If you haven’t viewed one of Lee Camp’s political rants, you should. Camp is a cross between Lenny Bruce and Lewis Black – with a dash of George Carlin. He calls his progressive riffs, “Moments of Clarity” and has assembled many of them in a book. To get a copy of Camp’s “Moment of Clarity: The Rantings of a Stark Raving Sane Man,” just click here. Make a minimum donation of $25 to receive a free copy of Lee’s book and support progressive writers and Truthout.
Mark Karlin: Let’s start by focusing on one of your recent clips: “Evil People Have Plans“. I love your concept that the difference between good and bad people is that “bad people have plans.” Can you give some insight into your creative process as to how you developed this particular rant, as an example of how you produce your “moments of clarity”?
Lee Camp: I’m not sure where the initial ideas come from. I just keep track of thoughts or realizations as I’m reading various articles or books. Sometimes it’s a weird news story that I know is fodder for a rant. But with “Evil People Have Plans” (which seems to be one of people’s favorites), I’m not sure where the idea came from.
Basically it just says that the sociopaths who run massive corporations, and are only concerned about profit instead of people, are continually planning about how to make sure their evil plans work out. On the other hand, your average non-evil person has no plan at all about stopping evil or making sure “goodness” prevails. We just stumble through life thinking everyone should treat each other right and maybe play some frisbee golf.
In terms of the process, the idea is usually harder than creating the rant. Once I have a good idea, it’s just a matter of coloring between the lines. And to be honest, one of the best things I ever did was get out of my own way. I had to convince myself that it was okay to start ranting or writing even if I didn’t know everything I was going to say. I had to force myself to just start creating and see where it takes me. That’s how the “Moment of Clarity” rants first started.
Mark Karlin: Tell us about your “Fox moment” when you chastised Murdoch’s franchise on air. Did they physically remove you from the studio?
Lee Camp: Fox News invited me on their live morning show. And I knew that the only way I would agree to be on that festering pile of rancid lies was if I was going to use it for something good. So I knew I was going to say something, but I wasn’t sure what. I ultimately called them “a parade of propaganda and a festival of ignorance.”
They tried to cut me off and go to the next segment, but unfortunately for them, the next segment was about how Captain Kirk was able to get laid so much. (I’m not kidding.) So they basically proved my point for me. There was palpable anger in the studio, especially from the anchor who was on with me. But nobody said anything. I just stood up and walked out without a word.
Even though I left the building without a word to anyone, the anchor came back on after commercial break and told the audience he had physically ejected me from the studio. It wasn’t true – but Fox News is no stranger to creating a false reality.
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Mark Karlin: You are close with Greg Palast, a BuzzFlash/Truthout friend and contributor for many years. In fact, you interviewed him about his new book “Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps” (available with a minimum contribution of $35 from Truthout. Click here to get it and a DVD free with your donation.) What sort of values do you and Palast share?
Lee Camp: I think we share a quest for the truth and a mission to make the ***holes of the world lose. Yeah, I think we both want to see them lose. He does it through cutting edge investigative journalism. I do it through fart jokes. (I hope I’m selling myself short by saying that.) But whether we succeed or not, I don’t see either of us giving up the fight. If the good people of the world are gonna go down, let’s go down swinging.
Mark Karlin: Truthout has called you a cross between Lenny Bruce and Lewis Black — with a dash of George Carlin. Is that an accurate description you think?
Lee Camp: Well, I find that incredibly flattering. All three of those are heroes of mine. And both Lenny and George fought battles for the freedom of speech that I now enjoy as a comedian. George’s case went to the Supreme Court. Lenny was chased by authorities for nothing but words, until the chase ultimately killed him. That’s part of the reason I feel my words need to mean something. People have died so I can use these words today.
Mark Karlin: What’s your view on corporate and Wall Street influence over the government?
Lee Camp: Wait, so you’re saying Wall Street and the government are separate things?…I mean, the sad truth is that we’re seeing every inch of our lives taken over by the drive for profit. That’s what it is. War for profit. Imprisonment for profit. The sophistication of the fraud and corruption we see today is far above the simple times of “accounting errors.” It’s now whole systems designed to destroy people’s lives while making others rich. Just look at the mortgage crisis for a good example. Corporations are people. Money is speech. Bombs are expression. Truth is treason. Profit is holy. And a dog riding a horse won America’s Got Talent. What’s wrong with this picture?
