Can comedy bridge the political divide?


I am a stand-up comedian. I also host a show called, “Walking Funny.” I interview people while we take a walk and encourage the viewer/listener to walk along with us. I have a degree in exercise science and I have always loved sports and activity. I’m trying to encourage people to start walking, get moving and get themselves feeling better.

I’m currently visiting my mother in Florida and the other night I headed down to a nearby comedy club to see the club owner whom I thought might want to do a walk with me.  He was one of the first guys to book me many years ago when I was starting out and I frequently work at his club.  I saw on the website that there were a couple of guys performing at the club that night that were, well, let’s just say, on the opposite end of my political spectrum. But I also saw on the club’s website a video of one of them who seemed like he might actually be open to a “What can we do to come together?” walk. He seemed somewhat reasonable and I do have some Republican friends so I thought it might actually be an interesting or enlightening chat. Family engagements made me miss the beginning of the show, but I knew I could still catch some of it if I hurried to get there.
Well, unfortunately, the club owner was out of the country on vacation and not available. But I went in to catch the end of the show, anyway. The headliner was onstage (I missed the guy I thought I might want to walk with) and, while I’d never met this dude before, I’d seen him on the flyers of clubs I was working in many years ago when he was headlining and I was just starting out. He was super-Southern, I didn’t remember him as being billed that way. But, again, I’d never worked with him so I looked at his Facebook page to see if it was the same guy… AND, FOR THE RECORD, I was in the back of the room and stepped around the corner to do that. You know, we can see you from the stage when you’re on your phones in comedy clubs. The room is dark and your giant smartphones illuminate your whole damn head.  Don’t think we don’t think we don’t know! Anyway…

I found his Facebook page and it was filled with hate. Typical alt-right bullshit that infuriated me as I read. Then I watched a room full of people laughing at his “Walmart shoppers are ugly” brilliance and irrationally became angry with them, too. I stood there getting madder, festering like a bite from a poisonous insect. My anger just kept building up and I had to leave. I saw the other dude on the way out and thought I probably should ask him about the walk but I couldn’t. I just needed to get out of there.

I really, truly went there with the intent of trying to come together — to come to some level of understanding. Some Pollyanna goal of mending fences and building bridges and all I could think of was I wanted cram the microphone into this idiot’s mouth just to shut him up or just make him go away — leave the country that he’s trying to ruin but just stop f**cking talking!

Holy sh*t, dear readers, how do we get over this? I consider myself a fairly open-minded person and I just couldn’t deal with that dude. This political climate has made us all edgy and socially frail. Innocent people are dying and no one — myself, apparently, included — is willing to listen to the other side. Although, in my defense, “toothless Walmart shopper” material isn’t that interesting. But, seriously, where do we go from here?

I saw horrific posts about Heather Heyer from “their” side. And, I’ve certainly posted enough negativity about the dude that lives in the White House. But, how do we come together? I’ve seen “love trumps hate.” And, I do believe that. I really do. But, if I can’t even come to “love” someone who’s telling jokes, who can we love?

One of the things I learned in college was that one of the many benefits of exercise was stress reduction. You really do feel better when you exercise — endorphins and all that stuff. But, I’m thinking, in these times, they need to bump up that step prescription. Today, 10,000 steps will no longer do the trick. We’re gonna need 10 million steps a day. Or, at least, and perhaps, most importantly, those first 10 steps that enable you to walk away from a confrontation until you can be logical.

Jennie McNulty was named one of Curve magazine’s Top 10 lesbian comedians.

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