians" currently working, the three-week run will see Fugelsang perform stand-up alongside legendary and rising comedy greats like Elayne Boosler, Carole Montgomery, and more. Before the first performance, Fugelsang and Montgomery shared what it really takes to make America laugh again, and why the President's hairstyle is too easy a target.
What is Laughing Liberally?
John Fugelsang: Laughing Liberally is the oldest, continually running comedy show in New York. They did an off-Broadway run about seven years ago, which I did with a really wonderful cast. It was nice to do political, progressive material in New York that was geared toward tourists getting tickets at TKTS.
Carole Montgomery: I did it once or twice back then, but we really need this now. The fact that the tagline for this is Make America Laugh Again is so perfect. There's so much political correctness right now, and everyone is pissed off at everyone. But as my husband always says, a comedian is the court jester, and our job is to make fun of the king.
John: Throughout history, the jester is the only one in the court who could make fun of the king, because he could do it in joke form. Ridicule has always been one of the most powerful tools of nonviolence.
John, how did you become the de facto curator of this run, and who can audiences expect to see?
John: Eric Krebs, one of the producers, called me and asked. His only rule was that he didn't want conventional comics who just tell jokes about Trump's hair. So I viewed it as, I'm going to offer comedians I like the chance to come to this beautiful, historic place where David Mamet premiered American Buffalo and do political stuff, wherever their voice takes them, and have a lot of fun.
Carole: What he's not saying is that we're all his friends.
John: Not all of you are my friends. Some of you I want to be my friends. Carole was one of the first people I called, because I've seldom seen someone with the power she has to knock people's lights out. I went to see one of those ghastly topless revues in Vegas, and halfway through the show, this woman comes onstage and the roof caved in. It was amazing. Elayne Boosler is going to be headlining for four nights. We've got Mehran Khaghani, who is Muslim and a gay man, and, like Carole, is a powerhouse. Dean Obeidallah is doing one night. He just won a $4 million settlement against the white nationalists at the Daily Stormer, so he'll pay for drinks for everybody who comes.
Carole: John is so well loved in the business that when he asked me to do it, I said, "Why wouldn't I?" Everyone else is like that, too. Janeane Garofalo and Elayne Boosler are busy, but for this, they'll stop, because we think it's important in this day and age. For me, it's great, because I can finally do my few Trump jokes.
Speaking of, how do you define the "political progressive humor" of this show, since it's not jokes about the president's hair?
Carole: When my son was growing up, I used to say, "You can say whatever you want in the house, but it has to be funny. You can't just say f*ck, for f*ck's sake." It's the same thing with Trump. You can't just say, "He's a bloated, orange head." We know that. Try to come up with something that's not just about picking on him. And there are issues that we joke about, too.
John: It's much more about the issues than the man. I focus a lot on Christianity, and hypocrisy, and what Jesus said versus what his unauthorized right-wing fan clubs fight for. My mom was an ex-nun and my dad was an ex-Franciscan Brother, so I take real issue with these so-called Christians who elect Caligula and aren't bothered by the lies and stealing children from their parents. Jesus was all about helping the marginalized, and Trump supporters are all about blaming the marginalized. Religion is my third rail. It's what my agents beg me not to talk about, and that's where I always go with part of my set.
Carole: I do talk about women's rights. I used to have more political material when G.W. was president. But it still works. It's amazing, all these years later, and it's the same sh*t.
John: My Bush jokes that became Palin jokes transitioned into Trump jokes really easily. A couple of pronouns, that's all. Carole is the one who always amazes me. She manages to be shocking and accessible at the same time. She'll shock everyone of every political denomination, and yet, they'll all love her anyway.
Do you think the content of this show will be shocking in this politically correct world?
John: It's really different rules in New York City than in a Midwestern comedy club, where you're afraid of offending people. There are some comedians who say that when they're in some parts of the country, they have to stay away from politics. I wanted to give them the chance to do their A-level political material in front of a room filled with New York City people, because we're all degenerates. Every old lady in the audience has seen every play about meth, Palestine, and sodomy. You can't shock New York theater audiences.