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Greg Shapiro | ‘Trump is a Circus Barker’ | TROUW ‘Ik heb een droom’ column

Date: Sunday, February 26, 2017
Category: Blog, News

In TROUW ‘Letter & Geest’ Magazine, there’s a column: ‘Ik heb een droom’ – an interview series about dreams. Here’s the translation.
Interview: Noor Hellmann / Photo: Jörgen Caris

GREG SHAPIRO | ‘TRUMP IS A CIRCUS BARKER.’“Describing a dream in words is difficult, I find, because a dream is such a different experience than the stories we relate about waking life. Basic storytelling requires a protagonist, a central figure. But often in my dreams, I’m not anyone in particular.

I do have anxiety dreams. Those I can remember. The ones where I’m not ready for the exam, or I can’t find my stuff, or I’m losing everything, like my teeth. And that emotion: ‘What now? These teeth won’t grow back…’ I’ve read that dreams about your teeth symbolize worries about money, but I think it’s just a way of processing loss. Loss of your youth, the baby years of your own kids, loss of family. Your own history that you can never get back.

I do have a Happy Place I dream about more often, that’s now gone. It’s my grandparents’ house in Atlanta, Georgia, where I spent a lot of summers as a kid. Long, hot summers. I still dream of that back bedroom, where I felt so safe and confident. And then there was the bedroom where I grew up, outside of Chicago. And – oddly enough – last year when I was back in Chicago, the house where I grew up was for sale. So I went to the open house. I got to sit in my old bedroom. And I got to show my old bedroom to my kids, who are now the same age as I was when I lived there. It was a surreal, dream-like experience.

And now, I’ve been living in the Netherlands for more than 20 years. I do feel at home here in Amsterdam, but never 100% – and in America never 100% at home either. Maybe I’m the perennial outsider that sees everything from a distance. Actually, I have a recurring dream where I take a deep breath in, and I begin to float above everything. If I had to explain it, I guess there’s that surrealist painting by Magritte with all the businessmen floating up above their homes.

I first came to Amsterdam in 1994 to join a recently founded comedy theater called Boom Chicago, where I still perform, ‘Angry White Men: Trump Up the Volume.’ And I’m doing my weekly show on YouTube ‘United States of Europe,’ a sort of ‘Daily Show’ for Europe. But I fully acknowledge that my voice is better known than my face. When I’ve gone viral, it’s either with the 2004 video ‘Florida Voting Machine’ or the 2013 ‘Fascinating Friesland’ series. And of course there was that video for ‘Zondag Met Lubach’ where I speak that brilliant text of theirs with my Trump voice.

If you listen to Trump, he’s a salesman, he’s a showman. That’s it. Maybe there’s a reason that – as soon as he came to power – the biggest circus in America, Ringing Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, announced the were closing forever. Trump made them obsolete. Trump is the new P.T. Barnum, the man who said ‘There’s a sucker born every minute.’ Trump is the ultimate snake oil salesman.

Meanwhile, I’m happy to see the success of the ‘Netherlands Second’ video, and all the countries that made their own versions. It’s becoming like a Eurovision Song Festival of satire. Fantastic. Satire is uniting Europe. And it’s not only countries making fun of Trump, it’s poking fun at themselves, in an ironic way. Satire is subtle. A bit like a dream. It can be difficult to describe. You just have to experience it.”