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After stops in cities where Occupy demonstrations have set up shop, Laughter Against the Machine is finally headed here. Formed in 2008 by comedians W. Kamau Bell and Nato Green and later joined by Janine Brito, the group has been performing for the lefty comedy crowd in untradional venues across the country. Kind of like Blue Collar Comedy for people that wouldn’t be caught dead at a Blue Collar Comedy show—-and funny—-Laughter Against the Machine performs at DCAC Wednesday and Thursday evenings. I spoke to Brito to find out why LATM needs to exist.
Washington City Paper: Why did you join Laughter Against the Machine?
Janine Brito: I came on a couple years later. I had hosted a few shows and went on a small tour and by that point it became clear I work best with them and I was formally inducted into the group.
WCP: Why do you think you work well with the group?
JB: I think part of it is the female perspective and part of it is the queer perspective. The three of us approach political comedy in very different ways. Nato has a long political background. He grew up in a political household. He was a union organizer for 14 years. He approaches political issues head on. Kamau talks about things that are very important to him like race and race politics. My perspective is political because as a queer, simply my experience is political. Talking about anything personal is political.
WCP: Will you alter your material when you’re doing a LATM show?
JB: I don’t drastically change anything. If I have something I’m working on that touches on certain issues, I’ll make it a point to try it out. I don’t think any of us temper our material for our audiences.
WCP: What’s the average LATM crowd?
JB: The crowd knows what they’re getting into. They come more mentally prepared. It’s not a standard show where people make jokes about their dick. At a comedy show a lot of times people want to see something and escape and not hear about issues they deal with on a daily basis. Watching our comedy is an investment.
WCP: Has the Occupy movement changed the show?
JB: The Occupy movement began a few days into the first leg of the tour. Since then it’s exploded. We’ve added a New York show at a theater 500 feet from the protest. We’re trying to hit all of them that we can.
WCP: What are you doing when you’re there? Do you become tourist? Protesters?
JB: For New York I had already been going myself and I know Nato and Kamau were doing the same at the Oakland and San Francisco Occupy. We talk to people with our camera crew for our documentary. Each location represents something that’s going on in our country. Arizona’s is about immigration, Chicago’s is about union organizing, Dearborn is tackling Islamaphobia. We try to sit down and talk with people in these communities and talk about these issues firsthand. We ask them what their issues are and what the movement is about. It’s a way for us to find out what’s going on and to get the word out.
WCP: Has that come into any of your material?
JB: Arizona had touched us all. Seeing people get deported hit us hard. Each of us has written about that but it’s really whatever comes to us naturally.
WCP: What’s the goal for the group?
JB: The goal has always been to do comedy about heavy social issues in a responsible way. It’s important for us to go out and talk to these people and see how it’s affecting their lives, day in and day out. The goal with the documentary is to examine how comedy can do the best job of being the campfire of the revolution. Historically, comedy has been very tied to politics, with George Carlin, Dick Gregory, and Leon Phelps. As time has gone on, aside from Jon Stewart and [Stephen] Colbert, a lot of what we were seeing wasn’t talking about this stuff. We’re trying to see how comedy can step back into those realms effectively and responsibly.
Laughter Against the Machine performs at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 9 through Nov. 10 at DCAC. $20.