Tag Archives: laughter against the machine

Big news, various

Are you sitting down?

We’re pleased to announce that we’ll be premiering the Laughter Against the Machine tour documentary at Netroots Nation 2012. The conference runs June 7-10 in Providence, Rhode Island. We’ll also be teaming up with Laughing Liberally for a standup comedy show.

Also, our own W. Kamau Bell will be starring in a new late-night show on FX, slated to premiere in August, which will be executive-produced by Chris Rock.

We’re performing in Portland, Oregon and showing clips from the documentary at the Rebooting Democracy Conference on April 19. The show is open to the public.

The first-ever Laughter Against the Machine shows in Los Angeles will be Monday, April 30 at 730pm & 930pm at the Improv Lab. Advance tickets here.

Nato is recording his first comedy CD at 7 & 9pm on Tuesday, May 8 in Oakland at the New Parish. Advance tickets here.

The last chances for people in the Bay Area to see Kamau before the FX show kicks off will be with Nato on Mondays at the Comedy SuperPAC at the Hemlock Tavern or on Tuesday, April 17 with a new edition of the W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About an Hour. Advance tickets here.

You can stand up now.

–Kamau, Janine, Nato


We fought Fighting Bob Fest in Madison – A blog better late than never

He's passed way more laws than you ever will.

Whew! The tour is finally over! Well, it’s at least half over. We were in five cities in nine days. Seven if you count Nogales twice, since it is both in Mexico AND Arizona. We closed with one of the best shows of the trip in Madison, Wisconsin, where we got a crowd who was definitely, LATM friendly. We spent the day at Fighting Bob Fest, watching speeches by a variety of people from the left push their brand of liberal politics in our faces and then rub our noses in it. Flippin’ socialists! Fighting Bob Fest is basically like Liberalpalooza. It was in a basketball arena filled with progressives, angry about the state of America… but in a good way. Thom Hartmann, Greg Palast, Bernie Saunders, and others. AND BECAUSE NATO AND JANINE HAD TO GET COFFEE WE JUST MISSED CORNEL WEST!!! (No hard feelings at all, of course.)

Now because Fighting Bob Fest is in Wisconsin, it was overwhelmingly white, but because it was a day of progressive team building, it felt like a Tea Party rally minus the fear of others.

As usual, we started off the day with a loose plan: Go to Fighting Bob Fest; pass out flyers for our show that night, & shoot interviews with whoever we could get. Well we managed to finish the day with an overstuffed hard drive of interviews and random interactions. According to Mike and Evan, the filmmakers, they are going to have to buy new hard drives because we are taking up (and talking up) so much space. The only interview we had scheduled was with Peter Rickman, a community and labor organizer from Wisconsin’s AFL-CIO. but while we were walking around the arena, I heard someone shout, “Kamau!” I looked and it was John Hershberger, my number one Facebook friend. John had generously donated to our Kickstarter and we got a few minutes on film with him talking about everything that is going on with the unions in Wisconsin. After we finished and he had walked away I heard him call back to us, “You need to interview him.” And he pointed at a man who I soon found out is the longest serving state legislator in the country, Fred Risser. State Senator Risser very kindly talked to us. And he didn’t seem to be phased by the fact that in the middle of the interview, Nato taped me out, so he could take over with his stentorian tones and aggressive intellect. The best part was when Nato told St. Senator Risser that we learned in Arizona that many of it’s problems are the fault of retirees relocating there from the midwest, State Senator Risser exclaimed, “Hey! Don’t blame Arizona on us!” Thank you for entertaining our questions, Mr. Risser.

That night we did our show at The Bartell Theatre in Madison, and we got OUR crowd. A bunch of liberals and progressives with a senses of humor, who didn’t always agree with us, but didn’t mind us pushing them or us steering them down alleged comedic alleys with dead ends. Afterward we took the advice of Eide Alwan from the mosque in Dearborn and we passed the hat for donations to help us get this crazy documentary finished and the audience politely filled our hat… uh… basket.

Later we went out for some Wisconsin sausage and beer, and gorged ourselves. It is amazing how well it feels like this first week went, and we all anxious and excited to do the second leg of the tour in November. But we are also in desperate need for time to recover. See you all again soon.

Dearborn, I do mind dying

Thursday we left Chicago for a quick change of city, state, and time zone for Dearborn, Michigan. We picked Dearborn because this Detroit suburb of give or take 100,000 is home to the largest concentration of Arabs in America.  We had from mid-day Thursday until our show Friday evening to figure out, as comedians are wont to do, “what’s the deal with Arabs?”

After visiting the only Arab-American Museum in the US, the biggest mosque in the US, chatting with an Arab-American comedian/comedy promoter over delicious shawermas at Arabica Bistro and desserts from the Shatila Bakery so good that we wanted to gay marry them, we learned an important lesson. It might come as a shock to a lot of Americans, because you don’t hear this a whole lot in our public discourse, but nevertheless, here it is: Arabs are just like everybody else.

Like a splash of cold water, so I’ll give you a minute to let it sink in, with this muckracking expose:

Welcome back.

Oblivious imperious Americans tend to gloss over the reality that Arabs and Muslims are two overlapping but distinct and highly diverse groups. Arabs only make up 20% of Muslims, while 10% of Arabs are Christians. Also, Arabs have been in America pretty much as long as it’s been America, and done stuff in every part of American life. There are Arabs who are awesome and Arabs who are jerks for reasons that have nothing to do with their Arabness. For example, on the one hand you have corporate scumbag and right-wing Congressman Darrel Issa, and on the other hand you have Helen Thomas, the dean of the White House Press Corps.

