Ladies and gentlemen, the stand-up comic from New York who called Fox News, “A festival of ignorance” to their face, (drum roll) Lee Camp.
We in Australia don’t know much about you. Who is Lee Camp?
I’m a former Playboy playmate and competitive eating champion who moonlights as a dock master. No wait, that was a lie. I’m an activist, writer (The Onion, Huffington Post), cultural commentator, and reluctant actor. But first and foremost I’m a stand-up comic. I feel like I’m a very funny politician who’s perpetually campaigning with insane ideas. For example, children are getting dumber every day. To solve this problem, we need to make Lego popular again. When Lego was popular, we only had smart kids because Lego choke the dumb kids. Vote for me. I’ll make our kids smart again.
What can the audience expect at your show?
I try to make people laugh first and think second, but if either one is missing, I’m not doing my job. They should expect to hear a lot of making fun of America and the American culture. At times they’ll disagree with me, but that’s all part of the fun. That’s the great thing about comedy – you can disagree with every word I say but still enjoy yourself. You can’t do that everywhere. Can’t do that at a Neo-Nazi rally.
What made you decide to come to Australia?
I was just looking for somewhere that was a short trip from New York. American Airlines told me it’s a 25-minute flight. I might even take a bus instead. Honestly, I’ve been enjoying performing outside the US more and more. I played the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and loved it. I’ve played Montreal several times and had a great time. I just want to get out of this American bubble I’m stuck in. One can only take so much Justin Bieber before they start poking at their head with a sharp object.
Did you plan on calling Fox News a, “festival of ignorance” before you were on?
When Fox News asked me to come on their national morning show and tell jokes, I had two thoughts – one was, “Go f*ck yourself” and the other thought was “Maybe I can use this opportunity for good rather than evil. So yes, I did plan on saying something but I wasn’t sure what. And despite what some people think, I never thought it would go viral and get millions of views. I thought it would be seen by some right-wing Americans watching a morning show, and that was all. But I felt it had to be said. In that same clip I asked why they weren’t reporting on the million dead in Iraq (this was two years ago by the way). So to answer your question, I felt great that I was able to keep my nerve and say something, but at the time, I had no idea I would get dozens of tear-jerking emails from people around the world, including veterans, thanking me for speaking the truth on Fox News’s own airwaves.
If comedians get to be political, should politicians attempt comedy?
In a way, yes. I think that the times Obama has appeared on The Daily Show have been great. However, for the most part it’s tough to see people with true power joking around about it. One notorious example is when Bush made a comedy video of himself “searching” for weapons of mass destruction. It included a moment in which he looks in his underwear drawer and goes, “Nope, not in here.” A lot people were justifiably disgusted. Yet, if a comedian had made that video, it would’ve felt different.
Can comedy save the world?
Comedy can help save the world by informing people. Nowadays with the speed information travels, getting a piece of information or a meme to go viral can have a huge impact on what people think. And comedy is often a shortcut to that goal. Comedy helped sink the presidential campaign of John McCain and Sarah Palin. Parody and satire were used to define Palin before she could define herself to the American people.
Do you fear the issues you address may not be taken seriously because they delivered with a sense of humour?
I feel my job is to impart information through comedy and then let the facts influence people. For example, I have a rant about the death penalty and even though people are laughing at the jokes, they’re also receiving facts – such as the fact that the number one determinant of whether a murderer gets the death penalty in America is race of the victim (more often people get the death penalty for killing a white person than killing a black person). After I’m done with the bit, the audience can’t un-know that fact. They’re stuck with it. What they do with it is up to them.
Do you prefer writing or being on stage?
I much prefer stand-up simply because nothing beats the energy of a live room. I mean, we don’t see that as much anymore – we get everything over TV, the computer or the phone. It seems like nothing is face-to-face. A crowd coming together and going nuts, whether it’s 25 people or 1000, can never be beat.
How does a major in English and Psychology result in a comedian?
Oh, yeah, those diplomas were forged. If you look closely ‘psychology’ is spelled ‘scikology’. Honestly, I knew after a year of college I was going to be a comedian but I knew I had to finish school or my parents would heckle me during my shows. So I went through the motions. In the end it probably did help give me an analytical mind.
If you weren’t a comedian, you’d be …
I’d be a comedy writer of some sort. But if I couldn’t do anything funny, I’d probably be a straight-up activist. But I don’t know how you earn a living doing that. Maybe steal stuff.
Jan 20-22, The Laugh Garage Comedy Club, cnr Elizabeth and Park Sts, CBD, $22, 9264 1161, thelaughgarage.com