Comics hate hecklers in the crowd, and wish they'd shut up or go home. Sometimes they say this out loud.
Politicians aren't too keen on loud protesters, and probably feel just like the comics — though most won't actually say that, what with the whole free-speech thing.
What happens when these two fields become one, and the elected official plays a comic? What's the etiquette there?
That was the dilemma facing Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges last Friday at MinnRoast, the annual fundraiser held for the MinnPost news website. Every year, politicians get onstage and do some kind of joke routine, skit, or (oh, brother) song-and-dance routine. Gov. Mark Dayton is a regular, as is DFL U.S. Sen. Al Franken. It's not always funny but at least it's lighthearted.
Hodges was right in the middle of a "true or false" bit when an airhorn cut her off. Having gotten everyone's attention, a guy in the crowd started shouting at Hodges — at everyone, really — claiming she'd mishandled her response to the Jamar Clark police shooting and the Fourth Police Precinct occupation that followed.
"You guys elected a comedian for mayor of Minneapolis!" he says. "You pissed on the grave of Jamar Clark by blocking the occupation!"
Hodges waits for the demonstrator to pause (he's soon joined by a woman: "Shame on you!" she says) before addressing their complaints.
"It's been a tough, emotional few months in Minneapolis for everyone," she says. "I won't even make it a true-false question. And I'm grateful for everybody who reminds us that there is much more to do about police-community relations and about racial equity, including the demonstrators inside this theater."
See, there's that whole politician, right-to-free-speech thing. Hodges continues in this vein for a bit before she's cut off by the same people again. This time, the crowd bursts into spontaneous applause, drowning their cries out.
Hodges, for her part, thanks her protesters for "being part" of "a difficult conversation."
Later, when Franken got the same treatment, he said Hodges did a "great job" responding to her hecklers and "honoring the intent" of their message.
So MinnRoast donors, who comprise many of the political bigwigs in the state of Minnesota, got two shows for their money: a comedy revue acted out by politicians, and then a dramatic improv bit with a bunch of audience participation. It's a lot to take in for just $14 a ticket.
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