Don't worry, comedian Adam Conover's politics-themed live tour of his TruTV show Adam Ruins Everything isn't "ruining" democracy. He's just giving it a love tap or two.
The approach is less harsh than usual for the bespectacled and bespoke New York native, who has a reputation for impishly busting some of America's deeply held myths. His 2014 video Engagement Rings Are a Scam exposed the tradition of buying engagement rings as the insidious result of a decades-old PR campaign waged by the monopolistic diamond industry. The sketch was viewed nine million times on YouTube and helped Conover land his half-hour show in fall 2015. In the program's first season he boldly took aim at topics ranging from the TSA (it doesn't make us any safer) to vitamins (they're essentially placebos) to the hymen (it doesn't work like we think it does).
It's all done with a heady blend of humor and something resembling broadcast journalism—even if Conover rejects the label. "We're a comedy show, we're the bottom of the intellectual pool," he says. "We're basically signal boosting the work of real journalists that's already out there." Even so, there are times when Adam Ruins Everything feels like John Oliver's Last Week Tonight meets 60 Minutes for millennials—except, well, Conover famously debunked the existence of millennials earlier this year. ("Here's what really exists: people, a whole lot of people who are alive at the same time.")
On his 15-city live tour, which ends in Chicago on October 3, Conover employs a TED-Talk style complete with charts, videos, and slides in an attempt to break down America's flawed electoral system and inject a much-needed dose of truth and perspective into a political season that increasingly feels obscured by overheated rhetoric and obfuscation.
For instance, Conover tackles the myth that 2016 is the craziest presidential election ever. "There were crazier," he says. "We just forgot about them."
And the frequent comparisons of Donald Trump to Hitler? Boring and overblown. "We spend time talking about George Wallace because Trump shares some similarities to him, but we also see some of LBJ and Thomas Jefferson in Trump," Conover says.
Conover also wants you to know that your vote matters, even if too many of us are putting all of our stock into the election of a single person every four years, the place where an individual's vote counts the least.
"In a presidential election, your power is not enormous," he says. "Where it matters more, and where money in politics matters more, is on a local level. Local elections are won by sometimes tens or hundreds of votes, yet they have much more impact on your life than the president does."
The ultimate goal isn't for people to leave Adam Ruins Everything Live! feeling totally disenchanted with democracy, but with a sense of empowerment.
"I want people to come away feeling a bit more sad about our elections but also more positive," he says. "There's obviously a lot of problems, but the good news is that many of them are easier to solve than we think." v