Interview with Lee Camp

Washington, DC (TFC– John Carico interviewed Lee Camp. Here’s the transcript:

John: You’ve been doing comedy since you were 14 and it really shows in how you’ve honed your craft. I can get friends to watch a political video by putting on your stuff and its effectiveness is much stronger than say a Noam Chomsky lecture, I might watch with more radical comrades. How do you think art has effected your life and political views?

Lee: Yeah, I’ve actually been writing humor since about 12 and then didn’t perform live until 17. And yes, I obviously believe strongly in the ability of comedy, and all art, to cover political issues in an entertaining manner. Important issues don’t need to be boring! They don’t need to feel like homework! They can feel like poppin’ molly if ya just f**kin spin ’em around and redecorate ’em! …I’m glad you brought up Chomsky – I adore him and read as much of his stuff as I can fit in my pants (don’t ask). I see one of my jobs as taking things that Chomsky or other great intellectuals have said and translating them into a simplified and entertaining presentation. Basically, I bake the arsenic into the cake and feed it to the masses. …Wait, that means the truth is arsenic? Sh*t, I need a better analogy. Maybe I should’ve made this analogy the arsenic?

 

Image Source: Ramakrishnan Mohan Flickr, Creative Commons Lee Camp with Ron Placone & Krish Mohan

Image Source: Ramakrishnan Mohan Flickr, Creative Commons
Lee Camp with Ron Placone & Krish Mohan

John: Your father was an army psychoanalyist and your mother was a social worker. How has your upbringing influenced your political views?
Lee: I don’t exactly know except that it was a pretty sarcastic and yet analytical family. Reading Freud when I was, like, 10 probably had some kind of weird impact. I remember reading something called “Freud For Beginners,” but I’m pretty sure I just couldn’t believe there were drawings of boobs in there. I still subscribe to the idea that a book with boobs in it probably contains more truth than those without. …Could we get someone to whisper that in Chomsky’s ear?

 

John: You incorporate a lot of radical music in your show and have even had musical guests. Who are some of your favorite radical musicians?

Lee: God, yes. …Wait, I don’t mean God is a radical musician. I don’t believe she’s a musician at all. …I don’t even believe she exists, so how could she be a musician? …Anyway, I mean to say I love radical music, I love music with a message, I love all art with a message. We’re too deep into this sh*t storm to NOT talk about within our art. Probably one of my proudest accomplishments is that I have achieved a platform large enough to give other artists a small boost by playing their stuff on Moment of Clarity. I have a lot of favorites. Some are more successful – like Immortal Technique. Some are still on the rise – like Hierosonic and Rooftop Revolutionaries and Devilz Speciez and Becks and the Bullets and Rebel Inc. People should check out all of them. Mike Stang – the bass player for Hierosonic recently did a show with me in Washington DC in which he played bass behind my entire performance. It was really f*cking magical. I know I’m not the first comedian to try that – but I think everyone really loved it. And I recently fell in love with Rooftop Revolutionaries. Brilliant lyrics over great rock. What more is there to life?

 

John: You bring up a lot of things that mainstream news doesn’t mention, many have talked about propaganda in the news media fitting a very narrow political dynamic. Luckily, with the advent of the internet people have the opportunity to be able to access a wide variety of views. HRPN is based out of the south, in Tennessee. It is difficult to break through a paradigm that is fixated on false information, and often unwilling to accept new information. People end up going into circular reasoning that ends up being difficult to untie. We have to be able, however, to reach beyond the demographic of liberals and leftists, to find people who are disenfranchised from all parties, to be able to really have a formidable chance of having any impact on the world’s largest systems of oppression and disparity. With all the green-washing that goes on in environmental movements it sometimes becomes even more detrimental to people who think they are making a change just with their dollars and facebook shares. How have you found that we can reach out to skeptical groups in issues so pivotal as Environmental Destruction and Wage Slavery?

