So you spent Valentines Day single? You blacked out on Memorial Day? You were under the thumb on Independence Day? Sounds like it might be time to start celebrating holidays correctly. This Presidents’ Day is the perfect opportunity to brush up on some American presidential history.
History and comedy buff, Sam Palmer, combines his two loves with a hilarious presidential sketch show tonight at the People’s Improv Theatre in Manhattan.
Sam has lived in Bushwick on-and-off since 2010. We sat down with him to talk about his current project.
Tell us about the show. I know you wrote it yourself and you play a number of characters…
The sketch group I work with, The Quanrudes, has made a number of shows in the past, but this is the first time I’ve written one on my own.
It started with a single sketch about FDR. A friend of mine had this idea of doing a comedy show called “That 1850’s Show”, as a satire of That 70’s Show. I wrote a few pieces on James Buchanan, who was a more obscure president, then I developed another sketch about slavery under Thomas Jefferson. Once I had those three I realized I had the beginnings of a full show.
There were two challenges in the writing process. On one hand, some of the very well known presidents, such as Bill Clinton, have been thoroughly satirised before, so it was hard to come up with ‘new’ material. Then on the other hand, writing about the more obscure presidents meant that I had to write deliberately educational material when setting up the scene, to make sure everyone was on the same page.
How many presidents does the show cover?
Nine. I think we found a good balance. A sketch show has a lot of requirements. You need a good mix of gags, information, and gratuitous dance numbers. In the end I went with FDR, James Buchanan, William Taft, Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, Abe Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, JFK, and Thomas Jefferson.
I say I wrote it on my own but it was essentially a co-write between me and Wikipedia. It was a really fun process because I was constantly discovering new things. I mean, comedically, I discovered a way to build a dance act around Richard Nixon, for example, so that was new. But then in terms of the information, stuff just kept coming up, like the fact that Jimmy Carter was attacked by a swamp rabbit—that’s just plain fun.
Without wanting to give away the punch lines, what can we expect to learn from the show?
The more wacky details you can fit into a scene, the funnier it is, so you can expect to pick up some bizarre pieces of trivia. You’ll get an insight into Jefferson’s personal life, see Nixon on a night off, and learn how Woodrow Wilson dealt with tabloid media. And you will finally finally finally learn the truth about JFK. Let’s just say it’s not what you think. (Unless what you think is that he was shot by Harvey Lee Oswald, ‘cause it was that.)
Obama doesn’t get a mention?
Nah, everyone else has him covered. I’d rather shine a light on William Howard Taft.
What’s so special about Taft?
Well… come tonight and find out! I’ll tell you eight new things about him, seven of which were good. Like his pet was a cow.
The Inaugural Inauguration Show plays its final show tonight at The People’s Improv Theatre. 123 E24th St. 8pm, $8