Political Theater Starring a Convicted Felon

Fool for a Client, Mark Whitney’s politically-tinged
Fringe show, is The Shawshank Redemption meets The Pursuit of Happyness. And
not only is the painfully funny show tough to perform, since it chronicles some
of the roughest periods of Whitney’s life, but it also attempts to examine many
of the odd conflicts inherent in today’s political landscape – such as how many
of the politicians and advocates who preach tolerance and mercy are responsible
for zero tolerance policies.

The show covers 30 years of Mark’s life – spanning his first
job out of high school selling vacuums for Electrolux to being convicted on
fraud charges. Featuring all the learning he did in the prison library and representing
himself in his federal trial, the show uses inky, nigh-soullessly, black humor to
make a decidedly tragic story unspeakably funny and make people think about the
reality behind politics and American culture. Whitney, a socially liberal Libertarian,
has his own positions on the issues. We explored those positions with him at Keegan’s whilst enduring what had to be
the worst announcer in the history of mankind’s deeply held fascination with
pub quizzes.

The Rake: So what
do you know about Minnesota politics?

Whitney: I know
you elected Jesse Ventura. I know your Republicans don’t know the difference
between satire and reality
. I know there are a lot of McCain and Obama signs
in yards. But Minnesota people are approachable. And when I come here I get both Republicans
and Democrats at my show. And it works. I can say some things. It’s all
metaphor at my shows, just questions – no telling, just showing.

The Rake: Any
advice for Al Franken these days?

Whitney: Be
funny. I don’t know why politicians don’t understand the power of humor. Maybe
it’s because when you make a joke there’s incredible clarity. And it’s
extremely honest. And maybe people don’t like honesty. The idea is to get
elected – not be honest.

The Rake: Now that Republicans are comparing him to Paris
, what do you think of Obama?

Whitney: I liked
him when he talked about hope, the American Dream, the Constitution. The
Constitution is really important. I’d like someone to ask Sen. McCain about the
Constitution – maybe Obama can turn to him during a debate and ask him about
the due process clauses of the constitution and see what happens. But lately
he’s seemed to be willing to say anything to be elected. Though I do like the
global perspective he may bring to the table.

On the other hand…I think the one way we could have a black
president of the U.S.
is if the candidate is Obama and the opponent is McCain.

The Rake: What
about McCain? Is the United States
ready for a geriatric president?

Whitney: He’s the
glue horse. I don’t see how McCain could take the stage with Obama and hold his
own. He’s not that smart. He’s just a warrior, an old school warrior.

The Rake: What
about your own party? Libertarians? Are they going to get any more attention
than the Rastafarians this year?

Whitney: The Libertarians
are running Bob Barr, a former federal prosecutor. They think that’ll get them
from one to two percent. It’s not going to happen. The problem is that the
current Libertarian leadership makes Bush look liberal, and none of the
segments within the party are willing to talk to each other or compromise.

The Rake: What
about a Congress with a nine
percent approval rating

Whitney: Sounds
high. At what point does it become a disapproval rating? And at what point do
people stop voting for them? It’s interesting how almost every single one of
these people are going to get reelected.

The Rake: Do you
think it goes back to all politics being local?

Whitney: Oh yeah,
people think everyone in Congress sucks, except their guy. They voted for him.

The Rake: So are
we totally screwed on the world stage now that we’ve had eight years of
Bush/Cheney style international relations?

Whitney: One of
the things that’s really been hammered home for me in the last 30 years of
being an entrepreneur is what an amazing system we have. Everyone says this is
the best country in the world. And I haven’t been everywhere, so I can’t say it
directly. Keep in mind I’m a convicted felon. There are a lot of things I can’t
do, but still, if I put my nose to the grindstone I can do a lot. But Bush and
Cheney have tarnished and tainted the brand. People don’t feel good about being
Americans anymore.

Have you ever searched an archive of Supreme Court cases for
the phrase "enemy combatant"? There’s nothing in American jurisprudence to
allow the government to make an American citizen an enemy of the state and
imprison them without trial or charge. And the next president will use that
precedent and expand on that. I guarantee that. Bush and Cheney have given a
clinic on executive power. They scare the crap out of everybody. That’s why
everyone rolls over. They’re the smartest administration in the history of the
country. They get everything they want, wherever they want, whenever they want.

One of the reasons I do this show is to remind people of the
ideals we’re meant to be about. These ideals are worth treasuring and
protecting. When we raise our children we raise them to be strong individuals.
Our society isn’t interested in us being individuals though. They want us to
participate in groupthink. There’s never been a period of time where people
participate in groupthink more. They’re scared to death.

The Rake: So what
do we have to do?

Whitney: I have a
new line that I wrote for my show and tested for the first time on Saturday
night. I said, "You’ve been a great audience. What I’d like you to do now is to
return home, marry
whoever you want
. Send your artificially inseminated babies to whatever
school you want. Stockpile weapons. Do whatever you want."

But the real question is what you should do. And it’s what we’re
doing now. Blogging. Asking questions. Thinking independently and filtering the
information you get. Ask more questions. We don’t hold anyone accountable, we
keep sending the same shitheads back to Congress. And as a result, we have a
government reflective of the zero tolerance society we’ve become. If I’ve
learned one thing in my life, it’s that whatever you think it is that’s going
to get you, it’s probably something else. And it’s probably not going to be too
much personal freedom. Last century cars took 3,000,000 people. That’s a 9/11
every month. But we haven’t outlawed cars. People should take that to heart and
do whatever it is they’re here to do.

But anyway, everyone is so excited that Bush is going to
leave. I’m not so sure he’ll follow that part of the Constitution. He hasn’t followed
any of it to this point, why start now?






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