City Paper is not for tourists
CAOS on F
Sunday, July 14, 5 p.m.
Tuesday, July 16: 10:15 p.m.
Wednesday, 7/17: 5:45 p.m.
Saturday, 7/20: 12 a.m.
They say: “David Lee Nelson’s madcap dash through the history of the Republican Party and his own political past, as he works up the nerve to tell his conservative father that his worst nightmare has come true: His son’s a Democrat.”
When he bounds out to begin his solo political discourse, David Lee Nelson looks like that really young, hip history teacher from your high school: messy brown hair, a rumpled shirt, a striped tie, and Converse high tops. He immediately launches into a lecture about the origins of the Republican Party (with corresponding images projected behind him), from the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, to the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln, to Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, the Cold War, and Nixon, until he gets to the political hero of every young Generation X Republican: Ronald Wilson Reagan. Nelson’s enthusiasm is so infectious that even the most ardent GOP-haters laugh along with him. It’s almost possible for them to understand why so many people loved the 40th president.
But this show isn’t only about the history of the Republican Party; it’s about Nelson’s relationship with his dad, an ardent Republican born in North Carolina who raised his young family in Greenville, South Carolina, or as Nelson refers to it, the San Francisco of the Right. His father, Nelson reminds us, loves coffee, golf, and recycling. He drives a Saab and aggressively roots for Virginia Tech football, but mention Bill Clinton and the prosperity of the ’90s and neither father nor son wants to hear anything about it. They’re content to hear talk radio hosts parrot party talking points, and they believe that lying under oath could fell America in a single motion.
We all know what happens next: Florida in 2000, hanging chads, the debate over the Electoral College. And here’s where Nelson starts to lose the audience just a little bit because he never fully explains why he spends so much energy defending George W. Bush. “I just liked him,” he says. Of course, Operation Iraqi Freedom and the non-existent weapons of mass destruction made it clear that the Bush administration wasn’t exactly working the way it should. When John McCain announces Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008, Nelson knows he’s done with the party once and for all. On Election Day 2008, he casts a vote for Barack Obama.
When he finally does come out to his father with this grand announcement, it changes their relationship. They don’t spend hours on the phone dissecting primary election results or discussing how certain pieces of legislation should be enacted anymore. Nelson compares his media sources: he used to listen to Rush Limbaugh and read the Wall Street Journal; now he reads Huffington Post and listens to NPR. It’s a bit predictable, sure, but it makes sense. Parents and children will always disagree about big life decisions but there’s one thing keeping the Nelsons together: They’ll always have the Hokies.
See it if: You still laugh at George W. Bush jokes from 2004 or need an excuse to call your parents.
Skip it if: You hate politics and adoring pictures of Ronald Reagan.