Nearly three years after the debut of his weekly online political-comedy talk show on RT.com, Redacted Tonight, Lee Camp is still basking in the freedom it gives him to fire away at big targets.
In one late-February opening monologue, for instance, Camp ran a master class on deconstructing a feel-good Starbucks ad. “In the first five seconds, they’re already taking credit for your life,” he noted in his characteristic high-keyed style, before skewering the ad’s schmaltzy aesthetic (“like a montage you’d play at a wedding reception”), its pandering to concern about veterans, and more.
Camp’s Chomsky-on-Red Bull approach is paying off, especially of late. Interviewed recently, Camp says the presidential campaign gave Redacted, which addressed issues like voter suppression and flawed voting technology, “a huge bump in viewership” and got it moved into a bigger studio in Washington, D.C. The attention has also grown his standup act into bigger venues. In his two most recent Pittsburgh visits, for instance, Camp played Hambone’s Pub; on March 11, he’s at Mr. Smalls Funhouse.
But Camp, speaking by phone, says neither he nor Redacted are much changed by Donald Trump’s victory. Sure, Camp has been unsparing in his criticism of the new president — but no moreso, he says, than when he took Obama to task for bombing civilians or deporting immigrants in record numbers.
Camp acknowledges that more liberals are upset about Trump — the comic’s own biggest concern is climate change — but he considers our political crisis mostly an ongoing one. “The grim reality of it may be people needed to have a big ugly face to the situation to realize how upsetting it is,” he says. “So I’m glad people are getting upset. I wish they’d gotten upset earlier, but hey, if this is what needs to happen, well, America has woken up and I think that’s probably a good thing.”
One curious twist here is that Redacted’s home base, RT, is the Russian government’s English-language news channel. Some have called RT a propaganda tool of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Camp, however, says, “I have incredible freedom there and I do a lot of anti-corporate comedy, and I’m not allowed to do it anywhere else, basically.”
Would he criticize the Russian government, if he thought it was warranted? “Yeah, probably,” he says.