Traditionally, the two oldest comedy groups on Penn’s campus take drastically different approaches to politics.
While Bloomers was founded on feminist principles and has used politics as a basis for its humor since its inception, the Mask and Wig Club’s embrace of political satire varies depending on the year’s writers. The group remains primarily dedicated to its 129-year-old mission — making people laugh.
However, the two groups have come to an agreement on their treatment of President Donald Trump.
“Now that he’s president, the joke is really tired,” College junior Gena Basha, the head writer for Bloomers and Under the Button staff member, said. “Almost naturally, people stopped coming up with ideas revolving around him.”
Referring to their number “We Never Ever Ever Ever Ever Want to Talk about Trump,” Mask and Wig chair and College senior Tim Bloom agreed.
“Our fall show this year had a whole ending where we said, ‘We don’t want to take the low hanging fruit again, so we’re not going to touch this.’”
“It was more parodying comedy about Trump than it was joking about Trump,” Bloom said. “We’re making fun of ourselves almost. It was on a meta-level about not touching Trump in the comedy world.”
And to Basha, a Trump presidency simply isn’t a joke.
“We can only take the joke so far, because now it’s reality,” she said. “How funny is it anymore?”
Before the election, however, both groups embraced the topic in some way.
“Trump was so relevant, everyone was talking about it, and something ridiculous would happen virtually every week — so we had so much material,” Basha said, referencing Bloomers’ show, "Joust Kidding."
Mask and Wig’s 2015 production “No Country for Old Penn” took a similar strategy.
“In our fall show last year, there was a large chunk about Trump,” Bloom said. “But that was all about primary candidate Trump, which I think is very different than President Trump.”
And the difference became all too clear for Bloomers on Nov. 9.
“The day after the election, Friars was doing this little performing arts coffee shop event, and we were going to do a sketch about Melania Trump,” Basha said.
But due to the outcome of the election, Bloomers decided not to run the skit.
“It was just not the right mood,” Basha explained.
But Bloomers and Mask and Wig continue to value the role of comedy in political discourse.
“I think comedy is a way for people to let loose,” Basha said. “It’s cathartic.”
“It’s a way for people to unleash what they’re thinking in a way that’s more relaxed and not as heated as an argument,” she added.
Similarly, Bloom sees political comedy as an informational mechanism for the audience.
“Political topics in general have and will remain super relevant to us,” Bloomers chair and College senior Trudel Pare said. “In a lot of ways, everybody — regardless of your political bend — likes to laugh.”
Pare, who is also the host of Penn’s “The Late Night” — a sketch variety show — added that comedy also acts as a unifying form of persuasion.
“Comedy brings people together in a lot of ways, even as our political climate is so divisive,” Pare said.
And for Bloomers, political comedy is here to stay.
“Politics is a mainstay of the stuff that we’ve done,” Pare said. “It’s something we’ve always drawn from.”
But Bloom cited Mask and Wig as an institution dedicated to more timeless comedy, less rooted in current and fleeting political climates.
“I don’t think our style of show lends itself to being super political,” he said. “If we can make an audience of 165 people every night laugh and forget about their problems — Republican or Democrat — that’s what we want to do.”
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