Left to laugh: Comedians hold festival to soften blow of Trump takeover

Left to laugh: Comedians hold festival to soften blow of Trump takeover
Phil Provencio

Don’t let Trump get you down in the dumps, grumps!

A pair of Brooklyn comedians will try to lift liberal spirits during the weekend of the presidential inauguration with a nationwide comedy festival. Two Williamsburg venues will host local installments of the “What a Joke” festival on Jan. 20–21, with the goal of giving guests a good giggle when they need it most, said one of the event’s co-founders.

“On a night like that when a lot of people really aren’t happy with what’s happening with our country right now, they need to let go and laugh and to feel somewhat empowered — and that’s what we want to achieve,” said Park Slope comedian Jenn Welch.

Humorists will take the stage at the Annoyance Theater on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, and at Rough Trade the following night. But participants are not limited to election-themed material — distracting people from current events may be better than dwelling on the flaws of the incoming president.

“Anyone who is going to these shows probably has similar politics to the performers — we don’t need to beat a dead horse,” said Red Hooker Emily Winter, the other co-founder.

The key to an effective Trump joke is originality, said Winter, rather than rehashing tired gags about the incoming president’s improbable hair or Oompa-Loompa–like complexion.

“Everybody’s got a Trump joke and some of them hit and some of them don’t,” she said. “If you can put your finger on something that everybody has been thinking but hasn’t verbalized yet, that’s an important piece of an interesting joke that people will respond to. The same old stuff isn’t going to work.”

The Brooklyn line-up will feature Josh Gondelman, Jo Firestone, and Brett Davis at the Annoyance show, and Dave Hill, Laurie Kilmartin, and Rae Sanni at Rough Trade, along with the organizers and other comedians. Venues at 28 other cities across the country will also take part in the festival.

Proceeds from the weekend will go to American Civil Liberties Union, which the organizers feel could use the help during the Trump administration.

The title of the festival comes from the idea that Trump himself is a joke. Welch could not choose any particular action that earned Trump the title, saying that everything about him is ridiculous.

“It’s just all absurd,” said Welch. “I feel like we’re in a dark and serious comedy right now.”

What a Joke Festival at The Annoyance Theater (367 Bedford Ave. at S. Fifth Street in Williamsburg, www.theannoyancenewyork.com). Jan. 20 at 8 pm. $15.

Rough Trade (64 N. Ninth St. at Wythe Avenue in Williamsburg, www.roughtradenyc.com). Jan. 21 at 8:30 pm. $20.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill