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Comedy Troupe Finds Humor In Fraught Election

Kirsten Miccoli
Jeffrey Murdoch and Emily Fightmaster (from left) with the rest of the cast of Second City's "Free Speech (While Supplies Last)" in an undated photo.

Comedy Troupe Finds Humor In Fraught Election
Comedy Troupe Finds Humor In Fraught Election GUESTS: Emily Fightmaster, actor, "Free Speech (While Supplies Last)" Jeffrey Murdoch, actor, "Free Speech (While Supplies Last)"

This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. It has never been harder to tell what is real from what is satire that during this election cycle. That either makes things very easy for political comedians or it makes it very difficult and probably a little of both. The payment second city improv group is taking up the challenge of this improbable presidential race at a new show at La Jolla Playhouse called free speech while supplies last. Joining me our two second city players Emily fight master and Geoffrey Murdoch. With the twists and turns of this campaign you must be up to here in this show on a daily basis. How do you keep up with each story? Truly it is -- this is a very big thing for our generation. I keep up with all of these stores to social media because a lot of my friends are activists or other comedians so they are just constantly uploading new stories or new articles and a lot of times when we walk into a rehearsal of we walk into a writing room the things that we pitched jokes about are the last headline that we saw on our phone right before we got in the room and so that is really how I think we have all been keeping up with things. Jeffrey, how much of the show free speech is different every night? It is mostly the same will be -- but we do have a couple rotating improvised parts and depends on suggestions from the audience and random things that happened that day. I would say most of it is set but probably 10% changes each night -- 10 or 20%. You mentioned the audience is there a lot of audience participation? There is. We like to get the audience involved. So has the audience done anything Emily that has been especially funny days what are they contributed so far? I love and audience for a lot of reason mainly because people so much of our energy from them. The job is nothing without the audience and -- so I am lucky enough to do an intro piece where I address the audience and tell them what they are in for. [ laughter ] every audience respond differently to a different part of the introduction every night and when you are performing something that you have to perform repeatedly, you feel and audience and the way that they respond -- that will show you how the rest of the show will go but it also reminds you about different parts about what you are saying. Every night in his sentence in that monologue kind of makes me feel refreshed . what is the political mix? How would you describe the political mix in your audience. Obviously everybody kind of knows you are a left leaning political satire group how do you try to keep the humor from becoming too one-sided? I really like to poke fun ourselves also. We realize we are infallible and we talk about how we know the scene -- we know the show seems one-sided because it is one-sided. [ laughter ] we tell the audience right that. Seem will compromise to try to get you involved as much as possible . Emily try to find conservative each night . are castmate Julia Rietz has a responsibility of finding the conservative but if they don't want to make themselves known, they are so transparent and I love them in a unique way because they are so transparent. You may get a grown from someone and then you know that is your time supporter. Whenever we get a Republican or a hard-core conservative or a time supporter -- they are like gold to me because I have never seen it before up close so I don't know. They almost make me happy. They are your unicorns. They are my unicorns. [ laughter ] Jeffrey, do you find that people want to laugh about this election? Or are they more nervous? They want to forget about it for a second but also they poke fun at it like they want to make light of this horrible time we are in right now. They realize it is bad but we know that we can survive and just laugh at it . this has been characterized over and over again that people across the political spectrum as an unusual election cycle. So when you look at this election cycle and what is going on in it to you find that the tone of your jokes -- the way that you are making your skits is different than it might be if we were in a more usual election cycle? Yes. I think a lot of second city shows in the past have done a great job handling very boring candidates -- kind of like a Gore/Bush election. Look at these two do this white men. But it is truly so different this time around because there are incredible stakes and not the states that we are used to. Not having to deal with a Republican president four years and having to deal with the liberal that we are talking about defacing America in front of the rest of the world. We are talking about the inevitable backlash against women was Hillary is elected. It is also dangerous and volatile that we go into our job very seriously but also with the intent to kind of ease the pain of everyone in the room because this is a sad and horrible time. You ever get the feeling that you are going too far? No. [ laughter ] I feel like this time you cannot go too far enough or you cannot go far enough because the politicians have already been there and it is like -- everything we can poke fun of -- Trump he has said something much worse so we are just reiterating what he said and that is humorous in itself. And people are laughing along. Yes . in a nervous kind of way. [ laughter ] The second city free speech while supplies last month at the liberty Playhouse through August 21. I have been speaking with second city players Emily fight master and Geoffrey Murdoch. Thank you both very much. Thank you for having us. Stay tuned for NPR special coverage of news from the Pentagon. President. Obama is expected to speak about the fight against ISIS. That is coming up next on KPBS and be sure to watch KPBS evening edition . You can join us again tomorrow for KPBS Midday Edition at noon followed by KPBS roundtable . Check out the midday edition podcast. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh thank you for listening.

One of the biggest laughs in improv comedy troupe Second City’s latest show isn’t safe for work — or radio.


“Free Speech (While Supplies Last),” which runs at the La Jolla Playhouse through Aug. 21, focuses on the 2016 presidential race with sketches skewering Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and cable news. But that big laugh line goes straight for Trump.

“Hillary Clinton has to win because if she doesn’t our president will be a morally and politically bankrupt orange peel who, when he’s not talking about f------ his daughter — yes, f------ his daughter — is talking about building a wall between us and human decency,” Second City actor Emily Fightmaster said.

Fightmaster’s referring to a 2006 interview Trump gave to “The View,” saying that if he wasn’t related to his daughter Ivanka, he might be dating her.

Audiences for “Free Speech” have come from across the political spectrum and include plenty of Trump supporters, according to Fightmaster, and so far, everyone’s been taken aback by Trump’s comments.

“If you’re not disgusted by that, you’re a monster,” she said. “And thankfully, no one has been a monster yet.”


Fightmaster and fellow actor Jeffrey Murdoch said their jokes this election season feel apocalyptic, no matter which party they’re lampooning. And that can take a toll on the performers.

“We get angry too,” Fightmaster said. “We have to be bright and funny about it and not let that show through to the audience.”

Fightmaster and Murdoch join KPBS Midday Edition on Thursday to discuss how they keep their comedy up to date amid a fast-moving news cycle.