'Obamalogues' Blends Comedy And Commiseration To Get Out The Vote
“See, I’m one of you,” the imposter Ryan said. “Well — one of you with 4 percent body fat.” His bit boiled down to an imagined infomercial for the Republican ticket. Sornberger pulled a cardboard box representing a P90X DVD out of his prop backpack, and centered his ham-handed critique on Mitt Romney’s rich-boy status and his VP’s fitness-crazed exaggerations.
“Do your best and fuck the poor,” he shouted at the sparse audience before launching into a set of biceps curls. “1… 2… 164….”
His garish impression would have fit well in the line-up of the blessedly canceled “MADtv” or, on one of its lazier weeks, “Saturday Night Live.” It was an easy joke, one frankly done better a week ago in memes shared on Tumblr.
Had Sornberger been the first of the “Obamalogues” instead of a disruptive second, his set might have piggy-backed nicely onto the showcase’s opening montage. A paltry crowd of 10 or 12 patrons was treated to images of President Barack Obama’s head Photoshopped onto emblems of masculinity — the Marlboro man, a buff statue straight out of Ancient Rome — all set to the pulsing beats of Justin Timberlake’s “Sexy Back” and "London Bridge" by Fergie.
Far more effective were the personal anecdotes told by Sornberger’s fellow featured performers. These included information-heavy explanations of why the comedians planned to vote Obama into a second term, jittery retellings of time spent phonebanking on the candidate’s behalf, tongue-in-cheek name-dropping at the political convergence of Hollywood and The Rest of the Country.
Each story resonated in its own way, probably because every voter remembers where they were the night the United States elected its first black president.
Storyteller Chris Bramante was in New York. He told the audience about running through the city’s streets, high-fiving an impressive four cab drivers as they sped by. His family’s experience of the 2008 election was particularly endearing. After hosting then-Sen. Obama at their home for a campaign appearance, even Bramante’s Republican father voted blue. A hometown celebrity, his mother still proudly brings up the 16 hugs and 10 kisses she received at a New Hampshire victory rally that night.
But Bramante was first to touch on the show’s common thread: waning enthusiasm among Obama supporters. “Has anyone even heard a ‘Yes We Can’ this time around?” Bramante asked with indignation. “It’s a different energy in 2012. There is no ‘Yes We Can’.”
His audience was clearly pro-Obama — members had voluntarily committed themselves to the 75-minute tribute after all, and frequent applause at appropriate intervals confirmed their bias. But far from preaching to the choir, the “evening of stories, songs and short films professing love, lust and everything in between” for the 44th president came off as both rallying cry and opportunity for commiseration.
Sympathy played a big role during Eric Hutchinson’s bit. He prefaced his contribution with a disclaimer: “This might not be very funny. I wrecked my car today.” Indeed, his tone was more serious, but the story was no less enthralling. Hutchinson gave a detailed account of his home state’s 1990 senate race between Harvey Gantt and Jesse Helms to explain his liberalism — “What happened to me that didn’t happen to the rest of North Carolina?” he asked.
Comparing that election with the presidential race at hand, his was a fundamental understanding of politics perhaps shared by many Americans, that of Good Guy vs. Bad Guy. He finished on an earnest note, pointing to a picture of Obama at 29 wearing a Gantt campaign shirt. “It took that guy” — Gantt — “to make that guy” — Obama — “and it’ll make me really angry if it doesn’t happen again.”
Brian Finkelstein acknowledged that Hutchinson’s sincerity and diligent research made for a tough act to follow. “Now I’m going to sound fucking dumb,” he said. Though not as eloquent, his dishing on Obama’s campaign appearance on “Ellen” while Finkelstein was still a staff writer was decidedly juicer.
Finkelstein’s story came with a few caveats. “I’m definitely pro-Obama,” he said, “I’m not a fucking monster. But on a personal level, I don’t like him. The guy almost got me fired, ruined my 40th birthday and got my 14-year-old girlfriend to break up with me.” That last one isn’t as repugnant as it sounds — in the end, a Facebook-fueled schoolgirl crush, never consummated.
Finkelstein redeemed himself after airing his indiscretions with his own memory of election night 2008. “I watched with friends, and you know, it was one of those real moments for me, one of the few times I was comfortable crying in front of people,” he said. “I just wish I had been in a real city like D.C. or New York, not this shithole L.A. Everyone’s just like ‘Yeah, ok, that was great.’”
The show has two more performances coming up: Tuesday, Oct. 30 and Monday, Nov. 5, both at 7:30 p.m., on the Main Stage of IO Theater. Buy tickets here.