You can’t rush topical humor, even in an election year

There’s something funny going on in America: There will be a presidential election in 5 1/2 weeks.

A local theater company, 1812 Productions, has launched its annual current-events comedy show based on current events. This time, it’s an election special.

Some of the jokes in “This Is The Week That Is,” running for the next five weeks, change nightly. A newscast segment will be constantly re-written to keep up with the campaigns. Artistic director Jennifer Childs stays glued to the news all day to find new material, but she has to pace herself. While breaking news is good for the 24/7 cables news cycle, it’s not always good for comedy.

“Often if it happens in the afternoon, putting it in the show that night is too soon. Not enough people have heard about it to digest the information,” said Childs. “It doesn’t get a laugh until the following night, until the word gets around.”

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Childs gets a lot of comic mileage out of the personalities and double-talk common to punditry. The sometimes juvenile arguments bantered about on political punditry talk shows is taken literally in a scene where campaign managers for a student body election at an elementary school hack through arguments involving negative advertising (one candidate is taunted with “Charlie Garret Smells Like a Parrot”), securing the Latino vote (“Charlie is best friends with Luis”) and birth certificates:

Moderator: Ms. Swanson, you have no trouble questioning Bobby Carbone’s birth history, what about your candidate? Was Charlie born in this school district?

Swanson: Tom, this is old news. We have answered this school district questions a thousand times, and every time have given the same, exact response.

Moderator: Which is?

Swanson: That we have answered the question.

Moderator: And that answer was?

Swanson: That we answered it.

Moderator: What was the answer?

Swanson: I just gave it to you.

“This Is The Week That Is” is now in it seventh year, and the second time during a presidential campaign. Childs crunched out a small mountain of political jokes in 2008, and says voters now seem to be motivated less by genuine excitement for the candidates, and more by polarized party loyalty.

“This election makes me angry, it’s divisive. It’s not helpful,” said Childs. “That’s why I like comedy, it brings people together. I look at this show, and finding a way to laugh is my way of trying to bridge that divide.”

“This Is The Week That Is” runs at Plays and Players until three days before the election.

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