Move Over, Stewart and Colbert: Meet The Millennial Duo Mining Public Policy For Laughs
Like many Millennials, Tane Danger and Brandon Boat think politics are a joke, except this twosome mean that literally. They’re the brains behind The Theater of Public Policy, a Minneapolis-based improv troupe that focuses on lampooning political issues both local and national.
“We wanted to see if we could rekindle important political and public policy debates in ways that were actually engaging and fun, but without sacrificing the seriousness of the content and debates. I first brought the idea of The Theater of Public Policy to Brandon in the spring of 2011. We spent that summer talking to smart civic-discourse types and other improvisers and put up our first show in October of 2011. We didn’t know for certain the show would work until we actually put it on stage. After two years and nearly 100 performances, we’re pretty sure at this point that it works,” says Danger.
Dubbed the Gen Y answer to Stewart and Colbert by local press, Danger and Boat are no strangers to either civic engagement or comedy. Boat has been doing improv since middle school and Danger since freshman year of college. While the former cut his teeth on advocacy work during his college years, the latter helmed his campus newspaper and interned on a congressional campaign. Like Russell Brand of late, both are strong believers that politics and humor make for a heady combination.
“Politics is one those topics that’s forbidden from being discussed at work and the dinner table, so naturally it needs a little sweetening if you want to get a disagreeable crowd together to swallow it. In its most extreme form, politics is something people get killed over, whereas nobody has ever died over laughter. To pair them together is disarming in a way, because people can’t keep up their usual defenses or partisanship,” says Boat.
It seems as if their home city and state would agree. After all, the pair have shared the stage with formerCongressional Majority Leader Dick Gephardt and Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. On October 30, The Theater of Public Policy – in the thick of their fifth season – is tacking the lively Minneapolis mayoral race. Six of the eight active candidates will begin the evening with a debate and then Danger, Boat and their cast of improv comedians will re-enact, respond to and expand on what was said or not said during the debate. They’re banking on a positive response from Millennial voters.
“Turning over the stage to a troupe of improvisers who are going to use comedy to cut through talking points like a hot knife through butter probably makes campaign managers sweat. But it’s exactly the kind of forum Millennials love,” says Danger.
Both men refuse to accept the often bandied about wisdom that Millennials are politically disengaged or that their participation in the political process is capricious at best. Young people want to be engaged on their own terms, Boat argues.
“A lot of it is tied with consumption habits because those are the most passive and easiest ways to make our votes count. Most of us have rejected the old way of doing things, like putting in your dues to climb a political hierarchy, attending Saturday morning breakfast roundtables, or being lectured to simply because we’ve been told it will be good for us. In that respect, creating an improv comedy show about politics is as much about filling a void as satisfying a need.”
As for life after the Minneapolis mayoral race, for The Theater of Public Policy, the show – and their fifth season – must go on. When asked about what’s next for the comic duo and what their long-term comedy aspiration might be, Danger, ever the wit, doesn’t miss a beat before shooting back, “Why? Are you asking if you can hire us? Or asking one of us out on a date? Either way, the answer is yes.”
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