Having witnessed nearly 20 Republican debates so far, the American public is overwhelmed by the resultant renaissance of rich, enlightened discourse. Like students of Socrates, the 2012 presidential hopefuls pursue truth through extremely exhaustive debate. Of course, the layperson needs some guidance when confronted with such a high-minded forum, and during the 21st GOP primary debate of this campaign season, Athenians will witness an unprecedented meeting of the minds: #Occupythedebate.
Local performers Ed Burmila, Jesse Rosoff, Nate Mitchell, Caleb Synan and Chris Patton will provide public commentary live at New Earth Music Hall as Fox News broadcasts its Jan. 16 GOP debate.
“I figured we could get people to come out and pay a little bit of attention while having some fun in the process,” explains Patton.
Burmila teaches political science at UGA, making him the most credentialed political commentator slated to occupy the debate. Patton assures us that “all of the performers are educated in a sense and know what they are talking about.” However, profundity is not necessarily everyone’s goal, as Synan explains.
“I won't be doing a lot of in-depth comedic examinations of their economic policies,” he says. “I'll be saying things like, ‘Doesn't Michelle Bachmann look like Bat Boy?’… Personally, I only care if it's funny. If you go too high-brow with your satire you'll end up losing everybody. There aren't a whole lot of gut-busters in Animal Farm. That’s right. Now I'm dissing George Orwell.”
According to Synan, the format will be somewhat like that of "Mystery Science Theatre 3000," in that the commentators will be “making fun of an embarrassingly bad cast of undead characters who are already funny by themselves.”
Synan seems slightly ambivalent about the current roster of Republican contenders, implying that there’s something tragically amusing about them. “Just Youtube Rick Perry and you've got a solid hour of laughs,” says Synan. “Part of me is embarrassed for the Republican voters that have to pick a candidate out of this bunch.”
Patton claims that Perry produces the best inadvertent comedic fodder. However, what makes Patton laugh also stirs a bit of fear in him; he describes Perry as “just a character, like a dumber George Bush… and that’s scary.” Patton reluctantly chooses Ron Paul as his “favorite” GOP candidate, simply because Paul “stays really consistent in his views.” However, Patton’s discovery that Paul “basically has his own version of Mein Kampf” illustrates how quickly one of these politicians can go from quirky to downright frightening.
Synan is no fan of Paul either, calling him “the craziest one of them all.”
“I took one of those bogus Internet surveys to see who I should vote for,” says Synan, “and the number-one guy was Ron Paul. I wanted to throw my computer down a flight of stairs.”
All five comics are sure to lampoon everyone behind a lectern at #occupythedebate—Rick Santorum’s hyper-social conservatism, Newt Gingrich’s questionable past and general unpleasantness, Mitt Romney’s suspiciously synthetic appearance and John Hunstman’s… invisibility cloak are all fair game.
“I think, really, the fact that any of these people are even considered is a testament to the fact that most people really don't even do their research,” says Patton. “So, maybe some of these people will come out to this show and that will snowball into them paying attention to what they are actually voting for.”
Patton and Synan plan to continue holding events in this format, mainly focusing on the upcoming 2012 debates and having “some really good talent come down and participate in future versions.” Synan has some other commentary-based comedy in mind. “I'd love to do a series of bad movies,” he says, “or maybe one of those terrible Tyler Perry shows on TBS. I've always found those offensively bad.”
The commentators want to keep the comedy going during commercial breaks, so they’re asking for “any question about anything” to be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As for the show’s heavily improvisational element, the comics feel safe “winging it” on this one. “That's the most fun thing about comedy, is the unscripted moments,” says Patton, “for both the crowd and the performer.”
“The Republicans have handed us the jokes on a silver platter,” adds Synan, “and we just have to improv a punch-line.”