When members of the Second City first met with staffers of the online magazine Slate last fall to plan a collaborative political revue, they never imagined that the 2016 presidential election would transpire in the way it has so far. "There was pretty much unanimous belief by us and by the Slate staff that Trump would fall away as a nominee," Second City director Matt Hovde says. "But as he built momentum and became the nominee, the comedian side of us was like, 'Oh wow, this just made this show a lot more fun.' "
Unelectable You: The Second City's Completely Unbiased Political Revue combines the comedy theater's trademark sketch and improv satire with reporting and insight from Slate journalists. The show opens in Chicago, but will be touring the country right up until Election Day, evolving throughout the run to keep up with the rapidly changing political landscape.
Along with prewritten sketches, each night will include an interview with a Slate reporter that will cover the day's headlines and also inspire a subsequent improv scene, all part of the effort to keep the show as up to date as possible. During the three months the cast and writers have spent preparing, sketches have been modified or scrapped entirely as each day brings crazier campaign news than the day before.
"If now, in July, Donald Trump is already half-jokingly inviting Russia to hack into Hillary's e-mail, like, what the hell will he be doing in October?" says Slate culture editor Dan Kois, who serves as a creative consultant for Unelectable You. "As journalists, we can often predict greater trends, but we have been spectacularly unsuccessful in predicting what bananas actual specific event might happen over the course of this election."
An election as bat-shit crazy as this year's race to the White House seems ripe for comedic interpretation, but Unelectable You's creators say it's been a challenge to turn the insanity into satire. "It's hard to heighten what is already a cartoonish version of politics," Hovde says.
So instead of reaching for the low-hanging fruit, they're taking a more analytical approach, examining the patterns that make this year's election so different—and also surprisingly similar—to ones from the past, and creating jokes based on their findings. But that doesn't mean there won't be at least one crack about Trump's tiny hands. Some of the easy jokes, Kois says, just have to be made.
With Unelectable You, Hovde and Kois hope to offer the electorate a fresh perspective on the quadrennial horse race. "I hope that one belief of [the audience members] has been challenged or at least vigorously interrogated," Kois says. "I want them have a chance to think a little bit about how this election, while extraordinary, is also ordinary in that it is still beholden to the structures that make American democracy both stupid and great." v