Monday, September 19, 2016

'Unelectable You' explores the unbelievably true presidential election

Truth is stranger

Posted by Matt Dobie on Mon, Sep 19, 2016 at 9:43 AM

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It’s a wild world of politics out there, especially this election season. Navigating the barrage of scandals and slip-ups and flip-flops can be a challenge. And searching for a guide may prove futile. Fear not Charleston, an unbiased political revue from Second City and Slate is coming to town. The show won’t serve as a guide, but rather as a sort of batsman whacking the piñata that is this year’s political landscape.

Unelectable You, coming to the Gaillard Center on Tues. Sept. 27, is a quick-witted combination of sketch comedy, improv, music, and multi-media — a no-holds-barred shellacking of the 2016 presidential campaigns.

On the surface, it might seem like an odd partnership. Slate, an award-winning web magazine, known for its trademark wit and analysis of everything from politics to pop culture, pairing up with Second City, a Chicago-based comedy empire that has produced the likes of local favorites Stephen Colbert and Bill Murray. But Dan Kois, culture editor for Slate and creative consultant for Unelectable You, seems to see it as a natural development.

“Second City approached Slate,” Kois says in an interview on Unelectable You's website. “And said, ‘we like to partner with publications that have a real voice, that have a real point of view. And we wanna do a campaign show and we know that your coverage of the campaign is gonna be lively and funny and occasionally dumb as befits a lively and funny and dumb campaign like this one.’”

The creative process has been a complete collaboration. Though the main cast is made up of Second City players, the writing team behind the show is an amalgam of members from both companies. And for this particular performance, Slate’s bringing along one of its most prominent contributors, John Dickerson, to join the lampoonery on the Gaillard stage.

Dickerson’s credentials go far beyond columnist for Slate. He’s written for the New York Times and served as TIME Magazine’s White House correspondent, and he’s the current Political Director for CBS News and host of Face the Nation. In the line of duty, he has interviewed every major presidential candidate multiple times this year, gaining unique insights into their campaigns.

Dickerson may be known for his charm and charisma but he is revered for his interviewing prowess. A 2004 Washington Post article describes his interview style as “cleverly worded, seemingly harmless, but incisive,” a.k.a. “Dickersonian.”

What started in a small cabaret theater in 1959, Second City has blossomed into a major player in the comedy universe. In addition to performing thousands of shows each year, it is the premier school for improvisational comedy worldwide, with training facilities in Toronto and Los Angeles as well as Chicago. Beyond those famous local fellas mentioned earlier, Second City has also nurtured the creativity of Tina Fey, Steve Carell, Chris Farley, and many, many more.

Their current endeavor with Slate has them on a 30-date nationwide tour leading directly up to the election. Having played for packed houses and received rave reviews, it’s interesting to note that this show would not even exist if not for the calamitous and buffoonery-laden 2016 campaign trail. A trail that senselessly keeps changing course.
As every headline breaks, every tweet gets posted, every video goes viral, the story transforms. The beauty of Unelectable You is that its format allows it to change and adapt with what’s going on in the real world. The cast can take a breaking news story and insert it into that night’s performance.

You can expect to see impersonations of Hillary, of Trump, of Bernie, and Obama. You’ll hear about twitter debacles, email scandals, and plagiarized speeches. But within the absurdity, amongst the finely crafted comedic timing, will be scraps of knowledge, bits of wisdom.

In that same interview on Unelectable You’s site, Kois says, “We like the idea of exploring the way this traditional view of campaigning, this traditional view of politics, has completely collapsed. That collapse is scary for America, but it’s fun for comedy.” 

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