Michael Moore in TrumpLand is a filmed stand-up comedy routine Moore delivered to a largely Republican crowd in Clinton County, Wilmington, Ohio. (Of the 26,000 registered voters in the county, a thousand voted Democratic in the primary; of the 700 in the theater that night, 200 were Trump supporters.) Traversing between humor and pathos, Moore makes the case to Bernie voters, third-party voters, and nonvoters to vote for Hillary—even though he admits that he himself, an avid Bernie supporter, has never voted for her until now.
Moore was moved to make the film by what he perceives as a lack of enthusiasm for Hillary, even among people who are voting for her. “This whole preaching to the choir thing…sometimes the choir needs a song to sing,” he explained in the post-screening Q&A, adding that he finds that dearth of enthusiasm frightening. “This is not about who people like the most,” he continued. “If people just vote from home with a remote control or Xbox, Hillary would win by a landslide. This is about who’s going to get a lot of people out on November 8. We’re going to have one of the lowest voter turnouts because the majority of the country hates the two choices. And who wins low voter turnout? The one with the most rabid supporters. Hillary supporters are not rabid…but Trump’s are. They will get out there, and they will vote,” he warns.
At the Q&A, Director Talk got the chance to ask one question. We asked about the weapon Moore has chosen to wield this election season: Humor. (And his vote.)
•Availability: IFC Center, New York City, Laemmle Town Center 5, L.A., for one week. Check the Internet for digital availability beginning October 21. •Thanks to Ryan Werner, Cinetic Media, for arranging a sneak preview at extreme short notice.•
DT: In this film, you move so gracefully between humor and being your own straight man. When you’re interviewed in All Governments Lie, you say that humor is one of the best tools because there’s no way to fight against it. What is it about humor that allows you to arrive at the straight-man moments that are so powerful in this film?
MM: I don’t know. I was raised in an Irish Catholic family, and the humor is usually pretty dark. It’s either that or drink. Or both. I’m not a comedian, but the great comedians we enjoy, if you know any of them, or if you’ve read anything about them, are very angry people. And the more angry and dark they are, the better the humor, I think. It’s the flip side of that coin. It’s also a release valve.
I think people need a good laugh right now, but not the kind we’ve been having. You could make Trump jokes forever—you don’t even need to make them. He makes them. He writes his own satire. It’s a daily shitshow of satire with Trump. Everybody knows all the details, from his taxes to how he treats women. What isn’t happening is this: how often do you hear of somebody getting enthusiastic about Hillary Clinton? You don’t hear it. Even though I have my political disagreements and didn’t vote for her [in previous elections], I still have a lot of respect for her as a human being. Watching the debate last week, I was hoping she would take out a club and bonk him.
It’s good for liberals to laugh at themselves. As I point out in the film, you can see why a lot of people don’t like liberals. I think trying to keep your sense of humor is important, but I don’t want to waste my time doing Trump jokes. I made a couple here, with those inauguration things and that little ad about having lady parts trouble, but I can’t really top his writing.
So the humor and my sense of optimism here… This is not a movie for saints. If you’re a saint, you’re probably not going to like it very much. And if you’re a guy, hopefully you like it. Because guys: we have to get with the program, because that train has left the station. Those three years women live longer than us? We’re going to get to live those three years now, because we won’t be running the world and the stress won’t be on our shoulders. It’s a good thing. So don’t be frightened by somebody in a pantsuit.
Copyright © Director Talk 2016