THEATERKRANT REVIEW: The Madness of King Donald – Greg Shapiro
“TRUMP TUTORIAL AND A WELCOME SURVIVAL GUIDE” – CRITIC’S CHOICE
Patrick van den Hanenberg
February 13, 2019 (Seen on 12 February 2019 Cultuurcentrum Griffioen, Amstelveen)
Directed by Michael Diederich. Technician Albert Glazenborg
For protesters, comedians, critical tv stations, photo shoppers, cartoonists and visual artists with common sense, the playtime officially kicked off more than two years ago with the Donald Trump era. A playtime with a crazy babysitter, but still quite nice.
Before the American (and now partly Dutch) comedian Greg Shapiro enters the stage, the audience is entertained with a series of memes & artworks that flash by on the big screen. What an incredible explosion of creativity, and often very witty. And that is probably the best way to get through this jet-black page in American politics. Laugh, laugh and laugh again and then hope that the American voter will at one point be ashamed of this dismal political display, which he himself has caused. Greg Shapiro has in any case made a strong show out of that political misery.
Yes, it is hoped that the American electorate will see that the United States has utterly ridiculed itself under the 45th President. But that is by no means certain, because – when we look at Geert Wilders and Thierry Baudet in our own country – we see that certain diseases turn out to be global and aren’t going away anytime soon. After Shapiro cited a remark from an American hothead that instructed the Native Americans to “go back to their own country,” we see a wildly scrawled cry on a Dutch wall: “Turks go back to Morocco.”
Humor is a form of ducking ones head until the madness is over, because fleeing this political mess is no longer possible. Quite calmly, Shapiro asserts that we have survived with Trump for two years already, so it must also be possible to endure his antics for two years more.
Unlike most stand-up comedians and cabaretiers in the Netherlands, Shapiro was not done talking after an hour and a half. His amazement, bewilderment and anger at what has happened over the past two years is so great that he made a truly “evening-filling” program from The Madness of King Donald, with intermission. For a moment you fear the worst, because it’s normally more than enough for a comedian to keep rattling on for 90 minutes. But Shapiro has arranged his show, which is directed by Michael Diederich, in an extremely smart and varied way.
Shapiro lets us reminisce about the video “Netherlands Second” of the Arjen Lubach team, in which the Netherlands presents itself in Trumpian superlatives. The fantastic video, which has now been viewed almost 12 million times worldwide, was recorded by Greg Shapiro with his Trump voice.
And then Shapiro gets to work, playing the role of a cheerful expert and asking the most important question: how is it possible that this man won the election? The Madness of King Donald is both a survival guide and a Trump Tutorial. At first Shapiro asks quite analytically if it’s possible Trump – with his seemingly idiotic ideas – is actually a misunderstood genius. Just think how the idea of the first-ever submarine was received. Or a vaccine which prevents polio by injecting people with polio, or Columbus who departs to his destination in the completely opposite direction. Columbus Day is now a national holiday in the US.
Very accurately, Shapiro – with script coach Edo Berger – analyzes Trumps facial expression, analyzes the accent (‘a New Yorker with a California accent, who could never get elected in either state’), his incoherent ‘word salad’ language (‘a carcrash in slow motion’), his body language and his apparently secret language, with which he stirs up America’s fear of becoming a ‘minority white’ country.
Along the way, Shapiro also practices the improvisational art of his old Amsterdam group, comedy group Boom Chicago. He asks the audience to name a household item (in this case a toaster), of which he manages to make a great, messy, half racist speech, without a single complete sentence.
A press conference, Trump’s silly-macho way of shaking hands, an alternative anthem, a round of bingo with the audience, you’re never bored with Shapiro.
After the break, Shapiro is pleasantly personal when he describes his meeting with the arch-conservative and pathological liar Pete Hoekstra, the American ambassador of Dutch descent in The Hague. Shapiro admits he cowardly avoided confrontation. That is a shame, because then – unlike in Dutch theaters – Shapiro would not have been preaching to his own choir.
Very nice is Shapiro’s comparison of the family situation at his childhood home in the US with current political situation – where his aggressive stepfather is Trump and his six-year-old sister very unexpectedly plays the role of Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives.
This reviewer relies on a daily YouTube viewing of American late-night comedy, such as ‘A Closer Look’ – a reliably anti-Trump segment from Late Night with Seth Meyers (a former colleague of Shapiro of Boom Chicago). This show by Greg Shapiro is a very welcome addition.