The presidential campaign this year has had so many unusual twists and turns, you might think it was like candy for political satirists.
But many comedians are facing challenges in pulling comedy out of a contest already rife with its own absurdities.
“This Is The Week That Is,” an annual comedy revue of material devised from up-to-the-minute current events, has been staged by 1812 Productions for 11 years, covering three presidential election cycles.
Artistic director Jennifer Childs said this one takes the cake.
“So often I think, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if he said this?’ And then he actually says it,” said Childs, referring to Donald Trump. “It’s then no longer satire. We’re one step behind.”
The show plays out in two parts: vignettes involving the whole cast and elaborate, often multimedia production elements (the “Carol Burnett” half,” said Childs), and a newscast of material pulled from that day’s news (the “Daily Show” half).
Childs, who calls herself an equal opportunity offender, takes digs at both Trump and Hillary Clinton. She plays Clinton as an Elaine Stritch-style cabaret act, where she is subjected to digs by her accompanist Al Gore (played by musician Alex Bechtel) and husband Bill Clinton (played by David Jadico).
The bit is followed by a similar scenario featuring Donald Trump (played by Bechtel), who invites the audience to get to know his family.
Making light of elections is a potential minefield. When Trump appeared on “The Tonight Show” a few weeks ago, host Jimmy Fallon was chastised for treating the candidate too lightly.
When Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” covered the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, situations that any other year would have been comedy fodder for weeks — such as the appearance of former TV star Scott Baio as a speaker — didn’t even make the final cut.
Childs wanted her satire to hit hard, but in order to satirize Trump she has to be Trump.
“There’s been a lot of comments about Muslims, Mexicans, sexist things. If we have him in our satire making a Muslim slur, aren’t we just making a Muslim slur?” said Childs. “That’s been difficult to navigate. He’s pushed the conversation to a place where to satirize him you have to go there.”
“This is the Week That Is: The Election Special” runs until Nov. 7, the day before the election. In an unusual move for a theater company, the cast will perform on a Monday night to squeeze in one more performance while the material is still relevant.