Jokes for Votes has become the first-ever comedy-laced voter registration tour in the world, being put on by Funny or Die, a comedy TV production company, and NextGen Climate, a climate action change political action committee (PAC). The tour aims to encourage millennials to register to vote and further catalyze these young constituents’ efforts toward various social and political causes, namely climate disaster prevention.
As the Jokes for Votes committee plans on hitting eight college campuses in total within this two-month long excursion, UCR was lucky enough to have this unique tour stop by our campus on Monday, Oct. 10 at HUB 302 for a night of effortless laughs and feel-good vibes, both of which lie at the heart of college amusement.
This was actually the intention behind assimilating comedy and entertainment with political engagement, for as Brad Jenkins, managing director of Funny or Die D.C. offered in a statement, “We believe comedy is the political artform of this generation. This historic comedy tour is what Funny Or Die does best –– we reach young people where they are, on their terms, and inspire them to (take) action.”
In addition, Associated Students Program Board (ASPB), who coordinated the event on behalf of UCR, also had their own reason to invite Jokes for Votes to our campus.
“I hope the audience really feels included because campus culture is a big part of ASPB. My favorite part about this event was that I’ve never seen some of these people come to our events before and we try to reach out to all students on campus, not just cater to one type of student,” explained Melanie Casupanan, ASPB director of contemporary culture.
The format of this multi-faceted cause consists of compiling as many well-known comedians as possible, including but not limited to Sarah Silverman, Reggie Watts, Baron Vaughn and Kate Berlant, into one stretch of a show while inviting student volunteers from each school to hand out registration ballots to the crowd. It’s quite brilliant actually, because one of the student volunteers named Cailyn Nagle, who approached me almost first thing upon entering the show, actually got me to register to vote. Initially I was skeptical as many college students are regarding something that requires them to write their personal information onto, much less to a person you have never met before. However, when she informed me that me being registered in my hometown of NorCal, I decided I would be too busy to register at any other time and gratefully accepted one of the ballots (note to all of my Bay Area brethrens and out-of-Riversiders: just because you are).
The show took up a slightly different turn than what one would regularly assume concerning a politically-based event: Rather than discussing pressing issues about today’s heated political scene or elaborating on impassioned arguments over the two American presidential candidates, the comedians steered clear of anything controversial and for the most part did not stray from the safe path of millennial comedy.
Opening act Taylor Tomlinson, who starred in the FOX TV series “Laughs” in 2014, set this tone by exploring college dating and romance, saying that finding the right person is comparable to getting lost at the grocery store as a kid and clinging to a woman’s leg only to find out she is not your mother. She was also able to talk about sensitive topics such as sexual discrimination and traditional views of LGBTQ people but with a sense of personability that allowed her to alleviate any rough edges the subjects may have left. Concerning the latter, she shared a story about how her father raised her from a conservative viewpoint and how he did not believe that a person can be born gay or somewhere within the LGBTQ spectrum. To him, it was something you could simply ignore, or as she worded it, “repress like diarrhea,” even though this was something she argued against for a while and eventually convinced him out of.
Perhaps the favorite act out of all three of the night was the sophomore, who was Moshe Kasher as seen on “Chelsea Lately” or “The Jimmy Fallon Show.” He had a loony and sort of perverted and smutty sense of humor that could have made a more conservative audience member slightly uncomfortable, but with his performance in particular, there was a sense of inclusion that made everyone feel a part of his performance. He made sure to familiarize himself with the front-row seaters and got comfortable enough with each to make impromptu jokes about them like what he did with a 90-year-old woman sitting in the front row named Juanita. A highlight in his performance that had the large room vibrate with laughter and ideally ended his show on a high note was when he claimed that the male gender did not have to worry about covering a certain area of the chest, to which he asked Juanita what they were called and she replied, “Titties.”
Kasher’s pinnacle-of-the-show performance was not followed too far behind by the dynamic James Adomian, who toned down the ambience with a more down-to-earth sense of humor, as he openly revealed that he was gay and discussed that characteristic within the dialogue of his experience playing sports along with many of his other personal stories. His set was not limited to comedy within the confines of storytelling, however, as he shared some incredibly accurate celebrity impressions of Jesse Ventura, Bernie Sanders and other celebrities (this is no wonder, as he voices Talking Ben in the Outfit7 Limited video game series “Talking Tom and Friends” and impersonated George W. Bush on “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” from 2005-2009. There was one part in his performance that particularly seemed to hit a chord with the college audience, in which he said that every bad acid trip is soundtracked by Pink Floyd and imitated a someone under-the-influence thinking they are turning into an “animal” while singing various songs from the 1977 Pink Floyd album of the same name.
The rather vehement method of performing of the former three performers transitioned into a mellower state with headliner Ron Funches from the NBC’s “Undateable” and Comedy Central’s “@midnight” changing the aura even further than Adomian did with a voice bearing a strange resemblance to Herbert the Pervert from “Family Guy.” The chilling calmness within his voice and the long pauses he placed in between each of his phrases made the audience only anticipate every word longingly, and they even jumped in some places when he abruptly burst out in unexpected hysterity, such as the portion in which he talked about someone congratulating him for losing a lot of weight this past year only to suddenly switched to a demon voice to reply with, “I was a wonderful person before.” Perhaps the greatest closing to the show possible laid within Funche’s performance, which he thankfully did choose to end with, for he had a powerful anecdote regarding racial name-calling and the ability to stand up to prejudice with peace and nonviolence. In his serene, laid-back disposition, he spoke about a “fight” he got into at a pot store after hearing a man in the line in front of him calling the cashier a “chink.” However, he didn’t need to actually get involved in the fight, as his reluctance to engage in the physical act, despite being punched by the racist customer three times, unconsciously scared him away. He suitably left the audience with his brief yet potent reflection, concluding with, “I will let anyone punch me in the face if I see them being racist.”
Jokes for Votes has already hit five other colleges since stopping by UCR and will conclude their innovative expedition at UC Berkeley on Friday, Oct. 21. That’s not to say, however, that their legacy will reach the end of the road with their final visit. Tom Steyer, President of NextGen Climate clarifies that, “We’ve launched the largest voter registration drive in California history to register hundreds of thousands of new California voters this year. This unique comedy tour is part of our plan to mobilize millennials in every corner of California.” That being said, it probably won’t be too hard to reach the intended number of newly registered voters by showcasing, in a night of jocular tomfoolery and comical uproar, what college students love best. And even for those who were not expecting to come out to have a nice chuckle but rather to support millennial empowerment — I’m sure they died out of laughter too!