Lee: Yes, I believe the internet is changing the world in a hugely positive way. The truth is slowly but surely getting out there. And I know sometimes it seems it’s only being used for kitten videos and porn, but the truth generally wins the day (I hope). And this is why the ruling elite are terrified of this freedom. This is why they’re doing everything to crush it. The same restrictions that were in the SOPA and PIPA bills that would have cut down on internet freedom (also called net neutrality) are also in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that could be passed soon if we don’t stand up against it. We must keep the internet free. It’s the only answer. In terms of reaching out to skeptical groups, I obviously do it through comedy. But it can be done in many ways. Often you have to trick people into listening. I often post Facebook photos of adorable animals and then put something really cutting about wage slavery, etc. next to the photo. Then I write “The baby duck is just here to get your attention.” Sadly, it works like a charm. People come for the baby duck and stay for the info. It’s the same with music, comedy, and art of all sorts. It’s a trick to put a seed of fact into people’s skulls and hope that it blossoms into a full-on trantrum of truth. …Wait, can a seed blossom into a tantrum? Damn, more analogy problems!

 

John: You seem to deliver quite a large amount of material on a rather rapid rate, how do you deal with writer’s block?

Lee: I do put out two Moment of Clarity videos per week, plus one to two hour-long podcast episodes, plus new stand-up comedy. It is a lot of material, but luckily the world won’t stop providing fodder. I do get writer’s block sometimes, but I think it’s minimal because I’ve been writing humor for so long. I was a humor columnist at my university for all 4 years. So I had no choice but to write a new column every week. That period really taught me how to create on a rigid schedule. I have to admit that when you’re writing this much, some of it is great and some of it is not. But the hope is that you can keep the not-great stuff to a minimum and not get too hung up on it.

 

John: If you moderated a debate between Stephen Colbert and Vermin Supreme, how do you think it would go?

Lee: That would be amazing. I would love to simply be an audience member at that!! For those who don’t know – Vermin Supreme is a satirical candidate for office at about every election in the state of _____ (Where is it again?). And he wears a boot on his head. And he succeeds at making most of the other politicians look like fools simply by association. I love it. It’s like satire come alive.

 

John: If you could describe a society that you felt would come out of a successful revolution, how would you see it? What writers and thinkers have effected your view? How would we produce, interact, and make sure everyone’s basic necessities are met, while not making those necessities detrimental in and of themselves (i.e. needing car and cell phone means relying on child workers and funding the military industrial complex through oil consumption, or WareHouser profiting off shelter.). All of these issues have intersectionality and we have to be careful we don’t exchange one set of horrors for another.

Lee: Well, even if I could detail every aspect of some kind of perfect society, I can’t do it in a few sentences. But even if we had all day, I never claimed to have all the answers. I do believe that at the base level our society is set up for pure profit and competition. Cooperation generally gets beaten down. And we live in an inverse totalitarian state – meaning anonymous corporate rule. We are at least close to neo-feudal times. All you need to know is that US millionaire households have a total of $50 trillion (11 of that in tax havens). How much is that? Well, it would only take $50 BILLION to provide food and clean water for the WORLD. Just sit and think about that for awhile. We should all put ourself on f**king time out so we can think about that for awhile. So it’s not just a matter of “what will a different world look like;” it’s a matter of “this world is not working at all anymore.” ….I don’t know every detail of it, but I do like the idea of a Resource Based Economy–Meaning we now have the ability to calculate all the resources on the planet. We could do that now. And then use THAT to calculate the economy rather than imaginary pieces of paper! (And actually something like 90% of the money supply never gets printed on paper. It’s just numbers on a computer screen!) So our current system is based on nothingness! A Resource Based Economy would be based on what we actually physically have on the planet. How brilliant is that?! …And to answer your last bit about phones, I don’t believe that’s true. We currently have a system that rewards using child labor to get the metals for your phone. We could EASILY have a system that doesn’t reward that. In fact, if we sopped rewarding that behavior, it would be a different world.

 

John: Would you Tell us your thoughts on the recent idle no more actions in Canada?

Lee: Idle. No. More is great. It’s one of many protest movements that are strong and bubbling up everywhere.

 

John: Anything you’d like to say to radicals, revolutionaries, and potential young comedians who may read this?

Lee: Ha, I love that list. Radicals, revolutionaries, and comedians. If only those three went together more often! …To them I say, “When better to fight for a different world? Make the fight fun. Make your life about art, love, and justice and you can’t go wrong.” …That reminds me of something I want to put on a t-shirt: “If you aren’t happy with what you’re doing with your life, don’t worry–You’ll get ’em next time.”