Political satire is by nature time-sensitive. When it does have staying power— Aristophanes’ Wasps, Dante’s Inferno, Shakespeare’s Richard II—it’s because in its specificity, it reveals universal truths.
Surely there are some universal truths in political cartoons about William Howard Taft or Vaughn Meader’s 1962 comedy album The First Family, or even Saturday Night Live’s takes on Presidents Nixon and Ford. Tom Lehrer still has a cult following. But as time passes, those with memories of the underlying subjects die out and satirical power dims.
And yet, politicians are a seductive subject for satire and comedy. Joe Biden may not seem as ripe for satire as, say, Richards II and Nixon, but Nicholas Zill was inspired enough to team up with a team of talented singer/actors, director Caitlin Hart and musical director Brenda Varda to create Biden My Time. The Capitol Comedy troupe performed it at two invitation-only performances earlier this month at the Zephyr Theatre on Melrose. The show is entertaining, laugh-out-loud fun.
Like a comic variety show, Biden My Time features sketches, song parodies and videos. The actors do excellent impressions of their subjects—especially Aaron Matijasic as Bernie Sanders and Sarah Oliver as Mitch McConnell. Bella Gil as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a musical theater star. Alivia Long is a dancing, singing Kamala Harris. Travis Joe Dixon plays a befuddled Joe Biden.
Songs add clever lyrics to familiar melodies, like “Some Enchanted Evening,” “Roll Out the Barrel,” “Hello, Dolly!” and “Seventy-Six Trombones” (Biden sings “Seventy-six skin tones in my Cabinet/Not even one straight WASP”). Diversity, the electoral college, anti-vaxxers (the subject of the funniest video), Socialist-level giveaways, leaving California, even President #45 all get the treatment here.
The bitingly accurate portrayals and song lyrics bring belly laughs to audience members on both sides of the political aisle. It all feels of the moment in a way that obviously can’t last—especially since there currently aren’t any other Los Angeles performances planned.
Although based in Washington, Zill has presented political humor onstage in Los Angeles, including Obama Spy Drama and How Obama Got His Groove Back. He formed Capitol Comedy to fill a political humor vacuum created by the retirement of the group Capitol Steps.