“The End of Politics” is the America-centric view on the world by a man who has had it! Meet Bob Bell, this year’s FRINGE-American who takes it upon himself to describe the United States to a Canadian audience and make us thankful we live this side of the border. This is not an apology tour but a matter-of-fact, yet comedic analysis of the decay of American institutions.
The US-Canadian border is where the show takes off. Bell opens his 60 minute stand-up comedy show with his experience crossing international borders on his tour of FRINGE festivals outside of the US. With some self-deprecating humour he describes his challenges as a comedian who gets asked to “be funny” as proof of his trade and as someone who gets frequently stereotyped based on his looks alone.
He sums up his appearance as “haggard Founding Father who’s obsessed with the Kennedy assassination footage” and who strangers in the street identify as the man to approach for the nearest strip club or drugs. Once he volleys into his descriptions of the current state of American politics however, this reviewer can’t help but see him as a more impassive and increasingly frustrated Bernie Sanders on a bad hair day.
The show continues to stumble on, touching on several topics that have recently (and not so recently) made news which were of note in liberal circles (in that American sense of the word where liberal is synonymous with progressive). More or less coherently Bell takes digs on the alt-right, evangelical Christians and their political figures, such as white supremacist David Duke, or former US Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, named after not one but two confederate war heroes. And if you haven’t heard of the former you would have been in good company with the audience.
About 40 minutes into his performance Bell seems to have reached the end of his material and asks his tech assistant how he is doing on time. Realizing that there are still twenty minutes left he ad-libs his frustrations the current US administration, the political climate that has enabled it and the irony of politicians who will sign so-called “pro-life” anti-abortion laws and death warrants, just days apart.
Such improvisations on apparently divisive issues prove tricky however, particularly when his attention is turned to bathroom laws and LGBTI issues. There is no doubt that Bell is well intentioned but it also becomes clear that he is not always at the height of discourse. This becomes uncomfortably obvious when he expresses his sympathy for trans men and women by describing them as people who are “transing” – a term most frequently used by people who have no sympathy whatsoever for people who are transsexual or transgender, as a quick google search would reveal.
At this point Bell’s show turns into a bit more of a conversation with the remaining audience members. It is the conversation with that guy who has an opinion on almost everything and he really wants to talk to you about it. You typically meet him in the office or late at night in a bar after a few too many drinks and if you do not know the kind of person I am talking about, I am afraid it is probably you.
The show ends on Bell’s closing observation on where and when, in his opinion, America lost her innocence. This last bit of prepared monologue is insightful, whether you agree with him on this point or not. In either case it would make for a good conversation starter for a discussion to which he invites the audience post-show. If anyone did take him up on that offer or not remains unknown to me as I had to rush off to catch other shows.
“WHO IT’S FOR”
Anyone who enjoys intelligent observations and in-depth conversations on a wide range of current political issues and does not mind wild jumps between them or the occasionally derailing train of thought.
Drink suggestion: This girl likes a stiff drink and this show certainly calls for one. I suggest a drink that people either love or hate and which combines bitter and sweet. A strong apperol spritz comes to mind.
Bob Bell presents “The End of Politics”
at the 29th St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival
Performances: June 6 – 16, 2019
Venue: 07 – Théâtre Impro Montréal
3697 Saint-Laurent, Montréal, H2X 2V7
Admission: $7-9 | Ages 16+
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from this year’s fest on our Fringe page!