Regardless of your party affiliation these Charlotte political humorists want your vote.
November can’t come fast enough for many as election-related headlines, commercials, and debates have made even the most seasoned political junkies long for life off the stump.
For several Charlotte humorists, however, a highly unusual political season is pure gold—ripe for mining and equally abundant and easily found in both the blue and red camps clamoring for our votes.
“Political satire is particularly important in a democracy because it takes people off of the pedestals we put them on,” says Mike Collins, co-creator of the annual Charlotte-themed parody, “Charlotte Squawks.” “Because no matter which side you’re on, if you’re laughing, you must be right.”
The laugh-a-minute musical variety show celebrated its 12th year this past June as an equal-opportunity lampooner, often taking dead aim at politicians, legislation, and the political shenanigans at both local and national levels.
“There are certain undeniable realities that are funny regardless of political affiliation,” says Brian Kahn, Charlotte Squawks co-creator and chief writer. “You can like or dislike Hillary, but you have to agree that she wears unflattering pantsuits, is scandal prone, and has historically low popularity ratings. So you can make fun of her in those ways, and most folks will like it.”
Those attending this year’s show found plenty to laugh about with several lampoons targeted at North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory and the newly passed HB2 legislation. The show’s creators are careful to spread their good natured barbs around, however.
“Our only agenda is to be as topical and funny as possible,” says Kahn. “That said, what I find funny sometimes reveals my political leanings. To be fair though, in recent shows we’ve gone after Bernie Sanders, Hillary, Obamacare, Occupy Wall Street, Patrick Cannon, the streetcar, and the greenway—just to name a few liberal targets.”
As major parties formulated their candidate slates for president last fall, the fringe FED UP party offered up a Charlotte resident to head-up their ticket.
Harold Sparrow may not be a household name across the country, but he’s gaining plenty of fans in Charlotte and online as the creation of local puppeteer and humorist Donald Devet. Harold is a whimsical, naive everyman whose primary interest in seeking the presidency is to put his feet up on the desk in the Oval Office and make a sandwich in the White House kitchen.
Devet, a producer and filmmaker, is documenting the run online in the weekly “Harold and Me” video series that began last fall and runs through the election. The series illustrates the absurdities that abound in the process. One recent storyline found Harold arriving at his party’s convention astride an orca killer whale.
“Poking fun at the political scene and the act of being a politician is like the game Twister,” says Devet. “You get to expose all the contortions, hypocrisy, and contradictions politicians get entangled in.”
There is no questioning the political leanings of Charlotte LGBTQ humorist Joanne Spataro. The local writer and political essayist is frequently featured as a panelist on WCCB’s News Edge.
Her video series “Pillow Talk” saw Spataro, dressed in a purple nightgown, interview local personalities including Charlotte mayor Jennifer Roberts from atop her bed in her south Charlotte apartment. Spataro’s spoof of former mayor Patrick Cannon’s troubles with the law earned thousands of online views and write-ups in The Charlotte Observer and the News & Observer in Raleigh.
Earlier this year she launched “It’s Pat,” a series of videos lampooning North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory. Spataro’s tongue-in-cheek impersonation of the governor has people howling across the state.
“Whether I’m writing a serious essay or a script for a standup routine,” says Spataro, “What I am really after is the truth. When I expose the core truth of an issue through humor, it speaks to people and is something that makes my perspective relatable. If people aren’t laughing, I haven’t hit on what’s true.”