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Comedians Fight Fear with Laughter

Comedians Fight Fear with Laughter

Comedians come together to fight fear of Trump presidency with fundraiser and jokes

Comic Event to Benefit ACLU

If you thought last year’s election cycle was some kind of weird joke that made people cry until they laughed, you’re not alone.

Comedians across the country have organized the “What A Joke” national comedy festival to be held inauguration weekend, with proceeds going to benefit the American Civil Liberties Union.

The 84 shows happening in 33 cities, including Albuquerque, have one cause: to stand up to the human rights violations put forth in policy proposals by the soon-to-be President of the United States.

“He can’t attack all of us on Twitter at once,” said veteran Albuquerque comedian Mary Byrd, who spearheaded organization for the event on a local level.

“What matters is that we’re organizing early,” she said. “Because our new president has repeatedly threatened human rights, we decided that we need to start arming – funding organizations that will help preserve those rights.”

Donald Trump is often criticized for winning last year’s election by appealing to the country’s lowest common denominator – irresponsibly capitalizing on the fears and frustrations of some voters while scapegoating others, and playing into an age-old, hate-fueled brand of politics.

His performance on the campaign trail can be likened to that of a hack comedian stumbling into an onstage rant featuring incoherent threats instead of punchlines, said local comedian Caitlin Minton, who also helped organize the event.

Trump “uses low-hanging fruit, he’s a bully,” she said. “Good comedians are honest, fair and objective. Those would be good traits in a president, but he’s a fraud.”

Comedy has a way of making difficult topics easier to talk about, Minton said, in this case, it can provide people with an opportunity to support the ACLU.

“It’s going to make people want to come out and have a good time,” she said. “It’ll inspire them to maybe get involved.”

Free speech is at the heart of stand-up comedy, and the ACLU is wary of an administration that has threatened to use its power to curtail any of the constitutional rights of any American, said Micah McCoy, communications director with ACLU of New Mexico.

“There is nothing more iconic in free speech than a stand-up comic pushing boundaries, taking risks, and breaking taboos,” he said. “For stand-ups to support the ACLU is totally appropriate, and we’re thrilled to have that support.”

As defenders of liberty, the ACLU is as important now as it has ever been, McCoy said.

“However your time and talents allow,” he said. “Now is a great time to join and support the ACLU.”

In another appropriate move, the Albuquerque “What A Joke” event will be hosted by Sidewinders, a gay bar on the Southeast side of town.

Trump may have succeeded by playing into the anger and animosity of some elements in society, but opposing him will require the opposite, said owner Michael Burdick.

“If we don’t laugh, and don’t organize, and aren’t ready, the next four years could be a major disaster for our country,” he said, citing the risk a Trump administration poses to the socially progressive gains made over the years. “That’s the reason we’re supporting the ACLU in their fight against injustice.”

Achieving progress requires people be proactive instead of waiting until things go wrong to react, and finding silver linings instead of focusing on the looming dark cloud that is a Trump administration, Burdick said.

“If we allow anger to consume us, we’re no better than what happened to elect this president,” he said, “We need to find comedy in ourselves, we need to find comedy in life, in order to move forward. Organize through laughter. Not through hate, but love.”

Byrd, Minton, and 10 other comics from around the state, including Lucas CorVatta, Ann Gora, and Danger Varoz, will perform at Sidewinders starting at 8 p.m. on Jan. 19.

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Johnny Vizcaino is an editorial intern at ABQ Free Press Weekly.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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