Mark Karlin: You have been a vigorous advocate for the Occupy movement. What do you think the impact of the national Occupy movement has been?
Lee Camp: I think that Occupy changed the entire conversation in this country, and I don’t think people necessarily realize that. We went from beginning to talk about austerity and tightening belts to talking about the gross inequality that’s destroying our society. People use terms like the “99%” and the “1%” regularly now. Most people know that there is a grotesque amount of wealth amassed in the top .01% of Americans. The six heirs of the Wal-Mart fortune have the same amount of wealth as the bottom 40% of America (125 million people). So I believe Occupy was the first step in a larger awakening for the American people. It will take time. No large-scale change has happened in the span of a few months, but it has begun.
Also the people who were active in Occupy are still around and active in other ways. It created a great online base for future forms of protest and the future of getting money out of our political system and declaring that corporations are not people.
I think it also showed a lot of people who had never been to a protest in their lives that they have power. We have power. All of us together have more power than we realize. Once you learn that, it changes everything.
Mark Karlin: While we are conducting this interview, you are on a stand-up tour of Canada. Do you get feedback from your audiences that give you ideas for new “moments of clarity” riffs?
Lee Camp: I do get feedback from both live audience members and my online audience. People often recommend topics, and only a few of them get used, but I appreciate them all. Sometimes I know that something is breaking through the zeitgeist when several people recommend the same topic. That’s when I know I really have to do it. But most of my topics are still my own, even though I love all the feedback. One of my more popular Moment of Clarity’s was entitled “You Are Not Alone” about protests going on around the world (it was before Occupy began). And all the e-mails I get from many different places and countries really do remind me that we aren’t alone in this battle.
Mark Karlin: In addition to your broadsides about Fox News, you have regularly mocked the mainstream corporate media (as in this clip from an appearance in Chicago). It’s pretty amazing that the mainstream media doles out billions of dollars in salaries for so-called reporting that reflects the perspective of the corporate government status quo, isn’t it?
Lee Camp: Yes. No doubt. Once you open your mind and begin getting much of your information from sources that aren’t indebted to large corporations, the mainstream media looks smaller and smaller minded. This was painfully evident during the peak of the Occupy protests. Even the outlets that people view as left-wing were largely either ignoring Occupy or writing it off because Occupy doesn’t fit in the paradigm that works for easy story-telling which supports the corporate daddy.
The only available story lines were “Obama good/GOP bad” or “Obama bad/GOP good.” Watching people stand up for something outside of that dynamic was not appropriate for the mainstream media. It was kind of like how talking Barbie is great if you ask her a question like “What should we do today?” She responds, “Let’s go shopping!” But if you ask her why she’s promoting a vapid materialistic view of the world, she responds, “Let’s go shopping!”
Mark Karlin: Did your politics come first or your comic inclinations?
Lee Camp: Definitely the comedy. I wanted to be a humor writer by age 12. I then decided I wanted to be a stand-up comic by age 17. I did stand-up for several years before the politics and cultural criticism infected my act and turned it into what it is now. And I wouldn’t give up that transition for anything. I love what I do, even if I maybe made the path harder by speaking about difficult subjects.
Mark Karlin: How has the Internet offered your style of comic commentary new opportunities?
Lee Camp: The Internet has definitely changed the game for many of us. There are no gatekeepers for the comedy career I now have. For years I tried to get on many of the late night talk shows or the comedy channels (and I was on a few). But they largely don’t want young comedians talking about political issues.
Obviously that is what they want from “The Daily Show,” but it’s not what they want from a young comedian. So I was largely ignored. However, now I can present what I do by means of the “Moment of Clarity” videos and podcasts and books without waiting to hear if someone wants to air it. I just put it out there and see if people want to watch it. And it’s an amazing way to find my fans and do what I want to do, as opposed to watering everything down to a level that is appropriate for everyone. If you’re a comedian and you’re willing to put in the work, you can now say, “This is what I do it. I’m online. Find me. Enjoy it. Support me if you like it. If you don’t like it, good day to you.” (And at that point I tip my bowler hat.)
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