Mo Fathelbab and his crew at The Experiment Comedy Gallery are organizing what could be the most exhaustive (and exhausting) anti-Trump action to go down yet, one week before America officially becomes Trumplandia. On Friday January 13 the Williamsburg comedy club, which recently relocated to a former punk venue on Grand Street, will host The Fuck Donald Trump Marathon, an epic “31 and 1/2” hour lol-bender that the organizers say is “aimed to fuck with the incoming fascist regime of Donald J. Trump.”
“We’re in a weird, bad place,” said Mo, the club’s founder. “The idea is that we can use art to fight this, something that Donald Trump is not a big fan of.”
The president-elect’s view on the role of artists in society– mainly, that they should be seen and not heard–became clear recently when Mike Pence was addressed by the cast of Hamilton, who took advantage of their literal platform to inform the future VP that, as POC and LGBTQ people, they were fearful of what the impending Trump administration will bring. Trump did as Trump is want to do and took to Twitter to slam the cast, demanding an apology for daring to address Pence at the show (in character, I might add).
“He’s not a fan of comedians, or people of color having a little fun and having some say about how things are supposed to work,” Mo said. It’s pretty great knowing that The Fuck Donald Trump Marathon will be an opportunity for a bunch of comedians to do exactly that. “As comedians, when we’re going ‘Fuck Donald Trump,’ we’re not being ambiguous,” he explained. “We’re saying, Look, this guy’s a piece of garbage, this guy wants to destroy as many human beings as possible, and he doesn’t care, as long as his supporters love him. He gives them this red meat of hate. So we call him out for it.”
The Experiment and Trump go way back, actually. In December 2015, the venue was way ahead of the curve when it began offering the “Donald Trump Special,” or free cover for any guest who could prove that they’re Muslim. (As it turned out, it’s not super hard to take advantage of the special– even reciting the opening chapter of the Quran will get you in the door.) It was a way for Mo to do his part in denouncing the then-GOP candidate’s promise to enact a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
It’s not so surprising that Mo was right in labeling Trump has a dangerous hatemonger early on– comedians are especially adept at cutting through the bullshit, and they’re often among the first to articulate the cultural zeitgeist, especially progressive ideals. Even so, The Experiment is a remarkably political comedy club, and the place stands out even in the particularly outspoken world of comedy which, by nature, is opposed to politeness and decorum. Fathelbab, who is a Muslim himself, founded the club with the purpose of providing a space for comedians and comedy fans who don’t necessarily fit in with the straight/white/male ideal that dominates a comedy club circuit that (ironically) continues to be plagued by racism, misogyny, and homophobia.
Of course, these problems were there to begin with, but since Trump won the election, it seems that the policies, laws, and even federally-funded non-profits that exist to protect (some) minorities and vulnerable groups are in danger of being destroyed, and that even the government will become an active source of discrimination and hatred. “I talked to a friend out in Los Angeles, she’s a transgender comedian, and she said she feels alone, even though she’s surrounded by other comics, because she’s transgender, and people are telling her, ‘You know what? It’s gonna be fine,'” Mo said. “She needs a voice, and we need a voice. That’s why it comes down to why it’s important for us to do what we’re doing.”
After the elections, the venue has proven to be even more valuable as a safe space. “The space is underground, so we’ve been cheekily calling it the Trump Bunker for the last few weeks,” Mo said. The Trump Special never went away, but the 31-hour comedy bender seems like the definitive middle finger to the President Elect before he’s officially crowned POTUS. “It’s not an end-of-the-world orgy, it’s a gathering of people that are like, ‘Let’s have a good time because tomorrow we’re gonna have to fight,'” he explained. “And to fight, we’re gonna use our art and education first.”
The show gives guests the opportunity to contribute to the effort too, since proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to support three separate causes including the Trevor Project, which hooks LGBT teens up with mental health services, the International Refugee Assistance Project, and the Center for Reproductive Rights. “They’re a team of lawyers that make sure any anti-abortion laws that take full-effect, they’re going to fight them in court,” Mo explained of the latter organization. “While a lot of people are donating to Planned Parenthood, which is great and that helps a lot of people who are obviously in need, these guys come in to make sure that the law is on their side.”
The lineup hasn’t been announced just yet, but Mo dropped some hints about the format. Shows will be themed according to specific time slots, and food and drinks will be served accordingly. “We have a sleepover show, so people are encouraged to be in their pajamas. We have a breakfast show, we have a brunch show,” he said. “People can practically consume it in a way that, if you guys are here at six o’clock in the morning, you’re gonna be hooked up with coffee and stuff so you can still enjoy the show.”
What makes this comedy show unusual, aside from the insanely long lineup, is that it includes workshops too, including a training session hosted by Cop Watch. “They’re going to help people, especially minorities, to interact with the police, because if Jeff Sessions is going to adhere to his ideas of what stop-and-frisk is supposed to look like, basically they’re going to issue guidelines to police departments across the country to stop and frisk minority men and women,” Mo explained. “Cop Watch will teach you to know your rights and be respectful, but if [the cops] are going to act like a bag of dicks to you, then these are the legal recourses you can take against the police.”
The marathon will be something of a comeback for The Experiment and the Brooklyn underground comedy scene in general. “I’ll tell you this, business was slow after the election. People were depressed. Comedians weren’t showing up. Like, I had to cancel a couple of shows,” Mo said. “People were bummed out.” However, Mo’s hoping that the event will serve as a way to kick things back into gear and inspire comics to get back out there.
It’s not just comics who need the extra boost. For real, we could all use a little pick-me-up right now. “Especially as New Yorkers, we know how much of a bad person Donald Trump is, and how much of a racist that guy is.” As a native New Yorker, Mo has even more visceral Trump recollections. “So I know this dude hates people of color, especially those that are poor and defenseless. His racism is very specific: there’s bad black people and there’s good black people. That’s the type of old-school New York racism that I grew up with here.”
Admittedly, a comedy show might not seem like the most effective way to oppose the federal government and the highest seat of executive power in the country, but it’s all part of what Mo pointed to as a battle fought with culture and knowledge, rather than violence and hate. “Short of an actual armed rebellion–we’re all weaklings on the comedy end– we can do one better, we can have fun at that dude’s expense,” he said. “I think it’s necessary, even though we’re a small club, and our comedians have only as much reach as however many Facebook or Twitter followers we each individually have. But the point is that we are saying something.”
The Fuck Donald Trump Marathon, Friday January 13, hours TBA: $10 per show, $40 for unlimited access.