THE BLOG
10/13/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

How Do You Satirize An Election You're Too Depressed To Think About?

Notes From Chicago Fringe Theater:

I haven't been able to blog for a while. The RNC was just too repulsive, and the poll bounce afterward just too discouraging. I received a lot of messages from friends who felt the same way. We just won't be able to stand it if half the nation turns out to be suckers for this product roll-out of Sarah "moose in pig's lipstick" Palin.

I'm a founding member of Theater Oobleck, a well-known fringe company here in Chicago. Every four years since 1992 we've put on a play satirizing the presidential election. It's a tradition with us.

This year some who have been major forces in past election shows have decided not to participate. See, usually we in Oobleck, who are, at least theatrically, left wing anarchists, take what we've come to call a "pox on both their houses" approach to these elections shows. We mock mercilessly the hypocrisies of all participants in electoral politics. And that's been a successful formula for us.

But this election didn't inspire that "pox on both their houses" feeling, and some felt they couldn't participate wholeheartedly in a play whose satirical targets were going to include the first black person to ever stand as a presidential nominee for one of the two major political parties.

As a satirist, I have always been of the opinion that nothing is sacred. Playwright and actor Danny Thompson, who co-wrote many if not all of the other election shows - I'm not sure but I think all - and I tackled the job of putting a script together in which Barack Obama would be one of the figures of fun. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. And Danny knew something completely different that he wanted to do.

And we're doing those things, and they mesh perfectly. Last night we had our Obama actor, Sati Word, get on his feet with some of the speeches, and he brought them to life in ways I hadn't anticipated when writing them, but they're going to fucking KILL onstage.

The play is called "Oobleck Election Play 2008: The Trojan Candidate."

There's a lot to say on the topic of how to satirize hope, or at least the message of hope. We have the task of upholding the tradition of Oobleck's hilarious disdain for the US political system while at the same time satisfying audiences (and ourselves and the rest of our troupe) who are pretty much in the tank for Obama - while pulling no punches, or at least not having the pulling of punches look like the pulling of punches. And certainly not letting anything get in the way of a KO.

Because if this election is important enough for us to have a stake in it, it's important enough for us to think complexly about and to write and perform satire that is just as complex as the issues it raises.

But more on that agit-prop obstacle course in further posts. What I wanted to comment on today was this feeling of wanting to hide from the news ever since the RNC. Here's how bad it's gotten: I actually had the late-night talk show monologues mocking Sarah Palin emailed to me from Bombay. No one I know here in town watched them, said anything about them, had even heard a single sound-bite from any of them.

No. The last couple weeks have been so repulsive to us that I had to have the late-night monologues of Letterman, Conan, Leno, and Kimmel (I hear Ferguson has some kind of sleep deprivation issue taking up all his time) sent to me by a person I met two years ago for less than an hour in Bombay. (I'm calling it Bombay. Not Mumbai. The renaming of most other Indian places with more "national" names makes some sense, but Bombay was pretty much a British invention. There's no previous, more "Indian" national condition to return it to. And I haven't heard anyone who lives there call it Mumbai, either.)

I was glad to receive the jokes. Sarah Palin IS a joke. And having them come all the way from Bombay was just an extra treat, really.

Remember what they said in '68? "The whole world is watching."