Eide Alawan, the Interfaith Outreach Coordinator at the Islamic Center of America patiently explained about all the programs of the mosque, the Muslim community of Dearborn, and the interactions between the congregants and other groups. He said something that blew our minds, and if he had said it in a comedy club, it would be too edgy for Doug Stanhope. He told us that 9/11 was good for Muslims because it got Americans interested in understanding and engaging with Muslims in a way they never had before. He said it like he meant it. Then said it again later, like he really wanted it to sink into our thick heads. Still sinking. We would only have been a little surprised if he had followed it up with, “Did I stutter, motherfucker?” Mainly because he was so sweet.

Then we had our worst show of the week. Not only had we never performed in the Detroit metro area, didn’t know anyone, and had no idea where to do a show or how to promote it, but then we made the colossal mistake of picking the cheapest theater, which was a 400-seater cleverly hidden in the woods on a community college campus where no one would ever find it. We forgot the famous dictum of Mao Tse-Tung (or maybe Sun Tzu), applied equally to guerrilla warfare and comedy: “With small forces, fight in enclosed spaces.”

What would have been an adequate show in a tiny black box theater instead became the “all is lost” plot point of our epic quest. To paraphrase Nietzsche and Mort Sahl, we joked into the abyss and the abyss joked back.

It turns out that Arabs are like people also in that their suburbs are not hip and happening centers of nocturnal entertainment. Our bad. Fortunately, our new Arab friends in Dearborn and Detroit activists like Invincible were gracious enough to offer to help do Laughter Against the Machine justice when we come back. We’re not done with you, Detroit metropolitan area.

Tonight Chicago!: This should’ve been up yesterday. Arizona’s wifi is also criminal.

Yesterday we went to Mexico! TWICE! And we didn’t have any tequila or Mexican food. Which sucks because I hear it’s really good down there. But we didn’t have time for that because we had a tight schedule of finding out out exactly how fucked up the immigration policies are of Mexico and the U.S. (HINT: They are veeeeeeeeeery fucked up.) After spending yesterday in an American court room to see the result of crossing the “border” illegally, today we got to see how harrowing it is to make that trip in the first place. As you can see I put “border” in quotes, because after going to the “border” twice yesterday I can definitively say that it is not real. I looked and looked and there was no line anywhere to divide the two countries. There were check points and people with guns, but it is clear that this whole “border” thing was just made up to make some people’s lives unduly difficult and to make other people’s wallets unduly fat. Mission accomplished. The real part is the pain, the sorrow, the death and the injustice.

For more details check out presente.org and puenteaz.org.

We’ve gotten some great footage for the documentary and we’ve rubbed shoulders with some incredible CultureStrike people including Dream Hampton, Roberto Lovato, Elizabeth Mendez Berry, Rinku Sen, Jeff Chang, and even the legendary Maxine Hong Kingston. Special note: she doesn’t seem to enjoy having her shoulders rubbed. At least not by me.

Here’s our first bit of footage, featuring two typically arrogant Americans.

It has been an incredible trip overall and we feel truly honored to have been a part of it. We are even thinking about starting JokeStrike. All the knowledge is bubbling and fomenting in our brian pans and I’m sure the people of Chicago are in for some half baked observations that may only make it to funny by the time we get to Madison.

We are now on a plane to Chicago for our show tonight. We had three less than three hours of sleep and are all a little bit punchy. Before we went to sleep we called a cab to pick us up at 4:30am. And this morning at 4:30am it was no where to be seen. We called them back and the dispatcher told us, just because we make a reservation doesn’t mean a cab will show up. He said, “I can’t force them.” Which has led to a new slogan for Tucson tourism…

Tucson: Come for the oppressive policies towards undocumented workers and general level of racism toward all Latinos, and stay for the fact that you can’t get a fucking cab.

Maybe it’s a little wordy, but I think it gets the message across.

Also the wifi and cellphone service sucks.

Thanks for your support!


1st show of #LATMTour is in the books… umm… camera.

It is almost midnight here in Phoenix and #LATMTour (That’s our hashtag if you roll Twitter style.) has had a great 1st show and day of filming. After some airport hijinks — We will get into that on another post. — we went straight from the Phoenix airport to interview Carlos Garcia of Puente AZ. He was super knowledgeable, committed, and patient with our tardiness. — Again we will get into that later.

Then the three of us sat down with the S and M Podcast which is the local comedy scene’s version of WTF with Marc Maron. And despite the fact that Nato and Kamau needed naps after that, we went straight to the show at Space 55, and it was great. It really felt very similar to the Bay Area shows. Kevin Gassman who interviewed Kamau on KWSS radio earlier this week was in the audience. Also Jeff Chang from CultureStrike was there, as was Steve MArek and Jaime Sanderson from the S and M podcast. We will be doing lots of stuff with CultureStrike in the next couple days, including taking a trip across the border to Mexico. That will be Kamau’s first trip.

We ended the evening eating a taco truck with Carlos, his wife, Janine’s girlfriend, her girlfriend’s friends and family, Jeff, Keri (our manager), Evan (our lone camera person). The truck had a sticker on it that basically certified it a safe place for all people to eat, documented and otherwise. Pretty intense stuff. And very delicious food. More soon. I’m about to pass out. Long day.

Oh yeah… Happy September 11th Day. Seriously, have a happy one. It won’t be easy.


Follow these people on Twitter

@zentronix (Jeff Chang)
@CaptPiggles (Steve Marek of The S and M Podcast)

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