Alt Satire? Here’s “Me The People: The Trump America Musical”
In an era of laughable and depressing news, Nancy Holson, Jay Falzone and Jim Russek — veterans of political satire dating from the Clinton era onward — have created Me The People: The Trump America Musical, which opens June 29 at The Triad in Manhattan.
As stated in the press materials:
Something funny is happening on the way to the coronation. Me The People…is an uproarious take on the craven, self-dealing Trump agenda intent on tearing apart our government and building a stupid wall. The show delivers a topical, up-to-the minute mockumentary of red-white-and-orange America. You don’t need to be a nasty woman, a Mexican or a Bernie-bro to find cathartic laughs in this 90-minute tonic for your 2016 election hangover.
Ed Malin: I grew up on political satire: Tom Lehrer, “The First Family” LPs, Capitol Steps. In your past interviews, I see your influences include Animal House, National Lampoon’s Vacation and Fahrenheit 451. That’s a mix.
Nancy Holson: Tom Lehrer was definitely an influence. And Allan Sherman. Those would be people who really spoke to me growing up.
EM: You’ve worked with Jay Falzone as a director on several projects over the years. What was the process for collaborating on Me The People?
You may have not thought you could laugh about this, but you can.
NH: Jay and I have collaborated a lot over the years. We have kind of gotten to a point where we really speak the same language. We come from the same place politically and we bring different things to the material. I’ll start it and he’ll finish it, basically. We’ve really come to a point where what we put on stage reflects our deep feelings about the world. That sounds pretty grand, but our collaboration is very productive. I have been doing political satire for many, many years, and it matters to me. The political system matters a lot to me. There’s always something to make fun of — on both sides of the aisle. I feel we are in such a difficult time right now, such a dark time, that I just needed to make this happen. The day after Election Day, I knew I was going to have to do this. So I spoke to Jay — and to Jim Russek, who was our third collaborator from Bush Wars — and we all agreed this is something we could do and that we must do to reinforce the resistance in the way that we were capable of doing.
EM: What are your favorite news sources?
NH: I’m a New York Times girl. I’ve been reading The New York Times since I was a toddler on my father’s knee. But news has gotten so…obviously, with the advent of Fox and other sources that come from very different viewpoints, it’s hard to find something that’s “just the facts, ma’am.” The New York Times is the closest we’ve got. I do believe there’s such a thing as objective truth and I think this is the starting place to get it. I also believe in the integrity of the journalists of The Washington Post. I also read a lot of the LA Times. And then I’m an MSNBC junkie, though I realize there’s opinion that comes into that as well. I read a lot of different sources.
EM: In the current administration, crises emerge weekly, if not daily, so there’s endless material.
NH: No kidding!
EM: Will your cast improvise and reference new developments?
Trump’s point of view they’re happy to dismiss.
NH: It’s a very good question — and the answer is yes. I think we have to. I’ve tried to dig a bit deeper with this show and I’m not really spoofing just current events, like the Comey hearings. We’re not doing what Saturday Night Live would do in terms of reenacting the hearings with a comic spin. We’re really taking a step back and looking at the underlying issues and where we are as a society, and taking a look at the different people in the administration and the different, larger issues and tried to give, if not a topical analysis, then more of a skewed opinion. The longer view. So, yes, there will be topical references. I’m working right now on updates. It will have to happen, because things are changing so quickly.
EM: How many roles does each cast member perform? Will we see appearances by other world leaders?
NH: We have four super-talented, versatile cast members running in and out of costumes. They could play 20 characters each. It makes it kooky and zany. Which is a really funny approach to super-serious material.
EM: Any Vladimir Putins? Any Angela Merkels?
NH: Currently we don’t have Putin, but we do have a generic Russian spy who is our focal point for all the crazy subterfuge-ish stories about Russia. We have a lot of characters you would know, from Ivanka and Jared to Betsy DeVos to Jeff Sessions to Paul Ryan. You name it, they’re probably in there, or some personification of what they stand for. We’ve chosen to do all of this without dignifying Donald Trump with his presence. It’s all about Trump, but his point of view we’re happy to dismiss. Clearly a partisan show.
EM: That’s interesting, because when I saw “wig design” on your press release I wasn’t sure if that meant a “Cheeto” wig.
NH: We have so many different characters, and they do need to be costumed and wigged. We thought it would be more interesting to tell the story from other people’s viewpoints.
EM: With such an inexperienced person in the White House, do you — as co-author of Bush Wars — ever think back to President George W. Bush and say…
NH: Oh, I miss him! I never realized how wonderful he was. I’m sorry for ever denigrating him. I want him back.
EM: It’s very different to think of someone who has military and governmental experience…
NH: Obviously I’d rather have Barack Obama than George W. Bush, but I believe that in his bumbling way, he was a man of integrity. Well, I guess that term is relative, but by today’s standards, absolutely. I don’t think he was going to blow us up. I think basically he cared about people, so that’s a big change.
EM: You previously produced Can I Really Date A Guy Who Wears A Yarmulke? Is there anything about religion or the Middle East in this show?
NH: We have a number about Jared Kushner making peace in the Middle East, since that’s on his very long to-do list.
EM: I just keep thinking, there’s so much to satirize.
NH: It’s really difficult to synthesize. I think in our 75 minutes we decimate the Trump administration in every way we can, comedically. What we’re trying to do is create a space for people as frustrated, upset and demoralized as I am — as we, the creators, are. We can come together and spend 75 minutes with like-minded people and feel a sense a release. We need that release and hopefully it can help us to all move forward and do something productive and change our course. We want to create a place where people can come and laugh. You may have not thought you could laugh about this, but you can.
EM: I’m glad The Triad is producing this.
NH: Thank you. I’ve been doing this a long time, I love it, but this is a mission. I’ve never felt more compelled to do a project. This just felt like a moral imperative. I believe that we all have to do what we can do right now. This is what Nancy Holson can do, it’s what Jay Falzone can do, it’s what Jim Russek can do. We hope that, in our way, we can make a difference to make things better.