‘Goddamn, Mitt’ pokes fun at Romney in new Second City play

By Trevor Ballanger

Presidential candidates are scrutinized by the media to within an inch of their privacy. Little is left to the imagination as every secret and misdeed is unearthed and revealed to the masses. Things can get especially scathing if a pair of comedic writers willing to use politics for comedy get their hands on it.

Jordan Pedersen and Christian McCann met while studying in the writing program at The Second City. McCann said he realized they would make a good team because he understood comedy and Pedersen excelled in conveying character dynamics. Together they wrote the new Second City comedy “Goddamn, Mitt,” which opens on Sept. 28 at Donny’s Skybox, 1616 N. Wells St., and pokes fun at religion and politics while focusing on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

“We’re not making fun of any particular religion or political ideals in order to [influence] our own,” McCann said. “We don’t have an agenda to put somebody down, but we are intentionally making fun of a lot of things, a lot of people. And our reason for that is there’s just so much ridiculous stuff that happens [in politics].”

Pedersen and McCann acknowledge that the show is particularly timely in an election year. With a heavy dose of comedy, the plot imagines Romney abandoning his Mormon faith for trendier Scientology to gain votes.

“We really do not have a bone to pick with Mormonism or Scientology,” Pedersen said. “I know that I have a bone to pick with Mitt Romney. This isn’t a hit piece about religion. It’s a hit piece about how people manipulate religion to their own gain. That being said, I think the Republicans do that a lot more.”

Pedersen said he wanted to create a sketch show that had an uncomfortable message but strong thematic unity. He and McCann want audiences to leave feeling like Romney’s views regarding religion didn’t benefit him yet relieved that he commits to one in the end,

Pedersen added.

“What we want people to come away with is, ‘Holy crap! Most politicians will say anything about themselves, no matter how sacred, to win the vote,’” he said. “And it doesn’t always work.”

Theater’s political connections go far back in history. Steve Ruiz, a graduate student at the University of Chicago and art critic for NewCity.com, said Italian Futurism is an example of theater politically galvanizing audiences during

fascist times.

“I’m not sure that it’s really possible to make a piece of work that isn’t in some way political,” Ruiz said. “As creative people, if we are passionate about something and want to advocate for something, it can work its way into the art.”

Brendan Watson, co-founder of iShapePolicy.com, a website that helps voters find political candidates who match their views, said a sketch show like “Goddamn, Mitt” would probably have little effect on voter choice because family and higher education have

greater influence.

Seeing a play about politics will either strengthen or weaken a political standpoint, Watson said. For people who identify as Independent, media sometimes make it harder to convince them to join a party.

“I think people have a tendency to lean toward the local side of things,” he said. “There are a lot of folks in that Independent range who are from different sides who I think are struggling now more than ever. I don’t think it’ll influence anyone, but I think it’ll certainly push them in whatever direction they already were in.”

According to Watson, social media and entertainment have taken the place of newspapers as the primary source of news for younger demographics. He said it’s important for people to be able to form unbiased opinions about politics without the influence of entertainment, such as “Goddamn, Mitt,” and reflect on what’s personally important to an individual.

“As activism and actual political education, a play is probably not the best way to achieve certain goals,” Ruiz said. “But I think it’s important for artists to feel free to work on the more complex issues behind politics, which might have to do with honesty and human traits, which are perfect grounds

for art.”