New Internationalist

A word with US comedian Lee Camp

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The stand-up comic, writer, activist and actor tells Jo Lateu who makes him laugh… and who definitely does not.

Lucy Dyer
Lee Camp. Lucy Dyer

Who or what inspires you?

Wow, so many people. Activists and speakers and artists, most of all. People who have chosen to take their talents and put them towards the most noble causes rather than where the money is. People who gave up on Wall Street to speak the truth. People who put themselves in harm’s way on a daily basis out of a desire to find justice for others. People who know there’s more to life than the consumerist, unsustainable, un-debatable, irrational system in which we live – and fight for something different.

What are you politically passionate about?

I’m passionate about seeing outside the unsustainable paradigm of thought in which most acceptable debate takes place. We live in the most wealthy, most technologically advanced times in human history and yet we have poverty, we have endless numbers of people living in misery, endless numbers of people dying from starvation. It’s utterly preposterous. And that’s why it’s such a good time for comedy… or at least dark comedy.

If you could banish one person from the earth, who would it be?

Comedy is allowed to speak the truth at the times when corporate media is not and at times when the truth alone is too harsh to handle

Hmm, there are SO many good candidates. (Damn, right now I have the look on my face like a kid in a candy store. What do I choose when everything looks so good?!) I think I would go with the Koch Brothers (if you’ll allow me two people). Some people might not have heard of them, but they have $50 billion between them and they seem to spend every waking moment of their lives trying to figure out how to get more by f**king over everyone else in the world. They contribute heavily to the two corporate political parties in the US, so they essentially own a large portion of our political system. Darth Vader once asked them how they sleep at night.

What is your biggest fear?

That I’ll wake up and find myself starring in a Michael Bay film. Truly horrific. No, actually that’s number two. Number one would probably be a lockdown of the global awakening that seems to be taking place. Right now people are waking up all over the world (not inside Michael Bay movies) thanks to the information we’re all getting from the internet. And if the powers-that-be succeed in locking down the internet, as they’ve already tried with several failed bills and laws both in the US and Europe, that awakening could be put on hold.

Can comedy be a tool for political and social change?

No doubt. If I didn’t believe that I would have chosen quite the Sisyphean career, no? Comedy is allowed to speak the truth at the times when corporate media is not and at times when the truth alone is too harsh to handle. People can only take so much of the gory details of the shitstorm in which we live. Comedy makes it so much more palatable. And that goes for those who produce it, too! I don’t think I could handle speaking about these topics on a daily basis without the laughs. Or at least I would need a lot more liquor.

Your new show is called Destruction, Distraction, Evolution. What’s it all about?

Even though we’re told there are different sides to the political debate, it’s really only two sides of the same coin

Well, there aren’t many people you can find who don’t think we’re in dire times. Hell, most bankers on Wall Street would admit this system isn’t sustainable. And while there are indeed protests all over the world, they only involve a very small percentage of people, and an even smaller percentage in the United States. So why isn’t EVERYONE up in arms? That’s where the distraction comes. Why march in the streets when you’ve used up all your outrage on the conclusion to America’s Got Talent? And even if they wanted to, most people don’t have the time to care about the bigger issues because they’re busy earning money to be able to afford a new mobile phone every two weeks (for some odd reason the new one from two weeks ago doesn’t seem as cool as it once did). The final question to all this is, can we evolve’? Are we on the brink of a global transformation? Well, I won’t tell you because I don’t want to spoil the ending.

You’ve been banned from various media outlets (including Fox News). Why do you think certain elements of the establishment feel threatened by you?

There’s a certain realm of thought that is not often allowed on our mainstream airwaves. Even though we’re told there are different sides to the political debate, it’s really only two sides of the same coin. Looking outside of that is not acceptable to the corporate control. Even if you could argue it’s not due to some grand scheme to keep people asleep, at the very least thinking outside the acceptable paradigm is very unsettling to the viewers. And we can’t have that. It makes people turn off the TV.

Do you think that humour is a universal language? Will the Brits ‘get’ your message when you appear at the Edinburgh Fringe?

I’ve toured the UK many times and Brits are some of my biggest fans. I love it over here. And sadly, we’re dealing with very similar problems thanks to globalization and the franchising of thoughts and ideas.

If you didn’t live in the States, where would you live, and why?

I hope to continue to live everywhere. But if you had to nail me down, I would probably be in England, Scotland, Ireland, or maybe Spain if I could just remember the four years of Spanish I slept through.

Who makes you laugh?

Oh god, so many great comics. Stewart Lee, Nick Revell, Andy Zaltzman, Doug Stanhope, Chris Rock, Glenn Wool, Greg Proops – too many to list. And then there’s a lot of politicians that make me laugh more than most comics. So f**king amazing to watch lie-arrhea spray out of the face of a red-faced moron in a suit.

Lee Camp is appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe in August. For details, dates and tickets, visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.

For more from Lee, see his website.

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