This was originally written for the St. Lou Fringe Voice Unleashed Blog!
Over the course of the last few years a lot of things have changed that didn’t think would happen in my life.
Last year I got married.
The year before that I started seeing more people coming back to see me at live shows.
The year before that Trump won the election.
Around the same time as Trump’s election, more conservatives started coming to see my show.
Let’s work a little backwards and really Tarentino this piece and get to where I am with this new show called “Politely Angry”!
In 2016 I was writing a show about mental health. I wanted to break the stigmas surrounding and have people be more open and honest about it, but I also wanted to explore how a variety of socio-political issues played a factor in our mental health. The show is called “Approaching Happiness”.
At this point, my girlfriend (and now wife) and I had split up and I was thinking a lot about my friends suicide. So I buried myself in my art to answer a lot of questions for myself. That personal journey led me to figure out that I had a lot of anger not just at myself but at the systems in place that put pressure on our personal relationships and make it harder for us to enjoy our lives.
This is where conservatives come in. One of the major things that I equate to a successful show for me is whether people came up and continued the conversation after the show. Whether if it’s with each other or with me, I want people to be able to have a conversation with each other about big topics without belittling each other. Over the course of 2016 and 2017 I had a bunch of conservatives (some Trump supporters and voters), that would come up to after the shows and talk to me.
“You know, I didn’t agree with everything you said, but I do appreciate the way you said it.” they’d start.
I’d thank them and ask “What didn’t you agree with?”. And then we’d talk about it.
Another popular response would be “Well I never thought about things that way!”
These conversations led to me getting to understand what the other side was concerned about, scared for and what they were looking for in terms of progress. If they were taking the time to understand my perspective, shouldn’t I take the time to understand theirs, even if I didn’t agree with their point of view?
So this is where Trump comes in. Trump’s election was a surprise to a lot of us. It’s not a shock, but it was a surprise. More of a “huh, that’s interesting” moment for me. It was evident after my conversations with the conservatives that showed up to my shows that the Democratic Party had abandoned these people and Trump was claiming to listen. That’s all they needed to vote for him. They could ignore all the bigoted rhetoric and the machismo because at least he was listening to them, or so it seemed.
Now my view on Trump is that he’s a sad old man that ran for the most powerful office in the country to gain some friends and boost his brand. He’s 71 and I don’t think he’s got friends, but he’s got a name. And boy howdy he can make money by turning his name into a product he can sell. He’s the product of every hyper competitive and macho individualistic systems that have been made important in this country. He’s a symptom of a much larger problem.
With the abandonment of working class people, the non-stop media coverage and a horrific campaign run by the Democrats, it was no shock that Trump got elected. Plus our election system is corrupted and broken. It’s long, complicated and boring, not to mention racist in a lot of different states.
But despite these blatant reasons for his election, I watched a lot of my friends on the “liberal” and the “left” denounce family members, attack others on the left for attempting to find solutions rather than validate vitriol, attack supporters of Third Parties and anyone taking a moderate stance and see movements get derailed by the idea of “DESTROYING” a career. People were just angry and it didn’t seem like there was anything being done with the anger except further divide us.
So I wrote a show about it. It evolved and changed over the course a year and a half and touring across the country (literally). I started writing “Empathy On Sale” in June 2017 and didn’t finish it until February of 2019. I recorded it and released it earlier this year.
In the midst of all this I got back together with my girlfriend (and now wife). Around that time, while I was still working on “Approaching Happiness” I had an audience member in Harrisburg come up to me and say: “I really liked your show. But I think you should find someone who loves you. It’ll calm you down. You’ll see that you don’t need to be this angry!”
I thought about that a bunch for a long time. My wife loves me. And I love her. But that doesn’t mean that I’m less angry about the variety of injustices in this world. These systemic injustices have affected our lives directly. Whether it’s dealing with immigration, poverty, access to opportunity, our lives are directly affected a bunch of these problems. It causes stress, fights, miscommunication and pushes us apart.
This is true for a lot of us. We forget that we’re not alone in the problems that plague us. In the moment we think we think we’re alone but we’re not. Not ever really. Usually there’s someone in your life that has either been through what you’re going through or is going through the same thing! So why the hell would we want to be split apart the collective consciousness of the struggle when we can come together and struggle less.
This is where my marriage comes in. My wife proposed to me on my 29th birthday and 5 days before I turned 30 I got married. Our wedding was not traditional, not even close. We didn’t wear tuxes or a white dress that was only to be worn once. It didn’t cost $10,000 and nor was in a church or a temple. We decided we’re going to take our favorite parts of a bunch of customs and bring it together.
We had a Christian reading, a Jewish reading, a Hindu prayer, a Pagan poem, rock & roll, comedy that wasn’t meant to be comedy and food from a variety of traditions! Plus (humble brag), Stewart Huff & Lee Camp did our wedding toasts!
Our wedding brought together the religious, the spiritual, the agnostics, the atheists, the liberals, the conservatives of every gender, race, creed and for one afternoon, put them under one roof to celebrate love. To realize that our differences are not weapons to be used against us, but something to be celebrated and enjoyed with each other. To learn and grow with each other. To be happy about the diversity of life.
I’ve been angry a lot. And I still am. But I’m not angry at people. I’m angry at the systems of exploitation that blinds us to the beauty of our differences. I’m angry that we don’t see how our own histories has been forgotten to ensure it repeats itself for the further divide us. But yelling at the people isn’t how we get each other to see this. I’m angry but I’d rather do something productive with my anger and use it as a fuel to bring us together.