You don’t have to look much beyond the title of comedian Kate Clinton’s latest show to get her take on the state of the world. In “All Fracked Up,” Clinton cranks through woes of the modern world like fracking (of course), global weirding and Republicans.
“I really feel like my job is to take those things that are infuriating and try to kind of transform them into something we can laugh about,” she says. “Although sometimes I say things in my show and think, ‘We should all be crying at this point.’” Clinton started in comedy around the same time that former President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II were elected to their respective offices. Her sense of humor has endured eight presidential inaugurations. It’s a fitting measurement of her career, given that what those in the nation’s highest office do is part of the fodder for her show. She draws from current events, national, international and sports related, and layers in plenty of opinion.
“I don’t think there’s anything off limits, but I feel like I need to have competence and confidence in it,” she says. “As long as you have that, I think people will take anything in, even if they disagree with it. I’ve had people come out of my show going ‘Well, I’m a Republican, but I laughed.’” But the experience of laughing and then talking about a show is just the start.
“I think it’s good practice to laugh together, because I think it’s a good practice for activism — because you’re laughing out loud, you’re making a physical statement,” she says. “It’s good practice for a march.”
Don’t laugh it off. Laugh and then get cranked up and go out and do something, she says.
“It’s a lot to ask. I expect a lot of comedy,” she says.
But then again, she’s seen it deliver.
At a show in St. Louis, she was being picketed by Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church people, she says, and they were carrying signs declaring God’s hate for (insert another f-word). Most of the audience members were lesbians.
“I thought, ‘Well, could you update your signs, at least,’” Clinton says. She talked about it during the show, and the audience walked outside and starting engaging the people with the picket signs.
“I really encourage people to, at least at some point, to have a talk with somebody that they don’t agree with or to challenge somebody,” she says.
The layers of misunderstanding in the country among the people, and between the people and those charged with representing them in Congress, deserve a certain other f-word as a label. And while the aging Millennials promise a future that includes a more progressive electorate, Clinton says she’s not sure she can wait out another three inaugurations.
“I think we have lots more work to do and it’s very exciting, and we’ve had a lot of victories,” she says. “I’m encouraged and just want them to finish the work they’ve started.”
The task at hand is to take the momentum of the LGBT movement forward — past the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, past the inclusion of transgender people in laws that prevent housing discrimination, and continue on the “slow and grinding way toward federal marriage equality,” she says, among other tasks.
“If you talk to LGBT teens, what they’re concerned about is violence and homelessness and incredible rates of HIV, so we have a lot of work to do,” she says. Rather than sit at home and worry, Clinton gets on the road — and when she doesn’t have shows during which to fire off one-liners about the headlines and get other people fired up to do something, she gets what her partner of 25 years calls “seasonal off-road disorder.”
Her May 4 stop in Boulder is one of just a few stops around the country, and she says the informed and conversational Boulder crowds are a pleasure to play to.
And Colorado is a key stop for social issues and the people who spend a lot of time talking about them — like, you know, presidential candidates.
“Colorado has been really ground zero for some really early incredible amendment battles and I think what happened was it really activated a lot of people,” she says. “I think my coming there is to keep the conversation going.”
So, maybe it’s a little f-ed up right now, but it’s not hopeless.
More on Clinton, her video-log and links to her columns for The Progressive can be found at Kateclinton.com.