Symphony Space on the Upper West Side of Manhattan runs a delightfully light series of mock debates that regularly bring together some of New York's top comedy talent on one stage. They face off three-on-three to wow and woo the audience to take their side on an issue that nobody is concerned with. But for one hour, that subject matter is of the utmost importance.
This month's event takes place on Tuesday, March 25, when John Fugelsang, Myq Kaplan, Julieanne Smolinski and others will argue over, "Are We Getting Dumber or Smarter?" Fugelsang responded to my questions via email:
You've performed in all sorts of projects and at all kind of places. What is it about the live stage that draws you back to events like this one?
Unlike TV, live theater has a magic that stimulates creativity and builds community between performer and audience. Plus, I only live a few blocks away and my parole officer insists this counts toward community service hours.
I know you've done your share of political commentary. Does that in some way help prepare you for your first live satirical debate?
Well, let's see. I'm arguing that society is getting dumber, and in my act I discuss politicians who keep getting elected by people who vote against their own self-interest. I'll get back to you when I find a connection.
Without causing any spoilers by reaching into your debate toolbox, I wanted to get your thoughts on this month's topic, "Are We Getting Dumber or Smarter?" Is this a topic that you felt was an important one to chime in on?
I have many comments on American dumbness & will complete this entry as soon as I watch this segment about Courtney Love's theory on that Malaysian plane, because CNN is broadcasting this.
Past participants at Uptown Showdowns have relied heavily on audio/visuals to win over the audience. Powerpoint slides and short videos have enhanced their arguments. How are you preparing for the event?
Well, I had planned on screening most of Seasons 1-3 of Keeping Up With The Kardashians until the Rights & Clearances people at Symphony Space sent me this tedious email about "copyright" and "libel." In lieu of that, I'll likely give a scientific lecture on evolutionary theory that focuses on a talking snake.
Are you and your fellow debaters in touch to talk strategy? Why do you think you have the upper hand heading into the competition?
Well, Travon is cramming on how Americans are declining in science, history and basic geography; Julieanne Smolinski is focusing on the fusion of modern anti-intellectualism and anti-rationalism, and I'm working very hard on that you're/your thing. I hope to talk strategy but it appears they've both given me incorrect phone numbers.